A 4-DAY CALIFORNIA COASTAL CRUISE ON THE SAPPHIRE PRINCESS: Part I

When you have finished Part 1, please scroll down for Part 2 of our Coastal Cruise experiences.

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There is a swelling and dipping movement as we cruise casting shadows ever-changing. The white foam tips tell a momentary tale and nearly instantly are dispersed for yet another appearance up or is it down the line. What does this mean?  It means a little lady and her husband from Tarzana are sitting on a balcony of a cruise ship heading from Los Angeles to Catalina, then to Ensenada and back again to Los Angeles. They have been on the high seas all over the world, why Catalina and Ensenada as destination points?  It was surmised that the long plane rides can be eliminated and destinations attained by sailing the high seas can still be enjoyed within a 45- minute drive from home.

Coastal Cruises worldwide have been experiencing higher interest in traveling from home ports, so many cruise lines are adding delightful itineraries departing from and returning to the same ports.  This close to home cruising offers the same sense of adventure, time to brush away your cares and doubts, gives you uninterrupted time for thought exploration, perhaps solving a problem here and there, time to talk and extra time to listen. You join the ranks of famous or infamous seafaring travelers whether it is for 100 days, 1000 days or your 4-day coastal cruise, allowing you to experience thought provoking discoveries and life altering solutions.

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The Vincent Thomas Suspension Bridge is a towering, shouting vision as you sail away from Berth 93 sailing across the Los Angeles Harbor to the open seas of the west coast of California. There are 2,700 other people with you on this ship and you wonder how do you fit in? You just do. Sometimes you have to stand in a line or two; sometimes you do not get dinner reservations when you want them, but basically there is room for everyone.

Fun loving friends John and Marlyn from Dorset were on the cruise. They rang our stateroom bell and look; we found them decked out in their sail away outfits. Oh happy cruising. We enjoyed their company and their stories of life across the pond. We shared ours. Cultural exchanges are dear.

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The first legendary Art Deco icon you see approaching Avalon Bay, Catalina is the Casino Building, which dominates the entrance to the bay. I thought it was a gambling casino, but not at all. The word casino in Italian means gathering place, and that it is, true to form, a gathering place. It is a 12-story building with a ballroom, where the dance floor can accommodate 6,ooo dancers as well as housing a Theater and Museum. Weddings and corporate events are held in the Casino. When you visit Catalina, take the 90-minute tour of the Casino Building.

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Next you wander off of the pier into the fabled fairyland of the commercial Avalon Bay. It is beautifully maintained and enjoyed by most visitors. A popular activity is to rent a golf cart and go back and forth on the frontage street. You have only a set route offered to golf carters. Do go early, as the golf carts by mid afternoon resemble a popular freeway exit.

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Our group of four tendered from our ship, and was swept up by Avalon Bay by Catalina Transportation Services for our planned trip to see the whole island of Catalina. You can see from some of the photos that Avalon Bay is like a movie set in its adorable perfection, but as you begin to move up and out of the bay, the landscape changes to its natural habitat. The following photos will give you a view of the interior and capture our Champagne toast at Sharks Bay.

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A DAY OF SAILING INTO THE COLLEGE FIORDS: MESMERISING SIGHTS AND AN ALL ENCOMPASSING EXPERIENCE: BLOG #6

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How can I find words to explain being surrounded by the splendor of ice packed mountains, reflections, glaciers cascading down in triplets, vivid blues, and small ice bergs in the water looking like miniatures of the their parent glaciers. Also, you have the quietness that light plays and a wonderful tune of, blues intensified, blended greens, pomp of ice covered mountain peaks above the tree line and an all encompassing light, colored, quietness of overwhelming intensity and centeredness comes into the moment.

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Being introduced to this brilliance and grandeur on a ship glides you into something you have to process, so you run from side to side and from floor to floor, from front to back to gather as much as you can when someone asked, “What are you doing running back and forth, the captain announced that he would be turning the ship in a slow circle and you will see all of it. “ We settled down and watched the spectacular experience unfold from the comfort of our shipboard home and balcony.

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Even though I know we all get photos from the Internet that are so far superior in many aspects to the following, but I submit this experience we have documented and shared. The feelings and the lessons learned from the experience are all individual and personal.

