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When we began watching at 5 a.m., our ship was already moving slow and easy. It was windy and cold and that woke us up to see the event we had never experienced. Lights were bright and beautiful on both sides in the dark.

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This area was the first thing we saw as we began our watch at 5 a.m.

 

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Our ship, the Seabourn Ovation, as it slowly moved into the Suez Canal.

But, thirty minutes later, we couldn’t see a thing. It was total white out.DSC_0311 The white out continued for several hours and we didn’t think it would ever end or we would ever get to enjoy the experience we had wanted to do for a lifetime.

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We were able to see this marker in the Canal but that was all.

The white out was fog/smog/pollution and we watched our ship sail right into it as the white out covered the entire area. It was scary going into total white out because we couldn’t see where we were or get any idea of what was going on around us. We didn’t know where we were but Capitan Betten and that Suez Canal pilot on board did. Several times the Seabourn Ovation had to blow it’s horn to warn other ships of it’s position so others wouldn’t hit us during this total white out.DSC_0304

Then the white out started to slowly disappear and a sliver of our dream we thought could come true. Finally, 2 hours later, there was a beautiful blue sky, bright sun and the water appeared.DSC_0271DSC_0266

We could see our dream come true as we were transiting the Suez Canal that goes through Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea with Captain Stig Betten of Norway at the helm.

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Capitan Sig Betten has been a captain most of his life. The glass window below shows him what is going on in the water below.

The sights and sounds of the Canal were enjoyable for the entire 120 miles through Egypt like: the call to prayer for the Muslims, a train moving down its track, a pickup truck full of workers waving and hollering at us as they passed, military outposts along the Canal, lights shining brightly through the windows of the houses in the villages,DSC_0360

DSC_0332people going about their daily chores, DSC_0335

DSC_0279.JPGchildren playing, fishermen fishing from their tiny boat close to us, a ferry carrying vehicles across the canal, and a crane worker moving sand from the Sinai Desert into a dump truck.DSC_0343DSC_0340

Due to the design of the Canal, the Seabourn Ovation had to arrive at the entrance by 11p.m.the night before our transit. “When we arrived, the Suez Canal Authority told us where we could anchor and wait with all the other vessels scheduled to transit southbound with us. A group at a time goes through the Canal in convoy northbound or southbound as the Canal has one lane, then 2 lanes, then one lane and the Canal traffic cannot meet when there is only one lane,” Captain Betten explained.

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Seabourn Ovation could only go 8.6 knots speed limit for the entire 120 mile length of the Canal or be fined a hefty fee because vessels cannot meet at the one-lane sections of the Canal. And for the right to transit the Suez, the cost depends on the size and amount of guests on board,” Captain Betten said.

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Watching our every move through the Canal was Capitan Betten and several of his first offices and the Suez Canal pilots when on board.

In 2014, a second lane was added over the central 45 mile section of the Canal. “It was severely challenging with only one lane,” the Captain complained. As a result, wider vessels can transit and the number of ships increased from 49 to 97. The expansion also reduces the transit time. It used to take the Seabourn Ovation 16-18 hours. Now, with the new improvements, it takes only 12 hours.

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We followed this container ship through the Canal and there were at least 5 ships a head of us in convoy going southbound. We saw mostly container and cargo ships in our transit.

When the Seabourn Ovation began the transit through the Canal, Captain Betten was in the bridge almost 24 hours supervising all the procedures and formalities necessary to go through the Canal. “Correct documents had to be presented and approved and if they were not, the transit would be delayed until all had met the Egyptian rules and regulations, many of which are still performed the same way as many years ago,” the captain explained.

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We are going southbound and the container ship is going northbound on the new 2-way 45-mile section of the Suez in the sand.

Seabourn Ovation took 3 Suez pilots onboard who knew the route through the Canal. “These pilots may and may not take control of the ship but the Captain is always responsible, and has absolute authority on the ship every minute. They advised our officers at the helm how to con (drive) the ship through the Canal,” Captain Bitten pointed out.

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The ship in front of us is turning left into one of the 8 major bends in the Canal. The Suez goes through 4 lakes.

The first pilot came from outside the Canal about 3:30 a.m. When he left, another pilot took the ship through Port Said and into the Canal until 10 p.m., and when he finished, a third pilot took the ship from 10 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. when it exited the Suez Canal. And when the pilot left, the Seabourn Ovation was then free to proceed on.

