Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Parents on for the Panama Canal, a disappearing Curacao bridge, Nessie and other stories

I haven't posted in a few weeks, dear reader. I apologise. My parents were onboard, and I've been a busy lady. I'll try to summarise their cruise in one post, which began in Miami, ended in Costa Rica and was deemed a Very Good Thing by all involved.

South Beach, Miami is much prettier than I'd imagined.
Images of stucco, fake, puce-painted art-deco buildings with Ripley's "Believe it or Not" museums housed inside were thankfully all in my head. The reality is so pretty. The architecture is authentic, and the beach is long with sand like icing sugar.

I like to walk behind Eric and my Dad while they talk.

It's true what the say, everyone seems to have one of those little 'teacup' dogs. They look like rats on ropes. The smaller and more specific the breed (Puggle: Pug and Poodle mix is just one I overheard) the better, and they are all carried around by their owners in these little bags/purses because they're just too small to walk by themselves on the street without being trampled or swallowed up in one gulp by a larger dog.

My dad bought me a dress that made me feel like a movie star, embellished with Swarovski crystals and complete with movie star pricetag.

In St. Barth's, we all went snorkelling on a guest tour, then I went with my folks to Nikki Beach, also called St. Jean's Beach. Check out Mum and Dad with their "noodles" (the word "Noodle" is particularly funny when spoken with a French accent, as it was in St. Barth's).

I acted as the guest escort and hence got to go snorkelling for free! I have to say -and I feel sorry for Eric, because he never got to go on the second trip- that the snorkelling in Curacao is far better. They took us to a tug boat wreck that sank 47 years ago. The fish seemed to love it, and we saw squid, octopus, huge parrot fish, angel fish in cute pairs and tons of things I'm not qualified to identify. Plus, I bought a throw-away underwater camera (my folks have it, undevelopped, that's why no fishy pictures are to be found here) which made time pass so quickly I couldn't believe it when our 2 hours was up and we had to get back.

Also in Curacao, Eric found his "ideal Birthday present." It's a speaker, worth around $600, even at Duty Free rates. Um, let me can't have it!

In Curacao, there's a floating bridge over to the main shopping area, you can see it on the right of this picture.
The disconcerting thing is that when ships want to pass through, the bridge swings away from the far side of the pier to lie flat with one side of the dock, as if it were never there. Last time we were here (and I admit, after a few rum cocktails) I had an argument with the ferry driver about there being a bridge "Right here! And no I won't get on your ferry until you show me where the bridge is!"
Here are my folks at one of the Panama Canal gates, seen from Deck 8.
My Dad, a resort developer, quantity surveyor and property engineer with his own building company was enthralled by this piece of engineering, the hugest single concrete structure (so they say.) A huge amount of life was lost in the construction of the canal. It is always impressive, you're so close to the rainforest at times you can see monkeys and exotic birds, and I've been through it now at least a dozen times.
Also during this cruise, Eric finally got his new electric NS bass.
It's long, but thin and extremely transportable compared to his current upright bass, Big Brown Beatrice.
This new bass you have to put on to a pin, er, base, she is called Nessie, and I think Eric is very happy with her. He spends enough time with her, anyway...
After 10 days, my folks left for San Jose in Costa Rica on our final day of the cruise. Eric and I said goodbye the night before due to their early transfer by coach to their hotel, and were left in Caldera.

I must give you a tip on the port in Caldera, there's really not much within walking distance of the actual port, except an amazing, picturesque and well kept secret of a seafood restaurant called Costa del Sol.

I'm prepared to share details with you on how to get there, but don't tell everyone. You come out of the port, and go down the road. At the fork, you veer left, seeing this abandoned freight train perhaps.
Do not head towards Liberia.

Carry on walking, until you see this old steam train front carriage (I'm photographing it from the wrong side, but you get the picture). Here, turn right. Keep going, it'll look something like this.

Then turn left, this is what you'll see. Keep walking until you see the place on your right.

This is the place.

This is the view.

This is the food.

This is us.
It's worth it, I promise you. And on the way back, walk along these old train tracks, a very quaint old system with tunnels under the bridges still erected.
There'll probably be some young people playing in the water too to your right, trying to catch the fish that jump from the river.

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