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Extreme Doors Off Helicopter Ride On Maui

You probably cannot get a better-unobstructed view from a helicopter ride than flying with the doors off.  Why choose this kind of experience?  You decide that once and for all, you are going to take a chance, get your adrenalin rushing, and give yourself a memory for a lifetime. After all, one comes to realize that you do fold into yourself as you age and become a bag of memories. Unless you continue to add to your bag, you will become a limited memory bank.  When considering a helicopter ride, you make the decision to do it and then you decide; doors on or off.  So it is your first helicopter ride, you don’t know if doors off or on will be your bet?  But, I considered something extreme for me, why not if it is offered? There is very little you have to do except sit there and let it all happen. The two-way talking headsets serve talking back and forth, but they also protect you a bit from the wind and noise.

The flight begins and you are holding your camera, where the handles are also draped on your neck, but still you are too afraid to move. Will the wind grab the camera, sweep you off of your seat; will it blow you to bits? No, actually you make friends with the wind and the elements that come your way.  Still, you feel a type of pain; maybe I’d better call it discomfort at being exposed.

Soon you are working the camera, talking photos because you know you will not remember each of the individual sights and you come to realize weeks later that all you do remember of the sights are in your photos.  What you do remember are sensations of wind, your calculated breathing, the pilot saying something every once in awhile, other passengers asking questions, and when you realize you are doing this doors off thing, it is time to return to the air field and land.

Folks, there are NO spirits up there. There is nothing up there but air and your entering into it causing the wind.  All that we are, all that we want to be, all that we have, all that we need, all that we dream, all that we understand, all that we hope, all that we believe is down there. Down on the ground called earth is our life, unless you are a NASA scientist or an astronaut and then this would be another realm for discussion.  Maybe I sound a little negative, but I am not. I am just saying it was over in a flash of wind, memory, discomfort and the marveled fact that I learned why early fliers wore caps.  You cannot, and I mean cannot comb your hair after a flight in the brutal air. Wind tangled hair is the single most challenge of the encounter and the most lingered memory.

So that you can experience a bit of the doors off flight, with a view from above, here are a few photos, which only hope to capture the beauty of the land below. It was more than a bird’s eye view, it was more than you get on your own physical means, it was more than fun, it was more than a theme park ride, it was unlike what you expected, but not what you thought it would be…soaring, idyllic, tranquil, relaxing, otherworldly, perhaps mystical. Sometimes expectations and inexperience get onto our path of reasoning.

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HAWAIIAN MAGIC

Sometimes there are magic moments in time where everything works like a charm, works simultaneously with the spirits, works so to speak seamlessly in your favor. When you are counting on other people to make this happen, it is what I call the ultimate leap of faith. And so it was…

With the help of Glenda at Frosch, Will at Ohana Fun, NCL where the staff is the ultimate with kind attention, and our own great wits, we sailed off literally into the sunset.  The Hawaiian vacation planned for 15 members of our family included a stay on Waikiki and a cruise circling many of the Hawaiian Islands in July 2012.  When I tell you that everyone was on time for all of the excursions, all of the sit down dinners and meetings, and all had an enchanted and magical time, believe me.

Our special moments included a Pacific Cove Luau filled with food, activities pertaining to Hawaiian life and dancing. We had a moving experience in Pearl Harbor visiting the War Memorials and museums, remembering the attack of December 7, 1941. When you are there, if you close your eyes and breathe deeply, you can still hear and smell the horror and you receive an understanding of the valor of our brave hero’s, many who gave and many who saved lives.

Our next top was Maui where we experienced The Road To Hana, an extensive day trip where you drive around Maui seeing and stopping at all the sights. Maui is green and lush, right?  Soon you realize that it is not green all the way around and that during the latter part of the day, on the other side of the island we were driving on unpaved, bumpy roads in a desert wasteland where no rain comes to help match the other side’s verdant terrain.

As we explored the Volcanoes of Hawaii we visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the rim of Kilauea, watched the earth spew steam, walked on lava, crawled through a lava tube, ran through the rain and spent a beautiful day in and on Hawaiian soil. We will remember Macadamia nuts and Kona Coffee, remember Kui Kui Nuts, hand painted Long Boo Necklaces and bracelets, and remember the beautiful harbor of Kona where you had to be tendered into the town.  I met a local lady in Kona with two little children. We were sitting under the town tree. She seemed to want to talk about worldly things and I told her to start thinking out of the box. She told me she and her entire family had never been off that island. I wonder what she thinks I meant by thinking out of the box. I wonder myself.

On Kauai, we visited the Waimea Canyon and grabbed a float on the Waialua River on our way to see the Fern Grotto. On the way to and from, we learned a few Hula dancing steps, which turned into dances. The day was perfectly serene.

