Santa Cruz de La Palma
The view of Santa Cruz de la Palma from our stateroom.

Last night we enjoyed dinner at the Pollo Grill up on Deck 14 at 8pm.  It is the steakhouse onboard and I had a Lobster Bisque, salad, and Veal chop with potatoes.  Carrie had a goat cheese & beet starter, lobster bisque and a local Madeiran fish dish for her entrée.  After dinner we had intended to join Andrew and Katie for drinks, but time and energy caught up with us and we found ourselves very tired and in bed and asleep by midnight.

Today was an unplanned day.  We weren’t signed up for a cruise-line excursion and we hadn’t made detailed plans.  It was a nice relaxing day at a port of Santa Cruz (a small town) on the Island of Palma.  Santa Cruz de la Plama is a Spanish port (and, therefore, Island) of the Canary Islands.  Without major palaces, forts or Cathedrals to tour, AND since it was only a five minute (if that) walk to the city center:  It was the perfect day to be unscripted and relax!

The municipal market at Santa Cruz de la Palma

Each couple: Ken & Trish, Bob & June, Andrew & Katie, and Carrie & I went our own ways to spend our time, today.  Carrie and I were looking for scenic streets, alleys and lookouts for photos and found ourselves climbing steps (photo left) and going up steep streets to find photo opportunities, stopping by the municipal market along the way.  When we came back down to the city center we ran into Katie & Andrew who were sitting at a café.  Katie pointed Carrie towards a jewelry store.  We did our part to keep this island and its local jewelry maker prospering.  When we left the quaint little jewelry shop, we ran into Katie and Andrew, again, at another restaurant so we had lunch with them.  By now it was 1pm, or so, and Andrew headed back to the ship.

Moments later, while we still sat at the café, Bob and June happened upon us and we all enjoyed food and drink together.  Carrie, Katie and June went on for more shopping and Bob and I headed back to the ship.

And, now, we are all safe and sound on the ship and headed back out to sea.

The Island of Madeira: Funchal, Portugal

A photo of the pool area last night as we headed to our rooms.

It sounds bourgeois to say, I suppose, but at the end of these day-long excursions we feel completely exhausted.  Each afternoon or evening I find Carrie passed out on the bed and unmovable. So our day at sea, yesterday, was much needed.  I don’t have much in the way of photos, because I would have felt a bit like a voyeur walking around the pool area taking photos of people relaxing.  I think we can all agree that I made the right choice to just relax with family in the hot tub and leaving the photo-taking for today 🙂

 



I did get some photos during the cooking class we took in the late morning.  We enjoyed spending time with Jonathan and Camille Justus and the Sea Bass dish was Dee-lish.

Although this pic was taken in the afternoon, but you
can see what we woke up to!

Today we woke to our morning room service at 7:15 am and, like each morning had breakfast on our deck.  This morning, though, as we drew back the curtains, we were greeted by the beautiful sight of Madeira.  Madeira is a beautiful island which a very interesting colonial history, but I will let wikipedia educate any who are interested in that.  For me, the sight from our deck was worth the trip.  We came into the port of Funchal (pronounced: foon chow, and it means “lots of fennel” because that is what the Portuguese found here when they came to the island in the 15th century) and experienced great food; a powerful rum, lemon juice, honey drink; and beautiful sights.  I highly recommend the island of Madeira for anyone who is traveling this part of the world.

the market at Funchal.


After our breakfast we went down to the lounge, since were were signed up for a cruise-line planned excursion.  We rode a bus in to a market. After a short explanation from a local guide about the purpose, history and future of the market, we went off in smaller groups and couples for shopping and sightseeing.  I was glad for this after feeling ‘herded,’ but with the loud noise and crowds, I was easily overwhelmed and worn-out.  Noise and crowds still take a lot out of me.  So after some time in the market I went off on my own to relax with a snack at a café.  Carrie joined me for a while and then we had to join back up with the group to head off to lunch.  Lunch was way up on a mountain overlooking the city at an estate / vineyard.  It was a wonderful lunch.

The view from the estate where we had lunch.

I didn’t mention that this excursion was part of “cruising with the chefs” so we had three chefs with us explaining food in the Mediterranean region.  The lunch was participatory and had demonstrations by local restauranteurs.  The only thing I wish I had done, if I had more time in Madeira, would be to take time and space for photography because I feel that I missed so many great photos along the way.

We got back to the boat for a class and tasting experience for Medeiran cuisine, but I had ‘hit my wall’ and needed to rest, but the others enjoyed the time, I think.