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Sharon took this photo of me as the container ship passed in the other lane going north while our Seabourn Ovation was going south.

Built in 1869, the Suez Canal is a sea-level waterway running north-south across the Isthmus of Suez. It is an open-cut, and, through extensive straight lengths occur, there are eight major bends. The Canal connects 4 lakes to make the Canal: Lake Manzala, Lake Timsah, Great Bitter Lake, and Little Bitter Lake.

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When we exited the Suez Canal, we counted 7 different ships waiting to transit north.

Comparing the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal is like two opposites. The Panama is controlled with locks, is organized, has tug boats to help guide each ship, has “mule” machines that pull a ship through the canal, and has pilots who take absolute control of the ship by conning the ship through the Canal. And then releases them to proceed on their own.

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Sharon and I were invited to the bridge to meet and interview Capitan Betten after we had exited the Suez Canal.

When we began watching the Seabourn Ovation at 5 a.m. go through the Suez Canal, we only could see for 30 minutes and then it was solid white and the ship was blowing its horn to show its location. But a few hours later, we were blowing our horn in total celebration of finally getting to transit it, for the experience was another outstanding one for us and our travels in this magnificent world. DSC_0306Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com DSC_0252 Continue Reading »

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We had just looked out the window and there they were, moving fast towards our ship and our balcony. “They don’t all look Polynesian like the other people we had seen,” Sharon and I said, as we had been to the Tahitian and Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific.IMG_4552 (1) Then, we saw them stopped next to our ship. And the next thing we knew, they were on our ship, all 33 of them. We knew who they were so we were not worried, but we had never seen or met them. IMG_4597These visitors were the Seventh generation of the 7 mutineers of the Bounty, plus wives and friends. The Bounty was a small armed British merchant ship of the Royal Navy that was on a botanical mission when the mutiny occurred. And that mission was to go to Tahiti and collect breadfruit plants and seeds and take them to the British islands in the West Indies for food for the islanders.

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There are no places to dock on this volcanic island except for small boat.

These visitors had left their island for a morning with us and to sell us their many handmade items and island products on the Crystal Symphony cruise ship. The waters were too treacherous for our ship to stop and it took several attempts and areas before we could successfully anchor hundreds of feet/meters away.

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We even received a stamp in our passport showing we had been admitted to Pitcairn Island and visited with its wonderful inhabitants.

And we couldn’t have docked on the island anyway because the island didn’t have a dock except for a tiny landing spot for a small boat. So, the islanders and the ship created a method by which each could meet and greet each other.
IMG_4557 (1)These visitors were from Pitcairn Island, an isolated British Overseas Territory in the eastern South Pacific, a bit larger than Monaco. It is located half way between Panama and New Zealand and the 7 mutineers and 41 others on the Bounty in January 1790 selected this 18 square mile (47 km) small volcanic mountain sitting alone in the ocean with treacherous and dangerous waters surrounding it.

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All the residents of Pitcairn Island posed for this photo

Thus, this was the reason the mutineers, under the leadership of Captain Fletcher Christian, chose this island on which to land and live.
It also, was in the wrong location on the British maps so Captain Christian knew they would never be discovered by the British. For when the British found them, they would be taken back to England and punished for the mutiny. The British finally found them in February 1808 and the mutineers had died by then.

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The Postmaster, Dennis Christian, the 7th generation of Fletcher Christian, Capitan of the Bounty and the mutineers. He has lived on Pitcairn Island all of his life.