Our lovely specialty sit down dinners are now legendary. A very distinct level of communication happened over those tables we inhabited. Huge decisions, ideas, thoughts, philosophies and deals were made and I do believe no amount of money or urging could have pulled off this positive and productive interaction between our family members.

We will remember the majestic waterfalls and the rainbows where the pots of gold landed right at your feet. We will remember the huge valleys, canyons, volcanoes, mini geysers,  lava, flowers, and fresh fruit.

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A special treat we will remember is sailing the Na Pali coastline of Kauai, which is a true wonder of the world full of exquisite sights of beauty as well sporting a multitude of rainbows with perfect gradations of colors and their pots of gold just out of reach.

We will remember that Hawaii does not grow sugar cane and pineapples for export anymore. The worldwide competition became too great, but the history, scenic beauty and the people of these islands are well worth the visit.  Yes, Virginia, you can still find sugar cane and pineapples grown in Hawaii for local consumption on the islands. Here is a photo for proof of pineapples in Hawaii and two photos of the closed sugar cane production site.

We will long remember the fresh island air and the energy we extracted from it. We will remember the tranquil, refreshing atmosphere and the exploring of the natural beauty to gain its restorative powers. We will remember working and being together.

Please stay tuned for our Extreme Doors Off Helicopter ride and photos; an astounding experience.

Come and Enjoy Orcutt Ranch and Horticultural Center

Orcutt Ranch and Horticultural Center: Open daily from Sunrise to Sunset.

This property is a most wonderful respite quietly sequestered at 23600 Roscoe Blvd. in West Hills, California is a retreat from the teeming urban environment most of us find in our daily lives.

I am not an official recruiter for Orcutt Ranch, but I do recommend you spend some time there.  It is not a big investment of time for a huge return from nature and ancient fauna and flora.

Admission to this historic 25-acre Orcutt Ranch and residence is free and isn’t that a lovely courtesy?

Orcutt Ranch was formally called: Rancho Sombra del Roble, which means, “Ranch in the shade of the oak.” If you park your car in the parking area and begin your walk of the grounds, you will fill your senses with trees, some 600 – 900 years old; you will encounter community gardens, citrus orchards, an old Spanish style home, an old well maintained barn, beautiful rose gardens, and an especially wonderful moment is to stand in and amongst the bamboo forest. If the wind is up the sounds of the bamboo forest take on orchestral tones. Consider having your wedding or special event at Routt Ranch.

If you come to Orcutt Ranch in July you are encouraged to pick ripe Valencia oranges and white grapefruit. A slight charge will be incurred.  This is a secret. If you stand under an orange or grapefruit tree in the orchards, soon a ripe fruit will fall very close to you. No one is looking. Peel it and bite;  juice rolls down your chin and your eyes roll back with the sensations of such a pleasurable taste treat. How can you be charged for a gift the tree has dropped into your path?

There are plots of land to the side of the ranch that can and are rented for $120 per year. Many renters grow vegetables year round in the ranch’s community gardens.

Since I am in no way connected to Orcutt Ranch I am free to tell you the lessons I learned from my visits to this lovely hideaway.

First, there are lessons from the trees. If they could speak you say, what would they say?  If you listen you will hear six and nine hundred year old truths that sound as modern as today. They will tell you, “Let nature take its course.” They will tell you to become more and more adaptable and mutable. Figure out a way to survive. They will say, “Age breaks down structure.” It poses pulls of gravity and may need some holding up with braces and wires to hold parts into their places.

And then, you witness the gnarls of time, a sight you see in all walks of life on the planet. Our bodies as we age need lots of tweaks, touch ups, grips, clutches and embraces. The lessons include resilience of time. We do not have as much time to learn these lessons, as do the trees, so we must preserver and survive during the time we are permitted. Ancient plant life shows sustenance from the earth and the process, which keeps all living things alive for a prescribed parenthesis in time.  If you try and alter the time lapse, I think that would negate the lessons. Altering nature gets into Biotechnology, which takes more time to study and discuss.

Secondly, there are lessons in history on this ranch. Time has moved along and if we preserve the past we will more fully enjoy going back in time for whatever time we have allotted.  Historical visits rejuvenate and elevate our consciousness.

Visiting Orcutt Ranch and the lessons you learn will be different, from mine, but no less rewarding. They will enhance the time spent at the ranch and will make your day! Each time you visit you will learn new lessons and leave with a newly formed enlightenment.