The ship just departed, so I am sitting on the deck with Carrie enjoying a diet coke and watching Madeira fall away behind the ship.

blessings & peace,


Port of Motril, Spain

5:30 pm:

Leaving port yesterday we were able to witness a tug pulling the cruise ship, although I don’t think we had a tug any of the other times we left port.  I suspect it was because we were so tight in at the port.

I also learned something that I didn’t know:  The captain of a cruiseship, apparently, does not take the ship in or out of port.  A boat from the port authority comes out and meets the ship and then a captain comes aboard who specializes in “parking” cruiseships.  Huh.  Who would have thought.  We saw a small boat come up the other night and someone came aboard.  I didn’t think they were Somali pirates, but I guess I was curious who was jumping aboard before we got to port.  Now I guess I know.  Here is a video of…we’ll call him a valet…the guy leaving our ship after he got us out of port last night.

Last night was a bit choppier at sea.  We were late leaving port, but I think we left by 5:30pm or so and were at sea until sometime this morning.  For the most part, it is so smooth you hardly know the difference, but last night we could feel a bit more movement.  It was actually funny, because the first time I felt it, it felt like the disorientation I’d been feeling with my medicines since surgery (that just went away before the cruise) so I had to ask my wife if it was in my head or if the boat was moving.

Lunch in Granada (the arab quarter)

I had a restful night, but still had great difficulty getting up this morning.  My wife, I suspect, was quite irritated that we were leaving the ship later than intended, but she didn’t say a word.  Katie and Andrew joined with Carrie and I and we took a taxi from the port at Motril to Granada.  We really made the right choice in going on our own.  Katie and Carrie had both been there before and both feel that it is in their top 3 cities worldwide.  We only had a few hours so without the hustle and bustle of a tour group, we were able to relax and enjoy a long lunch off the beaten path (well, not really as far off the path as we would have liked).

After lunch Katie and Andrew and Carrie and I split up and went our own ways.  Andrew was on the hunt for some good local wines and Carrie and I really wanted to just enjoy the streets and get some interesting photos.  Since we didn’t have the time to go see Alhambra, we tried to find a scenic overlook from some tourist information, but to no avail.  We gave up and enjoyed our limited view.

We ran into Katie and Andrew just in front of a little café/bar.  How convenient.  We had drinks and relaxed in the shade before heading back down to the taxi.

The taxi to Granada was the only real way to go for us, but it was pricy.  We thought it would be about 80€ (somewhere around $100 or so) each way and would have had to started back a bit sooner (in order to find a new cab), but in the end we were able to hire a driver to wait for us and it was a bit cheaper.

When we got back to the ship we were exhausted.  It had been a good day, but we had tried to cover a lot of ground in a very limited amount of time.  Carrie and I couldn’t think of doing another thing.  I ordered room service treats (i’m working on a diet coke and fruit plate, right now) and I am working on this blog out on the balcony and Carrie has passed out into our bed.  We should be getting underway, soon.  Tomorrow, I think, is a day at sea, so no stops.  That means time by the pool and cooking classes in the Bon Apetit Culinary Center.

Hope this note finds you all doing very well!

7:00 pm:

Update:  Well, internet was down earlier, so I have more to say, now 🙂  Our cruise director came on earlier to let us know to expect a bit more motion today / tonight as we leave port and head to the Atlantic.  It is nothing to worry about, but the wind has, apparently, picked up and we’re in for rougher waters.  He wasn’t kidding!  It’s not enough to feel sick, but enough to know you’re on a ship.

Well, That really is enough, I think.  I’m going to get back to the fun of vacation!

Valéncia, Spain


Gardens at the Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias
9:00 am:
Yesterday was a terrific day with tours, relaxation and some time exploring on our own.  Really this cruise thing has been a better mix than I thought it would be.  This morning we came into port around 6:30 or 7am.  By the time our coffee and english muffins arrived and we moved to the balcony (at 7:15am) the ship was just finishing docking.
Carrie and I enjoyed some toast / muffins and tea / coffee on the balcony thinking that we would go eat in one of the on-board restaurants later, but, you know, by the time we had a little something and got ready for the day, there didn’t seem to be a point.  I think we’ll survive until lunch, though…  🙂
Carrie just finished getting ready and now we’re heading out.  When we signed up for excursions we decided not to sign up for a Cruiseline planned excursion here in Valencia, so we are striking out on our own.  The ship leaves at 4pm, so we have to be back by 3:30pm and can spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing by the pool.
I hope that all is well for you…wherever you may be as you read this blog!


