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Vacations, Day Trips and Getaways

Vacations, Day Trips and Getaways



Adrienne Smith Part 6: Home at Last PDF Print Email

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Kakadu crocodile

By Adrienne Smith

Editor's Note: This is the finale of Adrienne Smith's cruise overseas.   It is recommended that you read Part 1, Park 2Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 first.

The Grand Finale

Apr. 15, 2020:  When I last left off, our ship, the Silver Spirit, was turned away from docking in Manila and we were headed to Australia. 

Our captain informed us that it would take over four days to reach it, positioned as we were somewhere in the midst of the Philippines.

I had run out of dining options, the M&M’s supplied in my room, and the patience to watch the rolling seas outside my tiny patio.

The main dining room was facing its own problems: no lettuce, no fresh fruit. Would scurvy soon follow?

Every two days, we were lined up to have our temperatures taken. Mine was always awkward as it had to be taken by two different gadgets, running, as it did, quite subnormal (which actually, according to recent news reports, is actually the norm these days).

We also had to fill out applications for Australian transit visas online. We were informed that, when we reached Darwin, Australia, which is at the very tip of the immense island, we would have the choice to either quarantine for fourteen days and then find our own way home OR take a bus straight to the airport to fly home at no additional expense.

Given that the news at home was growing extremely worrisome and fearing that I might soon not be allowed into the country, I elected option two.

But this was not without regret. It’s a long, long way to Australia, and here I was going to be there and head straight home. Crazy!

Fifteen years ago, my family stayed in Darwin for several days. The city was seriously threatened by possible Japanese invasion during WWII, although it was ultimately spared.

Some distance outside Darwin is one of the loveliest places I’ve ever been: Kakadu National Park. It is filled with gorgeous lagoons and billabongs, crocodiles, and waterlilies.

Kakadu remains sharply in my memory because my husband, twins, and I set forth for it from Darwin in a sturdy Jeep. The park had two ways in, one a somewhat boring-sounding highway, and the other, a dirt road. I, of course, opted for the latter.

After we had driven probably 40 miles, with the occasional kangaroo hopping across the road, we came to a stream crossing, marked with danger signs indicating that crocodiles lurked beneath the surface.

We had no idea how deep the water was, knew that our Jeep did not have the kind of exhaust pipe that could avoid being flooded with water, so we parked, stymied, at the banks. The idea of driving the 40 miles back to the good road was unbearable. But it wasn’t particularly appealing to think of what would happen if we were to stall in the middle of the stream.

With visions of horror-movie tragedy, I gunned the engine, roared across the water, and arrived victoriously on the other side.
Lucky thing, or I might not be writing this now.

We arrived in Darwin and were transported to the airport. I boarded a flight to Brisbane. On arrival, I had a few hours to shop, avoiding impulse purchases of boomerangs and Crocodile Dundee hats. I then got onto an interminable flight to Los Angeles, followed by a red-eye connection to Newark, seated in front of a man who coughed copiously the whole flight.

After 30 hours of travel, I was a mess. The idea of facing bills, umpteen back copies of The New Yorker, and a stale-smelling apartment was too much for me, so I checked in to the Hilton Newark Airport for two days, watching completely senseless TV and soothing wracking foot cramps from my dehydration-inducing travels.

And then I was home, just in time to start another, far more serious, form of quarantine.

Photo by Eric Middelkoop (Image No. 133135805).

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
Spring Break Cancelled? Go on a Virtual Vacation! PDF Print Email


By Katharine Outcalt

Apr. 8, 2020: Just when we thought it couldn't get worse, Governor Andrew Cuomo issues an executive order mandating that all public schools continue remote learning this week, resulting in a cancellation of spring break.

It's disappointing but really, where were you going anyway? Any vacation plans have long been canceled and dreams of sandy beaches and snow-capped mountains extinguished.

Though social distancing has confined us to our living rooms, there may be ways in which one can still travel.

We checked in with our local travel advisors and got some great tips on taking "virtual vacations."

Andre Koester of Huffman Travel recommends a real-time safari in South Africa. &Beyond WILDwatchLive is streaming live twice-daily, 3-hour long game rides through some of South Africa's most iconic private game reserves. You can even ask questions of the guides via Twitter or YouTube.

Koester also recommends that families who enjoy travel take this time to work on a 5-year family travel plan. Huffman Travel has a short questionnaire that can help families fill out their travel bucket lists.

Prefer to stay stateside? Google Earth has made virtual tours of at least 100 US national parks. You can also follow one of these 14 livestream travel cams from around the world.

Barbara Nichuals of Bayside Travel recommends Fullscreen 360 and Airpano for 360 degree panoramas of coveted destinations such as Piazza San Marco, the California Redwoods, or Hawaii's Na Pali coast.

Bayside Travel has also launched a weekly "Roam from Home" series, which shares ways you can explore the world from your home. Visit Bayside Travel or email CLOAKING to start receiving their "Roam from Home" messages.