And so, the 7th generation mutineers, along with Dennis Christian, descendant of Fletcher Christian, came to visit with us as we purchased their items in the small market they set up around the ship’s pool with Pitcairn Island visible from all angles. And while they were setting up the market, Melva Evans, Director of Tourism on Pitcairn Island, talked to us in the ship’s conference room about living on an isolated island in the South Pacific. Besides, selling Pitcairn to the outside world, she takes care of her 90-year-old Mother, a native of Pitcairn Island.
DSC_0303Evans began by telling us in 2016, Pitcairn was named a Marine Protective Ecosystem and the largest marine reserve in the world because it is pristine and almost untouched. And then she began to tick off item after item to explain what it is like to live on Pitcairn:
*●All residents of Pitcairn are Seventh Day Adventist
*●Whales come around the island May to November
●Residents have located the Bounty’s anchor and ballast and house them in the Bounty Museum
DSC_0257●The island has great fishing and every year on January 23 “Bounty Day”, the residents catch fish and have a fish fry in honor of the Bounty landing on Pitcairn. Plus, they build and watch a replica of the Bounty burn in Bounty Bay until it all disappears into the ocean just like they did when they came to Pitcairn. When the mutineers landed on Pitcairn, they unloaded everything from the Bounty and then set it on fire until it disappeared in the ocean so the British would not find them.
●All plants and animals on Pitcairn are endangered except Miss T, a Galapagos tortoise who loves everyone.
DSC_0150●When the mutineers arrived, they brought breadfruit plants and seeds with them for planting. Now they make everything with it. The mission of the Bounty was to collect breadfruit seeds and plants in Tahiti and take them to the West Indies for the people to plant.
DSC_0232●The names/areas of the villages are named after the mutineers
●Anyone who wants to live in Pitcairn is given land for a house and garden.
DSC_0130DSC_0123DSC_0132●When the mutineers arrived at Pitcairn, they immediately set up a village, complete with church, police, community center, school, medical center, post office and now internet office. The government treasurer is the bank
DSC_0162 - Copy●All residents of the island help with the sugar cane harvest and they work with the arrow root. They gather at the Community Center and make an assembly line.
DSC_0255●To celebrate Christmas, the villagers cut a tree and take it to the town square where each person decorates it with a can of food or food item, and then they have a meal using the different foods from the tree.
●Three generators provide electricity 6 am to 10 pm. and are looking into wind generators and solar panels.
●A monthly newsletter is published online or can be sent by snail mail 4 times a year for $40.
IMG_0078●Honey is produced on the island and is certified the purest in the world because there are not many pollutants there.
DSC_0137●Minor medical problems are handled on the island where residents only pay for some medications to the Doctor/Clinic. But major problems are handled in Mangareva Island, 355 miles away by boat.

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Sharon and I found several treasures from the islanders, from handmade jewelry, stamps, a handmade copy of the Bounty, wood carved items, to T-Shirts of all kinds, honey and honey soap.

●The economy is individual or family. Arts N Crafts, and government is the main source of income for the islanders.
●Islanders do not make much money so taxes are low.
●To get products, the residents order online to New Zealand and a boat arrives every 3 months with the products.
DSC_0262●Their source of water is rain and 4-5 tanks are at each house to catch that rain water.
●Around Pitcairn, there are very few sharks.

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As we shopped, we could see Pitcairn Island out the window.

●To get to Pitcairn, one must fly to Tahiti, then to Mangareva Island and then take a boat 355 miles to Pitcairn. The journey takes 30 hours and 2 nights and 1 day.
●Those wanting additional education go to New Zealand. Basic schooling is provided in a one-room school house on Pitcairn where 3 different levels of learning are offered.
DSC_0250●Meat is imported from New Zealand, but Pitcairn has goats which are pinned.
●The island does not suffer from typhoons.
●The Postmaster, Dennis Christian, does not collect taxes as income is so low
DSC_0294After the slide show and speech, it was shopping time and we all had fun getting something from Pitcairn Island.
Then it was time for them to say good bye and they did it in a grand way. DSC_0319DSC_0323All of them came to the ship’s lobby and sang their Good-Bye song for us and then returned to their awaiting long boat full of new items, less souvenirs and more cash. And then as they rode out of sight just like they came in, we waved good-bye and they waved good by and it was a win-win visit for all of us. DSC_0364And again, we looked out our window to watch them disappear to their most isolated island on Earth. And we were happy and they were happy.

Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com

 

When we looked at them, they just stared at us with those big eyes. And the stare was constant and unrelenting like they were looking right through us. DSC_0397It was like they wanted to talk to us but they couldn’t because their lips were sealed. Some were tall and some were short and some had their hair piled on top of their head and some did not.DSC_0632
These famous UNESCO World Heritage humanlike moais statues were everywhere on Easter Island as we went on a private tour from the Crystal Symphony cruise of the South Pacific. DSC_0393Moais number more than 900 on the island and some stood alone and some were in groups of five or seven. Ahu Tongariki is the famous one with 15 standing in a row. The moais range from 33 inches tall to 40 feet tall and weigh up to hundreds of tons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(This photo and the one below was taken by June Landrum)

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To get an idea of how massive and tall these Moai are, notice the group of people in the far right at the back of the moai.

