Friday, August 15, 2008

NYC/Bermuda Cruise Vacation - Part II

Picking up from my last entry, we spent our last day in NYC trekking from lower Manhattan back up to Times Square. We took the subway down to Chinatown where Marjie was on the hunt (and a successful one, I might add) for a “bag,” known as a “purse” to me! Afterwards, we turned north on Mulberry St. where in an instant, we were walking through Little Italy. A storm was brewing overhead and we were hungry so we quickly picked an Italian restaurant for lunch. In a nutshell, I’d describe Chinatown as endless vendors set up in tiny little rooms street-side selling clothes, jewelry, and purses. Stepping into Little Italy erases the vendors and is replaced by restaurant after restaurant. More than enough to choose from and workers from each stand along the sidewalk trying to convince everyone that theirs is the best in “Italy.” After lunch, we began the walk north through Soho and stopping in at shops here and there. We spent about an hour at the Barnes and Noble where I picked up “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life” by Amby Burfoot, the editor of Runner’s World for several decades and once a winner of the Boston Marathon. I actually finished the book on the way home from Bermuda while poolside on the ship. I really enjoyed this book. It’s not a book about training at all. If you’ve been running for years and have experienced the super highs and the lowly lows, you’ll like this book and I highly recommend it. It also addresses running’s role in our lives…for Amby, it was about his path from elite runner to one with a wider lifetime perspective on where running fits in everyday life. Anyway, we made our way next past the Empire State Building where a major remodel is in progress. We passed on shelling out nearly $30 just to go up in it. Dodging rain showers all the way back to Times Square, we finally made it back in time for dinner. After sharing a salmon sandwich at the Dunhill Café next door, we headed back to our room to catch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. We never did see the Americans enter the stadium as we were sound asleep by then. Come Saturday morning, I got up early and headed down to Central Park for 10 miles. There were a ton of folks out there. Roller-bladers, an organized cycling relay event, multiple kids’ organizations having their own events, lots of runners, walkers, and folks just letting their dogs run free in the green areas. 10 miles and I really felt good. Smart recovery is a beautiful thing! Afterwards, we packed up, and headed for the subway to head to New Jersey where our car and our cruise ship beckoned us. Part 1 of 2 of our vacation complete!

Our cruise ship, the Explorer of the Seas was docked in Bayonne, NJ at a shipping port. Just across the water was the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan where we just were an hour before. After checking in and grabbing some lunch, we were topside for the Sail-Away Party at 5pm. (the picture here with the life preservers is from the drill that all cruiseships must go through before departing...everyone meets with their preserver at their assigned emergency station) We barely cleared the Verrazano Bridge with less than 10 feet to spare while heading out into the Atlantic Ocean en route to Bermuda. For dinner, we got our request for a table-for-two in the dining room. We have found that we enjoy just eating together/alone more than with a group of 8-10 others who we’ve never met. Harvy from the Philippines was our waiter and provided excellent service throughout the week. Tuesday was a day at sea where we spent the morning poolside under the beautiful blue skies. I brought a travel book on Bermuda so we made our plans for the next 2 days. Afterwards, I challenged the Rock Wall. All Royal Caribbean ships have one and I always visit it. There were kids as young as 6 years old giving it a shot. After lunch, we stopped by the Art Auction and found it incredibly boring. Sometimes, these are packed but this particular crowd on this sailing clearly had no intention of shopping for art. After a few games of Rummy (where I beat Marjie pretty bad!) on the Royal Promenade, we got dressed up for formal night and had dinner. Monday morning by 9am, we were docked in Bermuda. My goal was to be running before sunrise and run through sunrise while pulling into Bermuda. Here’s the video I shot while wrapping up 50 laps or 10 miles topside on the ship. You’ll see the northeast coast of Bermuda in the video. Gorgeous!