"Spring Break is still a terrific time to connect as a family. So, as we embrace spring break in quarantine, you can still travel virtually and find time to connect and talk," says Kimberly Wetty of Valerie Wilson Travel. Wetty recommends virtual tours of the arts, including museums, Broadway shows, and operas, or try this virtual tour of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Ruth Wood of The Charted Path says, "I am inspired by so many different things when I am not able to travel, and my endless wish list is enhanced by reading magazines, books, and travel blogs."

Wood says, "One of my favorite ways to get inspired, or just keep up with what is going on with travel, and my friends and partners all over the world, is Instagram."

Wood recommends @virtuosoltd, @travelandleisure, and @thechartedpath. Wood also follows some of the safari camps that she has visited. Some that she follows include @tandatula @andbeyondphinda, @jabulanisafari, and @singita_.

Jen Barr of Indagare, a New York-based trip-planning company, recommends tours and lessons offered on their Global Classroom. There are art and history tours, cooking lessons, wine and spirits classes, dance workshops, virtual safari walks and much more. There is also a guide for what to what, see and do right at home.

How about grabbing a good book? Here are 12 destination-inspired books to add to your reading list. Movies like Eat Pray Love, The Bucket List, or Midnight in Paris, can transport you to faraway destinations.

The options are endless, but, of course, no spring break is complete without a good fruity drink. Here are some travel-inspired cocktail recipes from around the world to try (responsibly).

Add an umbrella and that sandy beach won't seem too far away.


Photo: Shutterstock

 
Adrienne Smith Abroad: A Ship to Somewhere - Part 5; Will She Disembark in Manila? PDF Print Email

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The Silversea Spirit ship

By Adrienne Smith

Editor's Note: This is Part 5 of Adrienne Smith's cruise overseas.  It is recommended that you read Part 1, Park 2Part 3 and Part 4 first. 

Part 5

Apr. 8, 2020:  When I last left off, our ship, the Silver Spirit, was headed to possible docking in Manila. The trip, from just south of our then-current locale below the Cambodia-Vietnam peninsula, involved sailing by infinite numbers of Indonesian islands. 

Look at a map someday and see how vast and spread out the Indonesia land masses are.

We now had two plus days to kill, which I could spend by looking out at a whole lot of nothingness, playing bingo, or tripping down memory lane. I chose the latter.

Forty years ago, which seems like almost yesterday for those of my age, in one of my attacks of wanderlust, I took a Singapore Airlines around-the-world trip.

It started quite inauspiciously, as, in an act of utter stupidity, I had a chalazion removed from my lower eyelid a few days before, causing a rainbow of unpleasant colors to burst forth under my skin.

Undeterred, I boarded the first leg of my trip, sitting regally in the first-class cabin, perhaps sipping champagne, I really don’t remember, when an American businessman sat down next to me. 

He took one look at me, rose from his seat, communicated with what were then stewardesses, and was taken to a seat elsewhere.

As I had bathed thoroughly that morning, it now dawned on me that I had become the Typhoid Mary of the flight, obviously a woman in unpleasant distress, someone to be avoided at all costs.

Although I am not a sunglasses wearer by habit, I spent the remainder of the trip looking incredibly mysterious by necessity.

On arriving in Manila and checking into the renowned old Manila Hotel, I saw that Freda Payne, famous for her disco rendition of Band of Gold, was to perform in the nightclub there. 

Feeling a little out of touch with the world, I decided to sign up for her act.

That night, dressed as glamorously as I could, and with my massive, blinding sunglasses on, I staggered into the event. I found myself seated with a number of young locals, who were just as excited about the program as I. I also noticed that they were doing a great deal of whispering and gesturing and looking at me. Finally, one polite soul asked me if I was Elke Sommer, a blond starlet at the time.

I guess my blonde hair and those incredible glasses had done their part to make me seem like a someone. I was torn between going along with their suppositions or dashing their moment of glory, but the truth won out. Nonetheless, it was a mood lifter for my still deeply bruised face.

The next night, the hotel ran out a red carpet and in came multitudes of dignitaries, including President Marcos and his many-shoed wife. I think, after his death when she moved to Honolulu, she had something like a whole house built for her shoes.

Now back to the almost present day. Sailing along and closing in on Manila. You guessed it. The captain came on again to announce that Manila had closed its port and that we would be headed for Australia, where he HOPED we would be able to land.

Stay tuned.

Photos courtesy A. Smith

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
Adrienne Smith Abroad: A Ship to Somewhere - Part 4; The Refunds Begin PDF Print Email

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Sunset at sea

By Adrienne Smith

Editor's Note: This is Part 4 of Adrienne Smith's cruise overseas.  It is recommended that you read Part 1, Park 2 and Part 3 first. 

Part 4

Apr. 1, 2020:  When I left off last week, our cruise from Singapore to Mumbai had been dealt multiple blows when all our remaining ports refused us entry.