4:00 pm:
We’re back!  It was a great day, for sure.  I was grumpy this morning because I had not slept well last night.  It wasn’t a comfort thing… i was just amped up.  Anyway, most people who know me well will know that I get grumpy when I don’t sleep enough.  So, I think Carrie and I argued all the way to Historic Valencia, but, I quickly got over myself and we had a great rest of our day.

A church tower at Plaza Lope De Vega
Our first stop was the Plaza Lope De Vega.  Then we walked to the Cathedral and Basílica, but decided that outside was enough for us, today.  We had planned to go to the Mercado Central (Central Market) but got a report from Bob and June that there were no longer vendors there (it had been converted to coffee shops and restaurants).  We decided to pass on that.

The Cathedral (above) and streets nearby (below)


The argument earlier that day was because iI wanted to go see the Cuidad de las Artes y las ciencias (City of Art and Science) which is a complex of museums in Valencia.  It caught my eye because of the Aquarium where they have and underwater observatory where you walk under the water.  Well, we had time, so we headed out in a taxi for the museums.  Once we got there we enjoyed a walk to the aquarium, but it turned out it was €30 which is about $40 (?) per person.  If we could have just done the underwater walk or if it had been less expensive we might have done it.  But as it was it would take about 3 hours and we just didn’t think we had the time if we were going to enjoy our lunch and get back to the ship with comfort.

A view of the museum campus in Valencia

In the end the time, expense, and exercise we got on the way to the museums paid off by the sights we saw.  The buildings were stunning and we enjoyed walking through the parks nearby.  If we had to do it again, we would…it’s just that we would allow time to go through the museum, too.  Maybe we would plan a day just for the museums on a return trip.
We caught a taxi to lunch.  Katie and Carrie had found a restaurant out in the countryside that was well-known for their paellas, so we met Andrew and Katie outside of town at this country restaurant.  It had been written up and, then, made further famous when Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali ate there.
We also enjoyed our meal.  It was delicious and worth the cab fares for certain!  You can take a peek at our meal, too:
 

We got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare and we are now getting set to relax.  Carrie just headed up to the pool, so I will leave you all behind and follow after her!
Blessings,


A day in Palma Mallorca & Valldemos

8:30 am:  

There was briefly an alarm going off on-shore…I hope they didn’t mistake us for pirates 😉  Actually, it was a perfect and uneventful morning, but now we are bustling around a bit to get ready and be in the lounge where we are expected for our first excursion of the cruise.  It is called “Panaramic Valldemosa”

If you would like to learn a little bit more about: Mallorca, Valldemosa.

2:15 pm:

We couldn’t remember exactly what it was we signed up for (a month ago), but it turned out to be a relaxing trip up into the mountains just seeing the sights.  This is different than past Bob & June Berry vacations.  They usually have a car and more freedom to get away from the crowds, so Carrie and I were a little worried about this trip.  Even though we rushed past several sites (and leisurely walks) we would have liked to take in, our destination was a great, old, monastery that sat in a picturesque village.

On the way out of Palma we passed a seemingly amazing cathedral, which would make a great stop in Palmas on another trip and saw a very enjoyable path along the ocean, should we ever get back here.

Anyway- Once we toured the monastery, Carrie and I got away and walked around the village on our own and ended up back near the monastery at a little Café.  The highlight of my trip so far was being able to order for Carrie and I (Carrie was en los banos) in decent-enough Spanish.  Alright, the waitress knew English perfectly well, I’m sure, but I still accomplished something.  Go Me!

I was wearing out.  Carrie, June, Andrew & Katie all went on into Palmas de Mallorca to have lunch at a renowned Michelin-Star Tapas restaurant, but I was too tired.  I knew I was going to hit my wall and ever-since my surgeries…when I hit it, I’m done.  I wanted to be sure to be in the comfort of the ship when I got to that point, so here I am writing this blog and then heading up for lunch with Bob, Ken & Tricia.

Well, for now, Buenos Tardes, Amigos!!!

In Barcelona
my beautiful wife at breakfast with me.

Well, we made it across ‘the pond’ and let me tell you something…it was my most pleasant trans-atlantic flight, yet!  You see, the upside of having had two brain surgeries this spring?  Pain relievers.  There is no reason to fly uncomfortably if you can help it and, this time, I could.  A couple of Somas was probably the most helpful part of my trip 🙂

Heathrow Airport in London

The only snag we had, was right away in St. Louis at the airport.  Carrie and I were in the last group of passengers to board and they ran out of room for over-head carry-ons…so one of our bags had to be checked plane-side.  Except, it never showed back up.  Luckily there wasn’t much in it, but the biggest loss are my tennis shoes.  so sad.  The good news is that they have found the bag and it’s on-route to Barcelona…but we’re leaving Barcelona, so we hope it ‘catches up’ soon!