Our plan for Bermuda was to do the OPPOSITE of what the thousands of others would do on Day 1. Others would head to the beach and to Hamilton (the main shopping area and capital of Bermuda). So, we headed to St. George, the original 400 year old town on the opposite end of the island and work back towards the ship throughout the day. It worked out perfect and we had no crowds all day. The church in the picture here is over 400 years old. Inside, the church is as it was when it was built and is still used today. We had lunch at the Carriage House, waterside, in St. George, visited the St. David’s Lighthouse, then hopped on the pink bus and headed to find the Swizzle Inn, the supposed home of the most popular Bermudian drink, the “Rum Swizzle.” Pretty cool place and I’d say a “must visit” if you go to Bermuda. It’s tradition to leave your autograph on the wall or a business card. The walls are completely covered with years of old business cards and graffiti. We had lunch not too soon before so we opted for the loaded nachos, instead. YUM! We hopped back on the bus and headed back to the Royal Naval Dockyard where we were moored and browsed a few shops before heading back to the ship. By this time, we craved a hot shower due to so much time walking and riding public transportation. Ahhhhh…10 hours of sleep before Day 2 in Bermuda! Day 2 brought heavy rain and clouds. We kept positive, put on the swimming gear and headed into Hamilton to shop. Not too impressive and a town we’ll skip on our next visit. It is nothing more than a tourist-trap. We stopped by the local supermarket, got some wraps for lunch and grabbed yet another pink bus en route to the most highly rated beach, Horseshoe Bay. This is supposed to be one of the most highly rated beaches in the world with crystal clear water and pink sand. The beach met our every expectation. The “pink” everyone speaks of come from flecks of pink coral mixed in with the sand giving it the pink hue. The water was the clearest I’ve ever seen anywhere. Absolutely crystal clear and not too salty, either. And to answer the question now....NO, these aren't my painted toenails in this picture!We headed back to the ship just in time before getting underway at 5pm. Wednesday was our last day at sea all day so I headed up at 5:30am for my last chance at a “sunrise run.” I knocked out 40 laps/8 miles and witnessed a gorgeous sunrise. After breakfast, we headed topside to the pool but the sun never really came out. We ended up just relaxing in our stateroom while the chick-flick “P.S., I Love You” was playing and then caught the last ice show at 5pm. Yes, the ship is big enough to actually have an ice rink on board! After dinner and the farewell show in the theater, we packed our bags and got up to the Windjammer Café before 9pm for our favorite treat, sushi rolls! By 8:30am Thursday morning, we were in the car and en route back home.
All-in-all, it was a great vacation. It is also good to be home. The fast-paced atmosphere in Manhattan followed by being on a ship with a lot of folks from NY and NJ (ie: another fast-paced atmosphere!), makes home in NE Ohio a relief from it all and very much appreciated. It is also really good to be back home with our girls. We sure did miss them.
Gear Shift: it’s time to prepare to pace the 1:45 goal-setters at the Buckeye Half-Marathon on September 7th followed by the Akron Marathon 3 weeks later. I’ll be pacing Karen S. to her Boston-qualifying time…you will do it, Karen! Then 5 weeks later, the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail Run in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. That should do it for 2008 except for the Turkey Day 4-miler and the New Year’s Eve 5K…two traditions I refuse to break. Is it too early to start talking about goals for 2009? Again, a discussion for another day…
Happy Trails, everyone!


Brian said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Nice tour.. the water looks awesome!

Brian said...

nice pics. i was hoping you would say that those were not your toenails. would put a whole different spin on things

Nick Billock said...

Toenails: what I didn't mention was that not only are those not my toenails, but I actually removed yet another one on the cruise...another victim of good 'ol high mileage. Plus, in keeping with tradition, I was sure to bring it home with me for a little "Show and Tell" with the kids! I know, I know....completely unnecessary but still pretty darn funny!

Brett S. said...

Hey Nick you can pace me to a PR at the Buckeye then. I'll hit you up in the 1:45 pace group. I'm also with you in the toenail catagory only mine was lost from having someone drop a knee onto it during a Taekwondo drill. Sounded like a fabulous vacation