And they were all hand carved from volcanic tuff and became the iconic Moai statues of Easter Island. Using hand chisels of basalt, the Rapa Nui people chipped the monolithic statues out of blackened cliffs of the Rano Raraku volcanic crater between 1250 and 1600. DSC_0479The moais were placed on rectangular stone platforms called ahu, which are tombs for the people that the statues represented. The moais were intentionally made with different characteristics since they were supposed to look like the person in the tomb.DSC_0525DSC_0529
As were toured the crater, we saw many Moais still standing on the crater slope and they stared at us as we stared at them. Once the moais were carved, they were rolled down the crater and lifted into a standing position so the back could be completed. When they were finished, they would be moved to an ahu platform of someone’s property.

 

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The red circle indicates where the moai were carved out of the mountain and where the famous 15-moai statue is located, called Ahu Tongariki. And the little black statues around the island indicate moais.

Before our tour began, we were told not to touch the statues, climb them or chip a stone or take any stones from them for a souvenir. But if was ok for the roaming horses and cattle to rub against them or use them to scratch on or lick. DSC_0391
After many of the moais were carved, they were placed on rectangular stone platforms called ahu, which are tombs for the people that the statues represented. The moais were intentionally made with different characteristics since they were supposed to look like the person in the tomb.DSC_0387
How the extremely heavy moais were moved from the volcano several miles to their ahu platform is a mystery with several theories. The most popular explanation seems to be that the statues “walked” to the ahu platform. Three ropes were used to move the moai: one on each side and one around the neck and pulled from the back. So, it was twisted from side to side and the rope from the back helped keep it standing. DSC_0627

The base of the moai was slightly rounded and so were the roads so it could be moved from side to side. Other theories are rolling the statue on tree trunks and moving it with a sled on round tree trunks as “wheels.”DSC_0448
All Moais we visited were placed looking inland so they could look over the ceremonial area, except Ahu Akivi. which are 7 moai facing the sea to help sailors find the island. It is also thought that they were waiting for their King. When the moai statue was placed on the ahu platform, the eyes were the last to be carved. White coral and black or red scoria stone made the pupils and the moai then begin that cold, hard stare. DSC_0414Many moais were left without the white coral eyes as it is believed the white eyes were reserved for -the prominent people.
And years later, the top knot made of red scoria stone would be added. Called pukao, the top knot added further status to the moai.DSC_0580

It is believed the Moai were traditions of religion and status and were built to honor the chieftain and ancestors. And it is believed the moais are symbols of authority and power, both political and religious and they have mana, which is charged by a magical spirit essence. And it is believed the moais were representative of ancient Polynesian ancestors. And another belief is the moais was considered one “up-man-ship” among the Rapa Nui people. With a moai, they were saying, “mine is bigger than yours.”DSC_0422DSC_0436
Then around 1550-1600, the Rapa Nui people stopped making the moais and Easter Island began declining. The Rapa Nui people began turning against each other. They fought among themselves for the fertile land that was left as their ancestors had destroyed most of it as crops failed one after the other. Some began to turn to their god Make Make or the Birdman cult. DSC_0449Competition began among them to become a member of the cult for if succeeded, food was the reward. To become a member of the birdman cult, a person had to find the first Sooty Turn egg. If a person did not succeed, the person killed himself. DSC_0649
The Birdman Cult then began rebuilding the population and sweet potatoes and other crops were now doing good. But, newcomers started coming and brought diseases, rats and cockroaches and by the turn of the century only 110 people were left.

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As the Crystal Symphony dropped anchor in the ocean, this was the view we had of Easter Island and those moais. We hurried to board a small boat to the shore so we could see those world famous UNESCO World Heritage statues up close and personal.

Then missionaries arrived and brought Christianity with them and the Rapa Nui people began ridding themselves of tattoos and many moais were toppled. And it wasn’t until recently that most were restored to their position atop ahu platforms all over Easter island.DSC_0632
The moais now stare with that unrelenting stare like they were looking right through us. It was like they wanted to talk to us but they couldn’t because their lips were sealed.IMG_2795 Some were tall and some were short and some had their hair piled on top of their head and some did not. And hopefully they will stand and stare at many people for many years to come and be enjoyed by all at this UNESCO World Heritage site.

