Friday, September 27, 2019

Cruise Chronicles – Days 10 & 11 – My Unfortunate Incarceration

Day 10 was a welcome day at sea. We were sailing west toward Warnemünde, the German coastal town that would be our gateway to a long guided tour in Berlin. 

Warnemünde, Germany (18 May 2019)

A full day at sea was just what I needed. After five consecutive days off the boat touring on sore feet, it was fine to just sit more, read, write and chill. The gray day got progressively worse and by dinner time, it was raining and foggy. Before going to a terrific show of Broadway song and dance routines, we did the buffet. It was one of the formal nights where folks dressed up for special meals so the buffet deck was sparsely populated. We had one of the primo window tables and enjoyed a leisurely meal.

Decades ago, I not only taught invertebrate biology but ever since, have demonstrated how to eat them at every opportunity. The night’s buffet selections included shrimp and mussels…the first time they were available. I joked to Beck, Frank & Suzanne that this was maybe the second time since “The Great Mussel Disaster of 2010” that I have finally returned to this tasty bivalve. I’ll spare you the details but in 2010, I experienced a truly Gothic reaction to bad mussels.

You know where this is going…

Not long after we settled in, it was déjà vu all over again. Like last time, it was violent but brief and when it was over, it was over. Once the demons left my body, I slept comfortably and woke up with no lingering effects. That’s the good thing about food poisoning…it’s wicked until your body expels it all but once you’re empty, you feel pretty good…comparatively. 

The Crowded Docks of Warnemünde, Germany (18 May 2019)

Under the category of ‘No Good Deed Goes Unpunished’, the following morning, as soon as the ship’s medical center was open, I reported the poisoning. Instead of thanking me, they said my gastrointestinal upsets were symptoms of norovirus and per the protocol the cruise line signed with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, I must be quarantined in my cabin for 24 hours. You’re welcome. Norovirus has many other symptoms, none of which I had but ‘Rules is Rules’ and I was confined until the following morning. Our Berlin tour was cancelled. 

Warnemünde, Germany (18 May 2019)

Some of you are old enough to remember the fun TV series ‘Designing Women’ (1986-93), about an interior design business in Atlanta. The staff consisted of interesting, progressive, funny women who were assisted by Anthony. He was the only African-American in the business and he referred to a gap in his resume as his “unfortunate incarceration” …hence the title of today’s post. While Beck enjoyed her stroll around town, all my images were taken from our cabin balcony. That’s your Day 11 story.

Upon our return, I wrote to Princess corporate offices (with a copy to the CDC). I suggested that on such a big new boat, they should have the resources to test me and confirm the infection. I resented that they defaulted so readily to the CDC protocols and that was it. A rep from the company called later to sympathize with my plight and said my suggestions would be “passed along”. In other words, ‘Rules is Rules’ and “We’re sorry you had a bad day.”

Good thing this happened in Warnemünde. It was no big deal to cancel the Berlin excursion. Beck has already been and I was OK missing it. If this were St. Petersburg, I might have rappelled down the side of the ship rather than miss the Hermitage museum. 

Ostsee Bowling, Warnemünde, Germany (18 May 2019)

The final insult of my unfortunate incarceration…right across from my balcony was a bowling alley…the only one I’d seen in all of Europe. It would have been fun to visit.

So near yet so far.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Cruise Chronicles – Day 9 – Tallinn, Estonia

Another day, another country. After the behemoth was berthed, we walked up the hill and through the thick walls into Old Town Tallinn…because, back in the day, if you were going to have a safe settlement, it needed to be on high ground behind big, impenetrable walls.

Tallinn was founded in 1154 and it is said much of the Old Town section looks as it did 600 years ago. The capital city of over 400,000 has about a third of the entire country’s population. The nation’s land area is a bit smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Field Trip Day in Tallinn, Estonia (16 May 2019)

I love these scenes. Little school kids in their bright safety
vests walking the streets paired up holding hands.

Old Town Tallinn, Estonia (16 May 2019)

We were the first of four (Count ‘em, FOUR!) cruise ships that visited Tallinn that day. Since we were the first, we got to Old Town before the rest of the tourist hordes descended on the neighborhood.