La Boqueria, a market in Barcelona
The plaza near La Boqueria

Our first day of the trip, once we made it to Barcelona, was very nice.  We went to La Boqueria which is a famous market and we enjoyed appetizers and drinks in a lovely plaza nearby.  The crowds were too much for me (ever-since my surgeries I can’t handle that sort of noise and crowds).

our hotel lobby

After a restful night our bags are in the hall with their tags and we are down in the restaurant.  We’re on our way!

Cravings.
our “valentines” (feb 3, before my first surgery): we both had a dessert 🙂

My wife and I are completely different in one major way:  my wife could live without sugar altogether…and I crave it.  After I lost weight,  my wife noticed something about me.  One night my eyes became as wide as saucers when I saw a dessert and she said, “You really are a fat kid inside, huh?”

It is true.  I grew up with desserts all around me and I LOVE THEM.  If you’ve ever had my mother’s pies, you understand.
I’ve been acting pretty good the past week or so, but the other night I was craving a dessert.  I dutifully called my wife and asked her if she’d like me to pick up something for her, too…I already knew the answer: “No.” She is so good.  Well, I went out to the nearby Fresh Market and looked at the desserts.  I went there because I knew I could get just one single cupcake, and, from experience, I knew that the calories would be worth it at that bakery.
But, when I got home I didn’t just have just a single cupcake in my bag.  I had a whole Apple Brown Betty Pie and vanilla bean ice cream.  Who am I?  I’m a monster!
But, you know, I think it isn’t just about sugar.  For us who are “fat kids,” I have to suggest, that, in part, it is about memory.  I can almost taste the snickers bar when I am in the check-out line.  I could taste the deep vanilla of the ice cream as I picked it up off the shelf.  Worse, when I go home, the memories of my mother’s cooking is intoxicating: whether it is something universally delicious like Blackberry pie or beef stew or something like depression-era mackeral patties.  It isn’t the culinary genius as much as the memory of that food from my time growing up that makes it so amazing (but, mom, you are also a culinary genius).
church folks, can you almost taste it?
Memories are powerful things.  On Sunday, at my church, we celebrated Holy Communion.  For Christians, the taste of the bread and juice/wine are meant to draw on memory the same way as my mother’s cooking did.  For adults who grew up in the church the taste of bread and juice (wine) takes them back to memories of childhood in the church.  For the early Christians it must have been a powerful reminder of a time when Christ was in their midst doing incredible acts.  For all Christians of all times it connects us to the people who have come before us.  It is a very real connection to them.  It also reminds us of all the people who will come behind us in our living tradition.  Perhaps just as importantly: because there are churches around the world in every time zone that celebrate Communion / Eucharist daily, there are Christians constantly communing with one another and with Christ!  Communion is a very real sign that we are connected to one another and Christ no matter our distance through time and space.  It is amazing, really.
Ephesians 1:3-14 A Call to Love in Troubled Times

 

   
 As I sit at my desk, writing this blog entry; I look out the window to see beautiful clear blue skies and shriveled near dead brown grass. What a shame. The need for rain is at the forefront of most people’s minds with whom I speak. I spoke with a couple people this week who recalled the depression, others with whom I spoke recalled the drought of 1988. This is certainly a troubling summer. The anxiety which this drought is causing is only exaggerated by the uncertainty of the times in which we live. 
Normally in such times, many people have turned to God and their elders; but here we may find ourselves struggling as well. Church membership and attendance is down. At the most recent General Conference it was reported that the average United Methodist is 58 years old. Churches no longer filled with children in Sunday School are filled instead with memories and worry. As we face this fact, we are forced to recognize that the church of yesteryear is no more. We are called by God and add campaigns to “ReThink Church”….but where do we begin?

As a nation, we are grieving as we watch members of what was dubbed by Tom Brokaw “the Greatest Generation” die. These are people who remember the Great Depression, lived through World War II and worked to rebuild the nation into the country that it is today. They have guided us and our parents (or are perhaps our parents). As much as we grieve them individually as they pass, we grieve something else as well: an idea. This generation represents a link to a distant past, a different time. They stand in the American consciousness like a mighty oak: a symbol of strength, wisdom and endurance. When members who were a part of this generation in my church die, I often witness others shaking their heads, asking “What will become of us when this generation is gone”. It is the end of an era.