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This moai was discovered to be really tall because most of it was below ground.

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Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com

It was like watching a silent movie. We could see the action but there was no sound and the action was so fast we couldn’t comprehend what our eyes had just seen. The only noise we did hear came from the screaming people watching the action happening. And for these first timers, it registered as a dream to actually witness such an event.DSC_0139

Thus, was our feeling of experiencing the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, live and in person. It was dream-like viewing “The Run for the Roses” as we saw the famous horse race from our Jockey Club Suite overlooking the racetrack because we were on a Tauck Events tour to see the Derby and experience the beautiful horse country area of Kentucky.IMG_1573IMG_1669JPG

On the way to the Derby, I happen to sit beside a man who said he was from Louisville so I asked him what horse was ranked high for winning the Derby. And he told me several names. But when he mentioned Always Dreaming I said that’s the one I will bet on because I just loved the name. It was so appropriate for the horse to always be dreaming for a win.DSC_0714.jpg

IMG_1590June Landrum. my traveling companion, and I are not gamblers. But we were at the Kentucky Derby #143 and just had to gamble once. So, June came up with the idea of betting $2 on each horse so both would gamble $20 on 20 horses. Our bet would total $40. And we would pick the winner no matter who it was we reasoned. DSC_0091And yes, we picked the winner Always Dreaming and collected $11.50 for first place. We split the winnings and had a wonderful time with our scheme of betting and picking the winner.IMG_1635JPG

But I just had to bet on Always Dreaming as it was the horse I said I would bet on. So, with $10 in hand, I placed my first bet ever on a horse race. And yes. I won and after I won, I asked myself why I didn’t bet $100 or $1000 if I was so sure Always Dreaming would win. But it was fun gambling for the first time at the Kentucky Derby and picking the winner.DSC_0092

At the Kentucky Derby, it was “normal” for women and men to dress up and it was a fashion show like no other. IMG_1537Every color, size and shape of hat was worn by ladies of every color shape and size. But the most outstanding of the fashion show was the huge outstanding statement-making ladies hats. IMG_1648JPGThose hats set the southern mood of the Derby as it had been done for 147 years. And the men’s outfits completed the fun and theme of the classic Kentucky Derby.IMG_1538

But before we could go on this tour, we just had to make our hats to wear to the Derby although they were not required for the tour event. But attending the Derby without that world-famous tradition of a big hat would not complete the experience for us first timers. So, June Landrum and I designed and re-designed our hats until we were happy with our creations.

I wanted a black hat with a big brim, so my sister offered one of her sun hats that had a large brim. And from that, I took it around with me as I shopped for the perfect decorations. It was fun creating and making our hats and June and I had many fun conversations on how our designs were working for our Kentucky Derby event. June’s hat was a gift from her grandson and she never planned to use it for the Derby. DSC_0092.JPGBut after purchasing little roses, she decided to put them on the hat to wear to the Derby because it was “the Run for the Roses.”IMG_1637JPG

Our next creation was how to get the newly created hat to Kentucky. So, I used an old packing trick that worked for many other hats I had purchased on several of my foreign trips and it worked for this Derby hat. I put the hat flat in my luggage and stuffed the crown full of clothes I was taking that did not wrinkle. And I put clothes flat under the hat and on top of the brim. That kept the hat in its original shape and it made it to Louisville safely and intact. The decorations were in a rigid plastic container.IMG_1535

When we arrived, we glued all the silk flowers and feathers on the brim and the hat was ready to wear. June made her hat by gluing those silk roses on the hat and we had our personal creations to parade around at the Derby.IMG_1538

But we didn’t just parade around at the Kentucky Derby in them. We also wore them the day before the Derby at the Kentucky Oaks, the “pre-Derby” race and ‘The Run for the lilies”. IMG_1567 And we wore them for all the 10 races before the Kentucky Derby on Derby day. It was so much fun walking around in the rain in our decorated hats as we looked at others with their decorated hats. It was a first time to ever do such an event and it was just an awesome experience.IMG_1645DSC_0220DSC_0214.JPG