In 2015, Beck was here with Kittie, her business partner and my twin sister from another mother (we share a birthday). They took the ferry from Helsinki for a delightful day trip with fewer tourists, easy shopping and quaint discoveries.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia (16 may 2019)

This Russian Revival church was completed in 1900.
Nevsky was a 13th century prince who repulsed invaders and
was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. As you might
guess, Estonia was firmly in the Russian Empire in 1900.

We wandered through the Old Quarter as it got increasingly congested as the day progressed. There were fewer places to sit and relax and there were more and more tour groups following their leader’s colorful umbrella or flag on a stick.

Old Wooden Clock, Church of the Holy Ghost,
Tallinn, Estonia (16 May 2019)

The church dates to the thirteenth century.
Originally a Catholic Church, it is now Evangelical Lutheran.
This wooden clock was added in the late 1600’s.

We Welcome Tourists, Tallinn, Estonia (16 May 2019)

No doubt, the place has its charms. Especially as Americans, we need to appreciate how the city has retained its ancient, authentic character. Heck, in the U.S., we’re lucky if there are any dwellings left from our earliest days let alone entire neighborhoods or districts.  

Old Town Fortifications, Tallinn, Estonia (16 May 2019)

To continue the saga of the bad feet, flip flops were the most comfortable foot wear I had but walking on uneven, old cobblestone streets took its toll on the dogs. I’d include a photo of my feet for effect but it would frighten young children and disturb our more sensitive readers.

Tallinn, Estonia (16 May 2019)

Happy ending to Day 9. Here’s an example of how finely tuned the cruise industry’s marketing is to a certain older demographic that comprises a significant percentage of the passengers. I’m sure they’re aware that these ancient, hilly European streets have been torturing some of us. So, what do I find slipped under the cabin door today? Discount deals on fancy foot treatments in the ship’s spa. Count me in. The seaweed mud and exfoliation did nothing for me but the massage was heavenly.

Tomorrow, we are in Germany and have a tour planned for Berlin.

Monday, September 09, 2019

On the Passing of Ray Nichols

 The Contemplative Camper (1985)

We lived in New Orleans for fourteen years and Ray and Bev Nichols were a big part of our lives. In the 80’s, we spent a lot of time together. Holidays, birthdays, weekend camping trips to their land on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and vacations away. We worked hard during the week and played hard on the weekends.

Three weeks ago, we heard shocking news. Ray didn’t want anyone to know he was ill and then three weeks later he was gone.

Ray was a Human Resources manager at the electric utility company I worked for and he hired Becky. They were a great recruiting team and he happily taught her everything he knew about “personnel management,” as it was called back then. They left the utility to form the Crescent Group and provided management services to New Orleans clients before we moved to Maryland. Together, they helped me be a better supervisor.

We just returned from New Orleans where a ‘Celebration of Life’ was held for Ray. In the 30 years since we moved away, Ray devoted much of his energies to civic engagement and community improvement. After Katrina, he supported many young professionals in their efforts to make New Orleans and Louisiana better.

The Celebration included photographs projected onto multiple screens across the venue. Almost all the shots from the 80’s were ours and a few of them are included here. 

When the time came for people to take the mike and contribute a story or an appreciation of Ray, I had to add a more distant memory. The biggest laugh I got was recalling the Contemporary Art Center fundraiser he and Bev took me to. The theme was “Bourbon and Burlesque.” Craft bourbons everywhere and classic tassel-twirling tootsies everywhere else. I said I knew no one else who could drive that well that liquored-up.

Ray on the Upper Mississippi River (August 1985)

In the summer of 1985, we drove from New Orleans to Wisconsin and tried to do as much as we could along the Mississippi River. There are some high bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the river that provide a fine vantage point.

Trees Feared Him (Camping, 1986)

Ray and Bev owned a few acres of undeveloped piney woods land on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. When it wasn’t stinky hot, we would load up his truck with everything that would be fun to have in the woods…big tent, coolers of food and drink, chaise lounges, hammocks, a boom box. You get the picture. Here is the Great Hunter showing a tree who is boss.