We were in our eighth day aboard when the captain announced that, although we were headed back in the direction of Singapore, that port had also been closed to us.  

He sugarcoated this news by telling us that Silversea would be returning 50% of the fare to us as well as offering us a 25% reduction on our "next" cruise. Otherwise, we were in limbo as to our next, and perhaps final, stop.

You'd think that reclining in a pleasantly-appointed stateroom with a living area, balcony, and mini-fridge packed with anything I liked, would mean that life was good. Add in Asian, Japanese, Steak, Tapas, Italian, and "fine dining" restaurants of my choice, and you'd wonder, what was the beef? But uncertainty, as we all now know, can be quite an enemy.

After another day of sailing, el capitán came on the now-dreaded loudspeaker to inform us that we would now be heading to either Sihanoukville, Cambodia, or Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, each port at the near bottom of said countries.

Looking up Sihanoukville, I discovered that it was named after an off and on ruler of Cambodia. I also found that it was a backpacker's delight, something that failed to fill me with quite the same enthusiasm. 

Looking up the hotel possibilities on booking.com, in case we were forced to abide there for an uncertain time, I found myself disheartened by lodgings called "Good Time Boutique" and "Easy Peasy," many with average daily fees of $24. I envisioned genetically oversized bedbugs that would devour me.

Ho Chi Minh City sounded like a much safer bet. It had fancier hotels and better transportation out. Also, I had been there twice before.

This change of plans required that we go through the Singapore Straits into the South China Sea, sailing NNE toward the possible spots. 

But then, joy, the captain broadcast that we were going to Ho Chi Minh City but would be dropping two passengers off in Sihanoukville. Must be something to do with those two later-boarding people, now gossiped to be Italians.

Next, I started to plan the wonderful things I would do in Ho Chi Minh City, where we would be docked for two days before flying home.

My planning in each instance must have been a curse because, once again, le capitaine came on with more information. No Sihanoukville. No Ho Chi Minh City.  

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An agent of Silversea had flown from Monaco to the latter to negotiate for us but to no avail. He, and we, would now be headed to Manila, a trip that would take 2-1/2 days.

Ok, why not Manila?  

Oh, and now the ante had gone up to a 75% refund.


Photos courtesy A. Smith

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
Adrienne Smith Abroad: A Ship to Somewhere - Part 3 PDF Print Email

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By Adrienne Smith

Editor's Note: This is Part 3 of a trip Adrienne Smith has been taking halfway across the world. It is recommended that you read Part 1 and Park 2 first. 

Part 3

Mar. 25, 2020: You have, I hope, read the first two installments of my ill-fated cruise from Singapore to Mumbai aboard the very attractive Silver Spirit.

When I left off, our ship was sailing from Penang toward Port Klang, an hour away from Kuala Lumpur. 

As I had never been there before, and as we were due to be docked for almost two days, I opted to reserve a room at the most glamorous hotel I could find in the city, the Banyon Tree Hotel.

I was in luck as the hotel had all my favorites: the interactive toilet, floor-to-ceiling views of the city from the 53rd floor, a modern tub situated to take in said view (hoping, of course, that no one from a nearby tall tower had the same opportunity to see me) and so many switches and gadgets that I felt I almost needed to take a course in all the ways to use a controller. 

Kuala Lumpur is a city of 1.8 million residents. The downtown area is stunning in its modernity, a cross between the best of Shanghai and Dubai. But within each block are old, decaying mansions, apparently held vacant awaiting a favorable market.

I did a little shopping, staying away from the massive mall directly across from me, opting, instead, for a funky-sounding boutique in the suburbs. Then out for dinner at the city’s most well-known Malaysian/Asian restaurant where I feasted on all my Indonesian favorites.

Back the next day aboard the ship, we headed for Mekala, or Malacca as you may know it.

We had to be ferried in from the ship and then transferred to the middle of the formerly-Portuguese-held town. There, I requisitioned an incredibly decorated trishaw to take me around the town. Quite a jolly experience as my peddler played loud rock songs, one involving a great deal of carnal desire and another, Happy, which lifted my spirits intensely.

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Decorated trishaw, Photo by A. Smith

We went back to the boat and to the beginning of seriously bad news. We would not be going to Sri Lanka as the country had closed its ports. India was still a possibility but not looking good. Our next scheduled stop, in Langkawi, Malaysia, was also canceled, but, insanely, we had to moor offshore there so that two passports of late-joining passengers could be stamped. Come on!

Awakening the next morning, I looked out on what appeared to be the most gorgeous island imaginable, the aforesaid Langkawi, full of Ritzes and Four Seasons, but to which we were not allowed to go.

After several hours, the Malaysia exit paperwork was completed, just in time for our dear captain to announce that India was now denying us entry and that we might return to Singapore. In other words, all but the first stop of our itinerary was down the drain.

What would tomorrow bring?


Photo at top: Kuala Lumpur postcard, Shutterstock

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 
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