Category Archives: travel

hey, big spender

So, today, I had a little time and decided to do a little cruise research.  It started harmlessly enough.  I called a travel agent to inquire about the amount of on-board credit they may give in exchange for transferring my reservation to them.  This first conversation led to a 2nd with Celebrity Cruise lines, where I somehow determined that I needed to upgrade to a sky suite from concierge class, on the Penthouse deck.  Then I giggled like a fool for a little while, sent Teh Smitten an instant message that I had a surprise for him, and left message with our fun friends who plan to go with us.  You know what sold me?  Butler service, afternoon tea, and a bathtub.

No, I’m lying.  It was just the butler service.

Fun friend – she needs a nickname – called back and I shared my bit of reckless abandon.  FF liked the cut of my jib and proceeded to take notes on the benefits of upgrading.  She reported that she would check with her husband and get back to me.  She thought she could sell him the idea purely on the merit that a larger balcony = more room to get it on.  Well, this is true, but it also gives the folks on Deck 14 a show they ain’t paid for…

On the way home, Teh Smitten, knowing that I have the impulse control of an 8 year old boy, quickly guessed my surprise.  Since I also cannot lie to save my life, I fessed up.  He approved.  He likes it when I giggle foolishly and encourages me to no end.

Then FF and her husband call, while on another phone with a Celebrity agent.  They are booking the suite, but on Deck 12 and not Deck 10, where the balconies are HUGE.  Like 179 square feet instead of 69 square feet.  Also, there are potentially huge benefits to not being the deck under the pool or grill.  We (okay, I) panic, thinking they are on to something really awesome that we might miss out on, and call Celebrity simultaneously to try and improve our balcony situation.  I’m not an outdoor nookie sort of person, mind you, but there wasn’t a difference in cost between the decks and I like the idea of not competing for a deck chair.

I do, however, suspect that I am a butler person.  FF reminded us that there was good rationale to making the upgrade:  you are given first chance to disembark at ports, get better service, the little spa therapy pool is free to us, etc.  I’ve now spent the last 2 hours trying to find photos of our suite’s bathroom to no avail.  Neither the cruise lines or previous cruisers have posted photos of bathrooms. So annoying.  I need to know that the bathtub is Lush Bath Bomb-worthy.

In related news, I cannot save money.  This does not bode well for my old age.

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the social season

Its been a little over three weeks since I had my sinus surgery and I’m beginning to feel a little more normal.  Considering the lack of noticeable trauma, it seems ridiculous that it took such a toll on my energy.  I’ve been sleeping far more than usual, which is to say lots.  Teh Smitten has been quite a trooper and an amazing partner in all this.

We commence the social season this week through Memorial weekend.  I hope I can keep up.  It will be good to see old friends and meet new ones.  Smit and I celebrate the 3rd anniversary of our 1st date on May 18th, so I’ve arranged for a weekend at one of the new Kimpton hotels in Old Town.  The Lorien Hotel and Spa is pretty new.  I signed up for Kimpton rewards long ago and got a rate of $153 a night for the King spa tub room.  I’ve also gone ahead and made massage appointments for us both and Smit has made reservations for Restaurant Eve’s tasting room.  I’m counting the days.

And because nothing makes me feel better than planning a vacation, a couple days after my surgery we made our initial down payments on a 12 night cruise on the Celebrity Mercury in November.  We go right out of Baltimore, spend three days at sea, then hit St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Kitts, Antigua and St. Maarten, and then have another 3 full days at sea before returning to Charm City.  After dragging the boy all over hither and yon (Spain and France) last November, he stated a preference for just unpacking once while visiting several destinations.  Fortunately, Baltimore has three different lines operating out of its port, and we both love the concept of being able to drive directly to the port instead of having to fly to FL.  I think this will be my 8th or 9th cruise, but its been quite a while since my last.  I’ve booked a stateroom with a balcony and concierge service, which will both be firsts for me.  Woo!!!  196 days and counting.  You know what else is fun?  Shopping for cruise wear and gear.

