Adventures in New Orleans and Mexico (On a Ship!)

My husband, Alan, and I have made a conscious decision to do as much traveling as possible before we start having kids.  Which is why we took another vacation only a matter of months since our honeymoon, because why not?  It just happened to time perfectly with the date we closed on our house and finished moving.

The first part of our vacation consisted of a weekend in New Orleans, since neither of us had ever been.  We got into the city very late on a Friday night, so our adventures started the next morning with a trip to Cafe du Monde to get some delicious beignets!



We spent much of Saturday walking around and exploring close to the river.  We went to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, which was exciting to see, as we don’t have big aquariums like that in Columbus.

It was a beautiful day to walk around the city.

It was a beautiful day to walk around the city.

Just one of the many, many pictures I took at the aquarium (and one of the few that didn't turn out horribly).

Just one of the many, many pictures I took at the aquarium (and one of the few that didn’t turn out horribly).

Alan had also read somewhere online about people getting on the St. Charles streetcar and riding it all the way to the end, just to see the old neighborhoods and homes.  Since we had bought a three-day streetcar pass anyway, we figured, why not?  Once we actually got to sit down in the streetcar, it was fun to watch the neighborhoods go by.

Later that evening, after getting another delicious meal, we went to listen to a show at Preservation Hall, something my music nerd sister, Laura, had highly recommended that we do.

Sunday consisted of more delicious food!  We also went and explored the French Market before going to Mardis Gras World, to see where many of the floats for the parades are designed and made.  We got to see the props and floats up close — I never realized how big they were!

The decor we enjoyed at breakfast

The decor we enjoyed at breakfast

The French Market entrance

The French Market entrance

Me with a giant bust of Shakespeare

Me with a giant bust of Shakespeare

Inside the warehouse at Mardis Gras World.

Inside the warehouse at Mardis Gras World.

Our cruise left from New Orleans on Monday, which was why we were able to have a weekend there in the first place.  We checked out of our hotel and headed down to the port.  It took a little big of time (rumor had it that someone from the cruise that was offloading hid on the ship and wasn’t getting off), but we finally boarded the Carnival Triumph!


Our cruise was a five-day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso, Yucatan.  The first stop was to Cozumel, a small island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.  It’s a beautiful area with lovely beaches, which is why we decided to use this stop as our beach day.  We went on an excursion to an all-inclusive, private beach, which was only available for a small number of people.  It was so nice to spend a few hours laying on a beach chair, enjoying the nice weather (save for a freak 20 minute downpour during lunch), and reading (at least in my case).

Arriving in beautiful Cozumel

Arriving in beautiful Cozumel

The best way to relax

The best way to relax

The second stop on our cruise the next day was at the port of Progreso.  The interesting thing about this particular port is that it is home to the longest pier in the world — I believe someone mentioned that it’s three or four miles long.  Because of the reef and how shallow the water gets any closer to shore, they had to build that long of a pier for the cruise and cargo ships that stop in that port.

The view of shore...from the dock.  You can just barely make out the buildings.

The view of shore…from the dock. You can just barely make out the buildings.

We did another excursion here too!  This time we went on a tour to Dzibilchaltun, a small Mayan ruin village.  It’s very close to Merida (the main city near Progreso), so it was only a twenty minute bus drive (as opposed to the two hour bus drive you’d get to enjoy if you wanted to go to the famous Chichen Itza).  The other plus was that, unlike some of the other ruins, you could actually climb on the ones in Dzibilchaltun.


One of the ruins

One of the ruins

I was a chicken and was only able to climb halfway up.

I was a chicken and was only able to climb halfway up.

The building behind us is the Temple of the Seven Dolls

The building behind us is the Temple of the Seven Dolls

After spending a couple hours at the ruins, we then got to go to a traditionally made Mayan lunch at a small restaurant/brewery not far away.  After that, we got the driving tour through Merida, which is really a beautiful city.  It’s also home to one of the oldest cathedrals in the world!

The other days on our cruise were sea days, because it takes that long to get between New Orleans and the Yucatan peninsula (largely because we had to sail down a stretch of the Mississippi River, which takes several hours).

This was our view on our two sea days -- water as far as the eye can see!