Despair in Halifax (October 1987)

One of our favorite adventures was a wonderful trip to Nova Scotia. The overnight ferry from Portland, Maine dropped us off in Yarmouth and for the next couple of days, we reveled in the peak fall colors and rocky coastal scenery. After all, we lived in New Orleans where autumn isn’t nearly as spectacular and the nearest natural rocks of any kind are hundreds of miles to the north.

Then we arrived in Halifax. We thought that would be an ideal place to stop for the night…get some better accommodations, have more eating options and appreciate the sights of the provincial capital. There we were on the ramparts of an old colonial fort and Ray was despondent. After all the open road and autumn splendor, he wanted nothing to do with a city. Bev tried to console him but he was not going to be happy until Halifax was in our rear-view mirror. 

Ray Defending Nova Scotia (October 1987)

While visiting an old French colonial fort, Ray thought it only appropriate to light off his small canon with a French Bic lighter.

Ray’s Postponed 60th Birthday Party, New Orleans (12 October 2007)

Ray turned 60 in 2005, five weeks after Hurricane Katrina changed everything in New Orleans. It took two years to make life right enough to celebrate. Bev arranged a very special lunch in a private room in the classic French Quarter restaurant, Galatoire’s. Ray invited only women guests and requested that they all wear hats. I was included only because he wanted me to photograph it all. Tough assignment.

Later That Day, Ray’s Postponed 60th Birthday,
New Orleans (12 October 2007)

After the lunch at Galatoire’s, a few of us repaired to Mimi’s in the Marigny, a fine bar on Royal Street beyond the French Quarter. The tropical look of the Coffee house across the street made me want to give the shot an antique sepia tone. Ray and Bev’s fancy duds aside, it made me think we were in Havana or some other exotic tropical locale.

During my run as a manager and evaluator of environmental professionals, I learned from both Beck and Ray. I’ll always remember one of Ray’s classic dictums –

First class people hire first class people.
  Second class people hire third class people

Does that observation remind you of anyone we know in Washington?
Who do third class people hire?

Ray’s Hat at Galatoire’s (12 October 2007)

Rest in peace, Ramon.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Cruise Chronicles – Day 8 – The Hermitage Museum

 The Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace),
St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

It would not be right to simply include the Hermitage Museum along with the rest of what we saw on the second day in St. Petersburg. The place is too vast and too special. I could write a series of stories on this museum alone. It has such an amazing history on top of the magnificence of the collections on display. In terms of gallery space, only the Louvre in Paris is larger but the Hermitage has the greatest number of paintings in its collection. The museum is a complex of five buildings, the Winter Palace being one.

Catherine II (“the Great”) continued what Peter the Great did before her when he founded St. Petersburg as his “Window on the West.” She embraced the Age of Enlightenment when science, art, philosophy and reason flourished in western Europe. She wanted to expose insular Russia to new ways. And she had the means to do it.

The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

The Hermitage name derives from roots implying ‘recluse’ and ‘living alone’ and was intended to convey exclusivity. It was the royal family’s Winter Palace, completed by Peter the Great’s daughter, the spendthrift, Elizabeth. She died before it was completed. It continued to be the residence for the Imperial Family until 1917 when things went really bad for the occupants.

The Jordan Staircase, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

No, the staircase is not named to celebrate the great basketball player. Back in the day, the Czar would descend these stairs to perform an annual ‘Blessing of the Waters’ on the banks of the Neva River. Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan was recalled and the ever-self-important royalty adopted the name.

Peter the Great Hall, The Hermitage Museum (15 May 2019)

In 1833, Czar Nicholas I had a memorial throne room
built for Peter the Great. With more area than my bowling
alley, it is still referred to as ‘The Small Throne Room.’

Now, the Winter Palace residence has become the gallery. I have been fortunate to have been through many of the world’s foremost art museums. I could do a series on them. (And I thought when I started blogging, I would run out of topics to address…). The Met, Rijksmuseum, Louvre, Prado, Uffizi are all wonderful spaces. Many of them have grand galleries with soaring ceilings but they can’t match the Hermitage for over-the-top opulence. This was a royal palace first…done up as only the Russians can do it. Every floor, wall and ceiling is detailed and decorated. 