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28 days, 19 hours, 37 minutes and 5 seconds

So many good things are happening that something is bound to go wrong soon.  For example, why must GOD punish me with zits when I’m 39?

Vacation is looming large and I’m beginning to panic a little about not having practiced my Spanish more.  I need to do a little research and download a conversation Catalan and French podcast.  Teh Smitten and I purchased our train tickets a couple weeks back and only spent a total of $220 to get us from Barcelona to Toulouse – pretty happy about that.  I’ve started to tab interesting places and cafes/bars for us to visit.  I should be more concerned with various deliverables due with my leadership program, but its hard to focus when I know that happyfuntime is so close.

We have commenced Teh Smitten’s birthday weekend.  The celebration (kinda) has kicked off with Ghirardelli brownies and this lovely Rias Baixas Vizconde de Barrantes albarino.  We have a Clatterford dvd in the player and are idly flipping channels. Right now, teh cutie is happily watching some blow hard talk about weaponry on history.com.

Also, I am nearly done with Christmas shopping.  Took care of the niece and nephew via Amazon.com this afternoon.  The boy gets xBox 360 games (Madden 10 and Brutal Legend) and the girl gets the latest glam barbie vacation house with matching pool and convertible (to be released in mid-November).  Best. Aunt. Ever.  My brother in law is getting an haute couture t-shirt from Alexander McQueen.  The boy loves t-shirts so he’s getting the best.  Srsly.  Gilt.com has saved my ass this year.  (And so has ruelala.com, hautelook.com and ideeli.com – bless them every one!) The Marc “mother effing” Jacobs handbags for my sister and me – still reeling over that find.  I need to stop spending money so I can buy myself a car at the end of the year.  I’m not sure that Toonces is going to pass the DC inspection in January.  At the current rate, it is going to be a Toyota Yaris or Hyundai box of death instead of the Honda Civic.  Alas, alas!

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57 days, 19 hours, 20 minutes and 34 seconds to go

We’ve nailed down an itinerary and lodging, which makes me giddy.  Its not just the glass of wine I just had and the ambien CR.  So, I thought I’d share a bit.
We fly out on the 21st and arrive on the 22nd (flying from Dulles, through De Gaulle).
After a bit of research, I happened upon this website that provided apartments in Barcelona for rent to travelers and found a perfect one in the Barri Gotic.  It has as washer (rare to find a dryer in Europe) and we will stay there 4 nights.  The cost is about 75 Euros per night, which is extremely reasonable.  The link to the place is below – we are staying in that specific apartment.

We’ll take the train on the morning of the 26th up along the coast and will stop for the night in Narbonne so we can check out the Via Domitia. I think the train ride will be 5 or 6 hours due to all the stops along the way.  Would be closer to 3 or 4 by car.
Narbonne, Hotel La Residence – November 26 (1 night).  I checked the area out using the Google Street Level thing, and it is super close to the train station, close to the river, and only a few blocks from square where there’s a sunken area of the Via Domitia.
On the afternoon of the 27th we’ll take the train to Carcassonne – I think its about 45 minutes to an hour West)
Carcassonne, Hotel Donjon – November 27 & 28 (a Best Western).  We will begin to try cassoulet there.  The Hotel le Donjon used to be an orphanage in the 1500’s.  We are staying in the old walled part of the city.
On the 29th, we will take the train to Toulouse, and maybe stop in Castelnaudary along the way.  Castelnaudary is about 10 minutes away, and Toulouse another 40 -50 minutes.  Carcassonne, Castelnaudary and Toulouse all vie for the best cassoulet recipes.  We will need to bring Beano and Gas-X.
Toulouse, Les Loges de Saint Sernin – November 29 and 30 (a B&B, we are staying in the very pink St-Sernin room – I requested it especially).  Ah, the pink room.  So romantic.  Teh Smitten says he is comfortable enough with his masculinity to stay in a pink room, but not enough to wear a pink shirt.  This is a fair compromise, don’t you think?  I’m quite excited about staying in this place, only a block from the Basilica.  Toulouse is called the la ville rose.
Tim and I have been focusing our wine buying solely on wines we might find in Cataluna and the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France.  There is a minervois on sale at Schneiders that I have got to get my hands on this week.  We are getting studied up as much as possible.  Tim has located an iPhone app for us to help track our libatory interests.
Our flight back departs on December 1st at 1 pm from Toulouse, and goes through CDG in Paris. (Air France).  IF we decide to come back.

