Woes of Public Transport:. Half a Day Wasted

Originally after the cruise, I had planned to rent a car and spend the next 5 days wandering around the countryside.  But with the high cost of the car, coupled with the prospect of driving on the left hand side, getting petrol gas, and trying to find parking in the places we were going, I figured it was better to take the train.  We prepurchased our tickets and we were all set.

We left our hotel in Winchester at 10: 45 AM., walked to the station with plenty of time to spare, and our train should have brought us to Salisbury by 12:40pm.  Our first train was slightly delayed, but that was no problem since we had a connection in Southampton. In Southampton, we had about half an hour before our next train was set to arrive and depart. So we just chilled out and relaxed and read a little bit. 
However we noticed the platform teeming with many, many passengers. And then we found out that our incoming train was only two coaches long. There were people with strollers, huge luggage bags, and bicycles. There was no way we were gonna get on this train. To make matters worse, it was delayed by 20 plus minutes, which just meant more people coming to try to get on the train. Just prior to the train’s arrival, I asked a train attendant if all of these people were going to fit on the two coach train. He said it No, and asked where we were going. When I told him that we were going to Salisbury, he said there is a train the next platform over that was leaving immediately direct to Salisbury and that we should get on that one. 
So all of a sudden, Lisa and I are frantically running up the steps with our bags in tow, trying to make the 12: 27 PM train that was already in the station waiting the leave to Salisbury. However, it was on platform 2B, and unfortunately I got on the train at 3B. Realizing our mistake once we were on that train (because a helpful chap let us know), we got out of the train and headed over to what I thought was the right platform. So we ran out with her bags across the Bridgeway, down to the other side of the tracks. And then realised that that was the wrong platform as well. The train we really wanted was still sitting at platform 2B.  One last time, we went up the stairs, we ran across the bridge where, we ran down the stairs… And watched it pull away.  
We never made it on the train. We never made it on our 12:10 original train, that ended up leaving Southampton at 12:32, 22 minutes behind schedule. 
So here we are, waiting for the 1:10 train, which is also delayed and is jeopardizing our day in Salzburg, because most of the attractions close up at 5 pm. We also have quite a distance to get to our accommodations for the night. 
Had we rented the car, leaving at 10: 45 we would have arrived into Salisbury by 11:30am at the latest. As it stands now, we hope to get to Salisbury by 2:15 pm. With a walk to our hotel, and check in, it is looking like we will not be able to start our day in Salsbury until 3 pm.  Ah, the possible woes and delays of public travel.  Sheesh!

A Week Crossing the Atlantic

Day 1 – took a Lyft car from Elizabeth New Jersey to the cruise terminal in Brooklyn.  Originally was going to to use public transportation via the bus and Subway, but at a cost of 40 bucks, it was actually only $10 more to take Lyft and shave off an hour and a half on our journey.  We made a quick stop at the wine shop to get a couple bottles of wine before arriving to our cruise terminal at 12:30.  We went through passport control, security checkpoint, and after a little bit of a wait 2 officially check in, we were on board and in our room my 1: 30 pm… Had we taken the original plan on the bus, we would still be enroute, so it definitely paid off to spend a little bit more to get to the cruise terminal faster and on board.

For the next week we will be crossing the Atlantic Ocean, no ports of call and no stops, just chugging along towards England.  We are well stocked with hooks, games, podcast and magazines, but what I have realized is that this Cruise has a bunch of activities crammed into every single day. This sailing also honors World War II veterans with special programs and presentations. I read up on World War II over the last few days, so I am ready to hear some stories and learn more from first hand accounts.  
This is the first time we have ever been on the Cunard cruise line, and I had the impression that it was too stuffy, too formal and attracted too many old people. However, what I have found over the first few hours on board is that it skews young, with a number of kiddos and a fair number of passengers that are my age.  
Lisa and I did have to pack a number of fancy dress up clothes and I bought my first tuxedo just for this occasion, so we will see how that goes.  But so far, so good.  This will definitely be a different vacation from the one we had a few weeks ago in Costa Rica and Mexico…and no internet?!!  How will we ever survive?  And with that, this will be our last blog post until next Friday…

A Long Journey Back Home

Here’s a quick synopsis of our long journey back to Portland…

4:30am:  wake up

5:15am:  catch hotel shuttle to the airport

5:30am:  arrive to airport

6:00am:  after checking in, dropping off our bags and going through security, we make it to our Priority Pass lounge

7:30am:  at the gate for boarding

8:05am:  flight leaves San Jose.  We are dog tired.