Ornate Décor of the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

All the artistry is not just inside frames and on pedestals.
The design and craftsmanship go up the walls and across the ceiling.

War Gallery of 1812, The Hermitage Museum (15 May 2019)

The War Gallery of 1812 holds portraits of the
332 generals who fought to defeat Napoleon.

So determined and able to afford to build her collections, Catherine had emissaries in the western European capitals look for sales and situations that could result in sales. In this way, she bought estate collections and struck deals with individuals who were in financial straits. Some purchases included hundreds of paintings…a dozen Rembrandt’s here, ten Rubens’ there...she cashed in on art like no one had before or since. Through her life, Catherine acquired thousands of paintings, books, drawings and coins and then built additional palaces to house them all.

The ‘Raphael Gallery’, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (15 May (2019)

The Raphael Loggia or Gallery is a replica of the
Renaissance installation in the Vatican in Rome.

Doing St. Petersburg through a full-service tour package was so worth it. For our two-hour highlight visit, we (along with many other tour groups) were allowed in an hour ahead of the official museum opening. Our guide hustled us through the Winter Palace in a way that maximized the number of galleries visited and art works observed. When we left later that morning, the line of regular visitors waiting to get in stretched forever. 

Royal Chapel, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

I have seen a few classic churches and chapels. Spanish and Italian Catholic Cathedrals and Baroque extravagances. I do not remember seeing as much gold anywhere else. The Russians don’t do gold accents or framing. They just make everything gold.

The two hours in the Hermitage was the highlight of the entire vacation for me. Against my long-held position that I would never set foot in a police state like Russia or China, there I was. The lure of the history, culture and art here was too much…not to mention how ridiculous it would have looked if I stayed on the ship while everyone else went ashore. No regrets.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Cruise Chronicles – Day 8 – St. Petersburg – Day 2

The second day in St. Petersburg was not nearly as strenuous as the first. The pristine, blue-sky day began with a drive down the city’s main boulevard, the Nevsky Prospekt for a brief stop at the Kazan Cathedral. The mother church of St. Petersburg was also the official church of the Romanov family where weddings and other ceremonies were held.

Kazan Cathedral and Statue of Kutuzov, St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

There was no time to enter the church. We received our briefing besides the statue of one of the most revered generals in Russian history. Field Marshall Mikhail Kutuzov defeated Napoleon in 1812 and died a year later. He is interred in the cathedral and has had towns, ships, monuments and heroic awards named for him ever since. 

The Summer Garden of Peter the Great,
St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

We then joined other tour groups on a boat to cruise along the canals and Neva River. It was good to get off the crowded streets and see St. Petersburg’s impressive landmarks from the water. Within ten years of the city’s founding, Peter the Great created his summer garden…again modeled after the formal gardens he saw in the West.

Peter and Paul Fortress from the Neva River,
St. Petersburg (15 May 2019)

The Peter and Paul Fortress dates to the founding of St. Petersburg in 1703 and was the original citadel of the city. It is dominated by the Cathedral with a spire over 400 feet tall.

The day’s itinerary included a visit to the great Hermitage Museum. That will be the subject of a separate post since it deserves singular attention.

The last stop of the day took us 15 miles south of St. Petersburg to the town of Pushkin. There we visited another extravagant monument to royal excess, the Catherine Palace. What began as a modest two-story summer home built by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine was greatly expanded by their daughter, Empress Elizabeth. It is now nearly a kilometer in circumference and beyond excessive.   

Catherine Palace, Pushkin, Russia (15 May 2019)

The property encompasses 1400 acres of grounds. Apparently, Empress Elizabeth wanted her own Versailles to match her father’s effort at Peterhof. The palace exterior alone was decorated with early 220 pounds of gold.

The Great Hall of the Catherine Palace,
Pushkin, Russia (15 May 2019)

With an area of 1000 square meters, the Hall takes the full width of the palace. Large windows flood the room with light to illuminate the inlaid floor, the colossal fresco on the ceiling entitled ‘The Triumph of Russia’ and the gold that covers everything else.