This was our view on our two sea days — water as far as the eye can see!

As always, we were sad to see our wonderful vacation end.  Hopefully we’ll get to go on some more travel adventures soon!

Greetings from Write Stuff! (Plus Music…)

I know, I know.  It’s been another while.  But my life has been one chaos after another for the last several weeks to the point where I just blinked and it’s almost April.  Between my grandfather passing away in mid-February (not really unexpectedly), constant business at the day job, my car having a rather large and dramatic temper tantrum (yay for breaking down on the highway while going to writers group), and St. Patrick’s Day (Irish dancer, ya know…), I kind of can’t believe we’re almost done with March already.  Where did time go?!

Now, while I could colorfully elaborate on some of the stuff mentioned above (most namely the car drama, which was the most frustrating thing of late), I’m not going to.  Why?  First of all, some of that stuff was weeks ago and that seems very belated to rant about it.  Second of all, it’s very late and I kind of just want to go to sleep.  But I also wanted to give you an update.

And some music.

Most important update, really–I’m writing this from a hotel room in Allentown, PA rather than from the floor of my bedroom in Dublin, OH.  I’m at the Write Stuff conference, for my second year, and I’ve been having a BLAST!  Today I actually went to a few of the pre-conference workshops, which was something I didn’t participate in last year.  (Remember last year?  That was the trip in which all the things went wrong with my flights.  Yeah.  Gooooood times, guys.  Good times.)  This year, my only flight drama was a bout of airsickness.  And while that’s not fun either, it’s incredibly less anxiety-inducing than finding out your flight was never supposed to exist in the first place.

I’m sure I’ll give you a full and beautiful run-down of the conference either tomorrow night, after it’s over, or Sunday, but for now just know I’m having a great time!

And now, before I go pass out in preparation for another full day of conferencing, have a song.  That’s the other update, really–I’ve started research (and written the opening) for a new project that tells the story of the Jonestown tragedy in 1978.  Yup, you know me and writing all the cheery things.  Anywho, this song below really struck me when I heard it, and it makes me think of that project.  I have no doubt that it’s already become my “theme song” for this currently-untitled WIP.  I hope you like it too (it’s very pretty)!

Good night!

My Travel Horror Story

This weekend marked my first-ever writers conference, at Write Stuff in Allentown, PA. It also marked the first time that I ever booked a flight and flew by myself. You know the phrase “baptism by fire”? That’s kind of how my first flying-alone experience was on Friday.

I contemplated posting this fun little story on Friday or Saturday, but…I felt like I needed time to calm myself down. You cannot fully understand how completely tightly wound I was during this whole…debacle. I needed distance from the experience so I wouldn’t drop F-bombs and other inappropriate ranting-type words all over by blog. (Yes, I was actually that annoyed.)

It all started on Friday morning. I had my alarm clock set to wake me up at 6:30am, in time for me to get ready before heading to the airport at about 8:00am. Luckily, the general nerves of attending my first conference resulted in me actually waking up at 6:30, rather than hitting the snooze button for 45 minutes, like I usually do. So I pull myself out of bed, get on my laptop, and figure I’ll check my email…like I do every morning.

This, my friends, was a fortunate decision. Because the first thing I see when I open my inbox is a lovely email from Expedia whose subject line reads “CALL IMMEDIATELY IN REGARDS TO CHANGES TO YOUR TRAVEL ITINERARY.”

I’m pretty sure the whole neighborhood could hear my heart drop into my stomach.

I stumbled over to my cell phone and…well…called immediately. I’m near tears at this point, because I’ve been in varying levels of panic for the last 24 hours (first, because my computer crashed the night before…then, of course, the obvious of the nerves surrounding my first conference). The lady on the phone told me that there’s “probably nothing wrong”, that United and some other airline recently merged, and it has been causing a lot of weird confusion in flights and such. She checks the itinerary and…

EL (Expedia Lady): Well, that’s strange. You’re flight has been cancelled. They’ve changed you to fly to Allentown on the 18th and fly home on the 18th.
Me: Um…could we fix that?