12:45pm:  land in Houston for 90 minute lay over.  We change planes.

2:20pm:  flight leaves Houston

3:25pm:  land in Las Vegas.  Stay on the plane for almost an hour as they deplane and board new passengers.

4:15pm:  flight leaves Las Vegas.  Early in the flight, little kid loses his lunch and hurls all over his seat and his row.  Passengers are re-accommodated in other seats.

5:45pm:  land in Oakland.  Stay on the plane.  Originally a 30-minute stop turns into an hour as maintenance crews are called in to clean up the vomit and to replace the seat cushions and seat belts.

6:40pm:  flight leaves Oakland.

8:00pm:  land in Portland.  Get luggage and a quick bite at Elephant’s Deli.

8:42pm:  on the MAX for our ride home.

9:54pm:  arrive to our final MAX stop; Lisa’s mom is there waiting and drives us home.

10:00pm:  HOME!

Costa Rica is just one hour ahead of Portland.  So Portland time, we woke up at 5:30am to begin our day and we didn’t get home until 10pm.  16.5 hours of travel.  We made it.  The prior eighteen days were so worth the long day of traveling home.  And the nice thing is that we were able to sit together for the entire time and aside from the little hiccup/delay for cleaning up some puke, our flights were uneventful and smooth sailing.  And that’s what we want!

A Tale of the Free Walking Tours

Today we took a free walking tour in the central core of San Jose.  These walking tours are offered around the world in major cities and the guides are compensated by a donation at the end of the tour. Our meeting point was to be at 9am in front of the National Theatre.  You can find the guide because he or she holds up a white umbrella and wears a white shirt that says San Jose free walking tour.

I did a little research beforehand to find out what people thought about the free walking tours, and for the most part they are positive reviews. However, a number of people warned that there are some scam artist fake free walking tour guides that trick unsuspecting tourists to think that they are taking the correct walking tour. These guys prowl the same area in front of the National Theatre in the morning looking for people that do not know any better.  As Lisa and I were walking to the meeting point, one of these fake tour guides approached us and asked if we were wanting to go on a free walking tour. He looked all official with a white shirt and even had some papers in a manila folder like he had a bunch of tour notes.  But we knew better. We found the right guy and during his introduction he did mention the competing fake walking tour guides but there wasn’t a whole lot that he could do.  We also noticed a second fake walking tour guide wandering around the area as our tour began.  Wow!  

Our walking tour lasted for 3 hours and we learned a lot of history and received tips for shopping and eating.  Many visitors skip out on San Jose and I admit that I had different plans for this last day on our trip. However, I was not interested in any more driving in the crazy traffic so we ended up staying the day and I am glad that we had the opportunity to learn more about the country and about the city of San Jose.  Bottom line is that this was a great tour and we would highly recommend it.

Don Olivio Chocolate Tour

Took a pretty cool chocolate tour today.  Here’s what I can remember…
– They have about 1,000 chocolate trees; each tree will get about 20 pods.  However, there is a fungus that will kill about 40% of the pods.
– This pod was cracked open by smashing it against a tree

– Each pod has between 20 – 50 “seeds” or beans.

– They take the beans, throw it into this bucket, and they sit in there for five days fermenting…

– Next, they take the beans and dry them out for 15 days in this little shack.
– The beans are now hard and they gently crack open the bean shells with this huge pestle, giving you the inner bean meat
– The meat is now grinded down into shavings by this hand crank.
These shavings are now added to the heated milk, giving us some hot chocolate.
– The shavings can also be combined with sugar to make these really yummy chocolate pieces that are 90% chocolate and 10% sugar.
Our tour also included a bunch of fruit tastings of soursop, papaya, mango, pineapple and fresh sugar cane juice.