Catherine Palace, Pushkin, Russia (15 May 2019)

Our guides more than earned their gratuities for two days of exceptional touring. I was grateful to be driven back to our ship. It was comforting to get off my feet and eat a light Italian supper as we sailed toward Estonia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Cruise Chronicles – Day 7 – St. Petersburg, Russia – Day 1

For the next two days, we toured St. Petersburg in a van along with eight other passengers, a driver and our terrific guide, Dina. The driver knew his way around town and Dina knew all about St. Petersburg. We were in very good hands.

In the 1600’s, Sweden had an outpost near the mouth of the Neva River. In 1703, Peter the Great captured that fortress and never gave it back. He built a city that became the capital of Imperial Russia and remained so until 1917 when the Communist revolutionaries moved the center of government to Moscow. It was called Leningrad until 1991 when the original name was restored.

Subway Station, St. Petersburg, Russia (14 May 2019)

The first thing we did was get dropped off at a subway station for a one-stop ride on the famous Russian underground. The Moscow subway stations have been likened to museum displays. St. Petersburg stations are similar. We entered in this ancient Olympic-themed station and exited through an old naval history station.

St. Isaacs Cathedral, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

St. Isaac is the patron saint of Peter the Great so it’s no surprise this was a special place. The Cathedral was completed in 1858 and has been a museum since the Soviets declared it so in 1931. The grand interior space can accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers. The features and decor in every direction are stunning. It was a shame we had to leave for our next stop because I could have stayed there for hours photographing the lines and details of every feature.

Major Matryoshka Display, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

We were a van-load of tourists, some of whom were eager to buy souvenirs. This particular vendor had extensive offerings of everything Russian. The place was loaded with imitation Faberge eggs, specialty vodka, fur hats, Christmas ornaments and of course, t-shirts. I got my own throw-back CCCP model figuring it might put me in good stead with our president’s pal Vlad. Naturally, one can buy every example of the famous nesting dolls. The one above has thirty dolls and at about 63 rubles to the dollar, the set will set you back close to $4700. I’ll take the shirt. 

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

In 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated…the fourth of the five Romanov rulers who were murdered. That’s a quarter of the total line. Some might think we are a violent nation (especially these days) but we’ve assassinated only eight percent of our presidents (four total)…so far.

But I digress. The Cathedral of the Savior on Spilled Blood was erected on the site of Alexander’s killing. Completed in 1907 by the next Czar to be killed on the job, its interior is remarkable…with Orthodox iconography on every wall and column.

I have no good pictures of the outside of the church because it was a rainy day and parts of the building was covered in scaffolding. Instead, I refer you to this shot on Alexander’s Wiki page…taken by someone with much better post-production skill than I possess.

Peterhof, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

After lunch, we boarded a boat bound for Peterhof, the Russian Versailles. Peter the Great had visited the French palace and he wanted one of his own. Greatly expanded by his daughter, Empress Elizabeth, the estate was ravaged by German troops in World War II. By 1952, thousands of volunteers helped restore the palace and park to their original grandeur.

Fountains at Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

The Grand Cascade has 64 fountains and over 200 statues. Peter wanted his summer palace on the Gulf of Finland to out-do France with its fountains and out-do the Netherlands with its gardens. I have not visited Versailles but believe Imperial Russia can out-do anyone.

Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

The Peter and Paul Fortress was built on the Neva River to protect the city from Sweden, the other power in the region. Inside the walls is the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. And inside the Cathedral are the tombs of Czars. Lots of Czars. Peter the Great, who founded the city and did much to modernize and westernize the Empire, has a front-row tomb and still receives fresh flowers.

Tomb of Peter the Great
Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

All but two of the Romanov rulers after Peter I are buried here. Nicholas II, the last Czar,
was interred here in 1998, eighty years after he and his family were rubbed out by the Bolsheviks in 1918. It took an international team of forensic DNA specialists to confirm the family’s identities and a special room in the church was built to memorialize them. 

