Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Ever since my mother's death in 2000, my birthdays have not been the same. It's not because she died anywhere near my birthday, she didn't. I can't explain it; it is what it is. But because of that, I always make it a point to be distracted by new and different surroundings on that day.

So one birthday, Sarge and I used our timeshare to take the Diva and the Doc to Hilton Head Island, #64 on my Bucket List. None of us had ever been there before, but had heard a lot about it. We decided to check it out for ourselves.

The first thing we learned at our inaugural dinner was that Hilton Head is a dry place. I said to Sarge, "How can a place surrounded by water be dry?"

Our waitress explained that they do not sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays, and on the other days of the week, they only sell those tiny miniature bottles of spirits that they serve on airplanes. Oh, well.

The next day, our mission was to buy the Diva a swimsuit because somehow, in six pieces of luggage, she forgot to pack a swimsuit, although she did remember to bring a bottle of Patron Tequila. All was not lost, after all.

Diva bought her swimsuit; I shopped at the Piggly-Wiggly, something I'd been wanting to do ever since I saw Driving Miss Daisy. My needs are simple. Sarge disagrees.

That week, the guys grilled dinner for the ladies a couple of times. We took long walks on the beach behind our timeshare, visited quaint little shops, had she-crab soup, and climbed 114 steps to the top of a lighthouse. Whew, hard work.

Hilton Head has a work program where they allow Jamaicans to earn their way to U.S. citizenship. They are too busy to chat with tourists. But I noticed that the original inhabitants of the island, the Gullah people, were very standoff-ish, too. Maybe it's a cultural thing. Surprisingly, the Gullah's are outnumbered by the Yuppies.

Not much nightlife to speak of on this island, either. I don't think I saw a club the whole time we were there. This is a low key, laid back kind of place, so if that's what you like, Hilton Head is the place for you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Diva's Garden of Evil

Picture a square block park. Homes line each side of the park, and everyone can see everyone else's front door from their own front porch. That's how Savannah, Georgia was designed, #65 on my Bucket List.

History, traveling and movies are but three of my passions, and our trip to Savannah offered me the chance to combine all three.

I used the internet (research is another passion) and found a boutique hotel called The Marshall House. It was built in 1851, and was originally owned by a colonel in the Confederate Army. It sits in the Historic District of Savannah, and whoever restored it did an excellent job in keeping the details within the Civil War timeframe (Civil War, yet another passion). There are no mirrors in the rooms, all the fixtures are period pieces, the cherry wood floors are uneven at best, and creak with every footstep. Even with all that, they still had Wi-fi. Ah, well, a sign of the times.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
was filmed at a house right here in downtown Savannah. The Diva and I love that movie, so we dragged Sarge and Doc all over town one day on a quest to find it. The bellman said it was within walking distance, but we must have travelled through hundreds of those squares before we actually found Mercer House.

It was fabulous, immaculate, and open to the public. It was sort of like a museum in that no pictures were allowed inside. No matter, we really got a kick out of it, especially the antiques and the original pieces of art.

If you are ever in Savannah yourself, you must visit Mercer House, and if you're hungry, you must eat at Clary's. It's a down home country backwoods-type cafe, but it has the best homemade maple syrup you could ever sop your biscuits in. Thank God for small favors.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sardines in Spain

Sometimes, when you go on a cruise, they have what I consider to be "filler" stops; little known places in between two major ports just to fill out the itinerary. Like the one time we cruised the Mexican Riviera, we stopped at Cabo San Lucas for three hours. What, pray tell, can you do in three hours?

Well, on our European cruise, we had one such stop at Vigo, Spain, world reknown as being the sardine capitol of the world. What, you didn't know? Me, either. Unfortunately, it is known for little else. Three hours was way too much time.

The only memorable thing happened as I disembarked the cruise ship. I was accosted by reporters from the local newspapaer, Faro de Vigo. They wanted my views on why an American tourista would choose to come to their little town instead of all the more famous places in Spain. "Why, for the sardines, of course," is what I told them, but really it was because the captain stopped the ship there.

Now, where's the shooting range, Sarge?


Next stop on our European cruise was Gibralter, as in the rock of? It is a peninsula that separates Europe from Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea. It is still governed by the British, and monkeys run wild and free there as if they own the place. We were warned ahead of time not to get too close to them, nor look them in the eye. And don't wear any shiny jewelry, either; it attracts them. Please be aware that they tend to snatch and grab purses because they think the tourists may have food in them.

Well, I was like, why are we stopping here again? This sounds too much like Southcentral L.A.

Having grown up in the projects, I learned when not to monkey around. We went to the only place the monkeys weren't, and that was in the shopping center. Good thing, too, because when we got back to the ship, we heard that an 86-year old woman wanted to see the cute little monkeys up close. They grabbed her shiny buckled purse. She wouldn't let go, so they knocked her down and broke her arm. Still she held on. They dragged her and scarred the whole left side of her face. She got a beat-down from some monkeys, and the monkeys won.

What I learned from that excursion? Stay out of monkey business.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

African-Americans in Paris

As part of our week in London, Sarge and I took the Eurostar, the fastest train in Europe, over to Paris for three days, two of which were spent in the Louvre, but I get ahead of myself.

The Eurostar runs like clockwork, I have to say, and they don't play with security. At the train station, they announce "Do not leave your bags unattended" just like they do in the U.S., but Europe goes further than that. They add, "If you do, your bags will be detonated."

So, clutching our bags, we boarded the Eurostar on time and arrived in Paris on time down to the minute. I still haven't figured out how they're able to run such a tight ship. Fear probably.

Anyway, as soon as we checked into our hotel, I asked the concierge if he could procure dinner reservations at the Jules Verne restaurant, as I had been unable to do so via the internet. He was, and we went that night. This was not our first trip to the Eiffel Tower, but it was the first time we saw it at night all lit up.

Dinner was prix-fixe and fabulous. It was seven courses, and I swear it seemed like we had seven waiters. Every time a crumb dropped, someone that wasn't me brushed it away. Thank God the crumbs never landed on my chest. Tres expensive, but the memories of that night are priceless.

The next day, we got up and walked over to Le Louvre, #62 on my Bucket List. It's true what they say, it takes more than a day to see everything; that's why we went back the next day. I loved seeing Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. She is only 12 x 15 inches, but she is the crown jewel of the museum. We saw many other famous paintings, but what I found most interesting were the apartment rooms of Napoleon Bonaparte. His furniture was moved to the Louvre and set up exactly as it was in his apartments.

Leave it to us to go all the way to Paris and end up in an Irish pub. That night was great, because the bartender drank right along with us (it's allowed) and ended up giving us our drinks on the house. Was he that drunk? I just know it was a good thing we could walk back to our hotel instead of driving.

I thank God for blessing me to see Paris again. Maybe now Sarge will take me to the shooting range?