With all this uncertainty it is no wonder that tensions, in the church and in the nation are high. We are faced with mounting problems. Old solutions aren’t working. So we lash out like a scared and hurt animal- because that is what we are. As we look to the fall and the coming election, I confess I am filled with dread. Yes, I worry deeply about what the results of the election will be when votes are tallied, but I worry as well about the cost of the election- not the financial cost (which will be unimaginably huge) but the psychological and spiritual cost of the fighting which has already begun. 

This Sunday, many churches which follow the Revised Common Lectionary will begin a study of Ephesians. As I reviewed and studied “Ephesians”, I was struck by the ways this ancient text sympathizes with and speaks to our troubled times. This letter, which most likely circulated amongst a number of churches was written after the fall of the temple in 70 AD. The destruction of the temple forced many religious communities to re-think the ways they practiced their faith, and who held religious authority. They were plunged into confusion and uncertainty. Compounding the struggle with a changing religious life was the death of a generation. At the time that this letter was written and circulated, Paul had most likely been executed. The other apostles, those followers of Jesus who walked, talked and learned with him; and who subsequently founded many of the first churches were dying. Faced with new questions and problems, the early church struggled to know where to turn. All too often they chose to turn against one another. 

Confronted with all of the frustrations of their day, the author of Ephesians opens with magnificent praise for the God of heaven and earth. We, the readers are assured that we have a God who is not removed from our problems but who instead is at work for us. Before the beginning of time, God made a plan. That plan is not broken economies, destroyed temples, failed crops or oppression. The writer explains, “This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 Common English Bible). This is a plan rooted in love and advanced through grace. God has set aside an inheritance for us. 
Inheritance is given based on who a person is not what they do, we are given this inheritance not because we have always made good choices but because we are a part of God’s creation, because we are God’s children and because we are loved. God has planned this inheritance, saving it and setting it aside for each one of us. Though it is given to us it is not ours, for it was first God’s. We, as God’s benefactors have a choice: we can squander that inheritance or we can use it to honor God by participating in God’s plan. 

The writer explains that God’s design for creation is not something simply of another, heavenly realm. God’s has plans this world, this earth. God plans to see this world reconciled with one another and with God. Because of this, as we approach this election we are called to care for all God’s people and all of the issues that effect them. We are invited to labor in love and make wise decisions based not in malice but in the love God has for each of us. I know that as we near the election, my blood will at times boil. I will be filled with indignation and anger. But as hard as it may be somedays, I am not the only inheritor of God’s love and grace. I am not the only person that God blessed, chose and adopted. Indeed all of us, rich or poor, republican or democrat, of every race, gender, sexual orientation and nationality have been blessed, chosen and adopted by God. So let us then go forth endeavoring to treat one another through our words and  actions with the respect due to a child of God.

 
Parents, ugh!

Parents are wonderful.  Okay.  I know, I know, if you are a teenager it may not seem like it, right?  I remember that feeling.  As a teen, it is terrible when your parents show up…or don’t show up…look at you wrong…or don’t…or, well, when they speak.  Ugh, how could they be so weird and goofy?

If you are a teenager, am I on the right track?

Let me tell you, at 32 years old I have a different take.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t always have a great relationship with my parents.  Sometimes they get on my nerves and sometimes I get on their last nerve, but, especially this week, I’m SOOO glad they are coming to help me.

First, let me tell you what next week is going to bring for my wife and me.  I have some work and then early in the week we have to go pick up a whole trailer full of stuff in St. Louis and move it to Normal.  Then, on Thursday the movers come (so the house has to be packed and cleaned), We move in and have a half day to unpack and then I have to leave for a wedding rehearsal (fri) and wedding (sat) that I am co-officiating in Pittsfield… then I have to be back Saturday night so I can be rested for my Farewell Sunday at Pontiac… and then Sunday afternoon I start as a chaplain for church camp at East Bay in Hudson, IL.

So I’m thrilled that my mother-in-law is here right now cleaning and helping us pack; my mother and father are coming next week to help us move and then my mother-in-law will be back to stay with carrie and help her pack while I’m at the wedding and camp.

When I was younger I was embarrassed and stressed out by my parents (I still have my moments :-), but as an adult I see blessings in their presence.  It turned out that having parents was actually an asset, who would’ve known?  I am so glad for my parents and my in-laws and all that they do for Carrie and me.  Whether you are young or old, I hope you will, this week, take a moment to think of how your parents are a blessing for your life.  If you are a teenager it may not be easy at first, but there are things your parents do that make your life better, I imagine.  Think really hard about it and you may see that they are a blessing for you!

Title image found at:  http://conflictremedy.com/finding-new-solutions-for-parent-teen-conflict/