She calls United to figure out what happened. Turns out the flight I’d booked was…ya know…NEVER SUPPOSED TO EXIST. With the merger, it got closed. And through some miscommunication, no one realized this until four hours before I’m supposed to have my butt on the plane. Thank you, United and Expedia. Thank you so very much.

Through a series of back-and-forth between the United representative and a disgruntled me, the Expedia agent figures out that there are two flights going to Allentown earlier in the day (originally, she’d wanted to put me on the United flight that would get me to Allentown at 11pm, which just wasn’t going to work) through different airlines. One leaving at 11:17am and getting me to Allentown at 2pm. Another leaving at 9:30am and getting me to Allentown…at 2pm.

Me: So…for the 9:30 flight…wouldn’t I have to be at the airport…like…now?
EL: Um…yes, you would have to leave quickly.

Upon this information, I sprint across the hall to my roommate Tracy’s room. She was supposed to drive me to the airport. As soon as I get her awake, I ask if…say, hypothetically, I have to leave for the airport in…ten minutes. Would that be possible? Bless her, she jumps out of bed and gets dressed.

Now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t originally conceive taking the 11:17am flight to give myself more time. Simple: I swear the Expedia lady told me that there was only a 2 minute layover for that flight in Philly. Which, like, I didn’t want to do.

Also fun in this conversation was that switching to a new airline would up my round trip ticket cost by a few hundred dollars. Which, to be honest, was ANNOYING, but not a huge problem. At first. Until the next part of the conversation.

EL: There are still a couple of spots open on the 9:30am flight. *gives me all the flight info* It takes your price up to $900, though.
Me: *jaw drops* NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS? Is there some way that I could…you know…not pay so much more to get to Allentown? Considering that…like…THIS WASN’T MY FAULT?
EL: Well, I’ll talk to the United rep. Please hold.
Me: Can you possibly HOLD the ticket, though? So I don’t lose it?
EL: We can’t do that. Please hold.

I’m very disgruntled by this time and very nearing a panic attack. Through a series of more back-and-forth that I can’t fully remember because it was just that kind of morning, comes to be that United will cover the extra cost for their epic fail that is currently causing me to pace anxiously around my house and stress out my roommate. Well, that’s SO kind of them, offering to cover the FIVE HUNDRED EXTRA DOLLARS that it will cost me to get my rear to Allentown sometime decent on Friday.

Me: So can I book the 9:30 flight?
EL: Well…

I hate it when they do that. Turns out, even though they’d TOLD ME about the 9:30am flight…even though I’d gotten my roommate out of bed to speed my butt to the airport…they can’t “actually” book me on that flight. Because there are so few seats. And it could take 2 hours for the ticket to process. So they don’t want me to get to the airport and have there be…not a ticket.

Me: Fine. 11:17. Put me on that flight. PLEASE.

So I get to the airport in plenty of time. Get my boarding passes and get through security like a champ. Buy some water, a snack, and a People Magazine with Hunger Games on the cover. Get to the gate and settle down to fight with the wifi and do revisions and basically kill an hour and a half, because I totally overestimated the time. And then…

There’s a delay.

The weather in Philly is so crappy that we can’t take off until an hour after our original time. Guess what this means?

I’m going to miss my connection.

So they put me on a new flight. The only other US Airlines flight going to Allentown from Philly on Friday is at…5:45. Which is a good four hours after my original connection.

Fine. Whatever. Weather can’t be helped.

I get to Philly and get to the gate for my new flight to hang out. Because it’s so much later, the information isn’t up on the Arrivals/Departures board yet. I find food and play on my computer and get some reading done. When I decide to get up to go to the bathroom, I check the board.

Oh, hey. My flight has been moved from Gate F4 to Gate F22.

I’m lucky I found this out so quickly. That I had more than enough time to haul ass to the complete other side of the airport. Because I found out later that they NEVER announced the gate change. There were a few people who had to run to catch the plane.

Thank you, airport staff, for being so helpful.

Anyway, by the time I finally got to Allentown, it was nearly five hours later than I was originally supposed to be there. I had just enough time to check in at the hotel, get my conference registration packet, and breathe for a few seconds in my room before I went down for the conference opening reception.

On the bright side…on the way home to Columbus on Sunday…everything was running earlier than planned. So that was a nice change.