Lakhta Tower, St. Petersburg (14 May 2019)

At the end of this day, the view off our cabin balcony permitted a magic light shot across the harbor toward the brand new Lakhta Center. The tallest building in Europe is over 1500 feet high and boasts many modern energy and environmental features.

While I regret seeing none of the day’s amazing sights, it was a long, grueling outing. I lost a toe nail and a persistent bump on the insole of my right foot was painfully aggravated. Tomorrow’s touring will be in flip-flops.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Cruise Chronicles – Day 6 – Helsinki, Finland

We crossed another time zone overnight (now seven hours earlier than east coast U.S.) and tied up the behemoth during breakfast. We are now in Helsinki, the capitol of Finland. Our pier has the town’s name printed in letters that might be seen from outer space.

 Need a Wider Lens, Helsinki, Finland (13 May 2019)

By 10 AM, we are off on a shuttle bus to circle the city sights. With over 650,000 residents, it is by far the most populated Finnish city and the center of all the country’s major activities. This most northern of Europe’s capitals is considered one of the world’s most livable cities.

First settled as a Swedish trading outpost in 1550, the town grew slowly over the centuries that followed.  Along the way, the region experienced setbacks caused by wars, plagues and the like. Finland has been a nation independent of Sweden and/or Russia only since 1917. 

Rock Church, Helsinki (13 May 2019)

One of the shuttle stops was at the popular Rock Church…which is easier to pronounce than the Temppeliaukio Church. The Lutheran sanctuary, carved out of solid rock and opened in 1969, is a popular stop on city tours. As you might imagine, the dense rock walls and copper-domed roof make for superior acoustics and the church is a primo concert venue. 

Outside the Rock Church, Helsinki (13 May 2019)

In a park named for the Finnish composer and national treasure, Jean Sebelius, a monument was erected in 1967. Six hundred hollow steel pipes are welded together to create a pattern that evokes soaring music. Naturally, there were criticisms from traditionalists, including griping about the absence of any image of the man himself. The artist succumbed to the pressure and added his likeness on the right. In shaping Sibelius’ face, the artist irritated other critics because she chose to depict him in his creative age and not as the familiar, elderly man the nation adored.

Sibelius Monument, Helsinki (13 May 2019)

This is also a popular stop on city tours. Buses lined up on the park’s perimeter. Hordes of selfie addicts insert themselves between you and the objects you came to see. One must be patient if one wants a picture of the monument by itself. What a concept.

Sibelius Park, Helsinki (13 May 2019)

While waiting for our bus, I looked back into the park and saw this iconic image of the Great White North. I much prefer landscape/horizontal perspectives but this simple scene begs to be seen in a portrait/vertical format. I wanted to find an angle that didn’t include crossing paths or people…anything that would distract from the interesting bark and leaves.

Market Square, Helsinki (13 May 2019)

Another popular attraction is Market Square, a dense collection of vendors with all manner of merchandise…produce, flowers, carved and knit goods, the usual plastic and t-shirt souvenirs…and some interesting food items. We weren’t feeling too meaty at the time so we eschewed the reindeer burgers and moose meat pies for French fries to share.

The Market is on the waterfront. Docked there was a private yacht big enough to find on The Google. My one photograph of it does not do it justice so I recommend you see the images on the web site. Let’s just leave you with the knowledge that you too can charter it for a mere $1.35 million a week. 

Helsinki Cathedral, Helsinki (13 May 2019)

We split up for some individual time and I walked a few blocks to Senate Square. Facing the Square on one side is the Government Palace. On another side is the main building of the University of Helsinki and between the two is the Helsinki Cathedral. Completed in 1852, the Finnish Lutheran church might be the most photographed building in the country.

Every Statue is a Sea Gull’s Toilet,
 Helsinki (13 May 2019)

The Market and Senate Squares were the last stops for us today and this old guy’s bad feet were begging to be parked somewhere. I was in no mood to climb the stairs and see more of the Cathedral so I shuffled back to the bus and was glad to take my shoes off on the boat. I enjoyed the best dinner of the cruise in flip-flops.

Tomorrow will be another day in another country…a grand two-day stay in St. Petersburg.