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on the wagon

We’re mostly dry at Chez Allezoop these days due to Teh Smitten’s unconfirmed fatty liver (non-alcoholic) disease. Once confirmed (hopefully later this month) we may be able to commence having our daily bread wine again. Technically, I could drink but we believe in solidarity around here. Well, 9 days out of 10 we do.

This is tough on Teh Smitten since fancy artisanal and old school cocktails are among his passions, and because people who complain about not being able to drink are automatically labeled alcoholics. (Sometimes I not so secretly long to live in Europe where folks have a more balanced view of these things.) Fortunately, we both – and his doctor – know better.

Once I get my tax refund, I’m seriously thinking about whisking the cutie and me off to somewhere for some relaxation. How far can I get us for a total of $2K to $2.5k?  Considering that our current outlet is an xbox 360 game called Fable II and that I have developed a true hate for my blackberry, out of the country would be nice.  Could I do Spain for us both for $3k?

Lastly, I need to come up with 2 60 day rotations in other Federal agencies.  Who wants a GS-14 with external affairs and policy skilz?  My agency is paying the way…

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you get back here right now!

Teh Smitten and I had a nice Christmas with my family at their new home between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The first couple days were a bit harried, but Christmas day was spent at the beach and the day after with old friends and dinner at SoBe. To help stretch out the relaxing feeling, I upgraded us to first class for the trip back on Saturday night. About an hour after we landed, we got an irate call from my niece.

Niece: Allez! You left your peepee!!! [Unintelligible yelling…] You get back here right now!!

Me: [Trying real hard not to laugh because she is SERIOUSLY shocked and dismayed that we have LEFT A MAN BEHIND.] Wait, honey, let me put you on speaker… Now tell Teh Smitten what you just said to me.

Niece: Smit! You left your peepee!!!!! [You can hear everyone over the age of 5 laughing on both sides of the line at this point.]

To freshen your memory, here is the previous post about Pipi Le Chick.

The niece had plenty to say about this very serious parental lapse on my and Teh Smitten’s part, for which I should feel lots more guilty.  Pipi is very special to her as he has a delightfully soft and plaintive peep, and she knows him well from our Skype video conferences.  She demanded that we return immediately and fetch our precious baby.  I explained that he must have hidden from us while we were packing so that he could stay and winter with her in Florida.  I asked her to take special care of him for us.  She was somewhat placated.

Christmas is HARD.

Christmas is HARD.

We went to the beach on Christmas afternoon.  Teh Smitten and I lounged in our chairs and read our new books.  The niece crashed after about 10 minutes.

I told you I was tired.

I told you I was tired.

We took mercy on her wee neck and put her in a lounge chair.

So, Christmas was nice.  My mom wasn’t on my case for anything.  The weather was nice (maybe a little rainy for a couple days), we found a pub down there that serves Belhaven on draft as well as fried p0undcake (which is so wow), and we had a brief respite from cold and gray DC.

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extreme princess action: t minus 4 days and counting

Just four more days till wine and princess mayhem in the heart of Walt Disney Wierdness.  Can’t. Frakin’. Wait.  I’ve started packing already.  Bought a new roll-aboard for Teh Smitten, a new carry-on bag for me, new slenderizing swimsuit (GOLLY is it hard to put on), cover up, and a bunch of other crap.  Flip flops and camera are already packed.

Staring in the face of 38 is a little odd, so I’m glad I’ll be spending the majority of my time in some state of tipsytude.

Also, implemented a minor hair change over the weekend.

Looking pretty good for 38, huh?  From the shoulders up, at least.

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