Now that our hats were designed and worn at a race, we had to participate in Bridles and Bourbon. So, we visited the time-honored art of distilling, aging, and bottling fine Kentucky Bourbon at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, the oldest continually operating distillery in America. DSC_0092And yes, we had to sample their award-winning product and then have a barbeque lunch in the Clubhouse at Buffalo Trace. It all was so delicious as was the welcome reception and dinner with a local bluegrass band and folk-dance troupe.DSC_0103

As we drove to Margaux Farms, we enjoyed the clean and gorgeous green-hill farms of Lexington, Kentucky. This visit was to see the horses in their stalls at the Brood Farm and how they are worked and managed for breeding. As we walked into one barn, all the horses bellowed at once their neigh-neigh sound as they looked at us. DSC_0112.JPGAnd I just loved our wonderful unique horse greeting we were given until the keepers told us the horses were calling for food, not us. And another keeper told us they were wanting to exercise. Anyway, each of our Tauck group greeted a horse and enjoyed learning the methods used to make sure each mare got pregnant. But we didn’t have any food or exercise for them.DSC_0041

But then, the next morning, we had to be at Kneeland Race Track at 6 a.m. to watch the jockeys exercise the horses at that race track. It was cool enough for a jacket and we could see the horse’s breath as they finished their race exercises.DSC_0031 Again, I was amazed how quiet it was as they ran. And it was so fast, we didn’t get a good look at them until they stopped and came up to us for photos and a visit. DSC_0040

Having dinner at Kneeland Race Track with Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron was another highlight of our Kentucky Derby experience. DSC_0240.JPGIn his speech, he gave a wonderful overview of his unbelievable racing wins from the beginning at 19 years to retirement 28 years later. And when he retired he was thoroughbred’s All-Time leader, and his purse earnings totaled more than $264 million in winnings and 7,141 races won.IMG_1514

It had been raining for 2 days but as soon as the thoroughbreds started running, it stopped and they stopped after 2 minutes and the race was over. And the rainy and muddy conditions didn’t hinder anyone at the Kentucky Derby. But the excitement before the race was so much fun and it kept building as 150,000 persons placed their bets on the winners. And we picked the winner, Always Dreaming. But If you blinked your eyes, you missed it because they were running 40 miles per hour for the roses.

Photo Copy © 2018 carolyntravels.com

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It all began June 9 as we headed to the Maasai boma village in southeast Kenya in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Ambroseli National Park which has a swamp in it. I knew that baby elephants were often rescued there and didn’t know why. But I soon learned they were stuck in the swamp and couldn’t get out and their Mother couldn’t get them out either.

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Shopping with the Maasai and all their beautiful beads and items for sale. And yes, I always buy something from them.

The ride took 1 hour from the hotel and the entire area had 8-inch ancient volcanic rocks scattered all over the area from the eruption of Mt. Kilimanjaro many years ago. We finally arrived at the boma where 122 Maasai lived in their individual houses made of cow manure.

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The elder who spoke to us about their lives. It was very interesting to learn how another culture lives and makes it in this world even though they do it different than I do. And we both make it work for us.

Sitting under a shade tree and listening to the elder Maasai tell how and why they do things, each one of us asked a question at the end of the hour meeting. Then, we were invited to tour the boma to see where and how they live.

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These two beautiful Maasai ladies live in the boma village we visited.

But first, I had to visit the toilet which my Tauck World Discovery guide said was 1 block away.

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Sharon Davis danced with the Maasai ladies.

So Sharon Davis, my travel companion, and I headed to the toilet, also made of dried cow manure. We arrived at what we thought was the entrance but it was the back. Sharon said to me, “Stay here while I find the entrance.”

And when she returned to tell me where it was, she saw me fall from standing to flat on the ground and I didn’t hit one of those volcanic rocks that were also scattered around the out house. I had turned 90 degrees to my right to look and the next thing I knew I was one foot from the ground.

I landed on my right shoulder and right hip and my head hit the ground and bounced up like a ball. The ground was covered with 4 inches of dried cow manure which was all over the right side of my face, hair, leg and Nikon camera. But I still needed to go to the toilet.

The biggest surprise I had besides falling was the toilet had no odor. Having been to many toilets in this world that smelled horribly, it was wonderful to find one that did not smell and it was made of cow manure. I wondered how the Maasai could keep the toilet so clean and odor free and many peoples of the world could not.

When I got up, my right shoulder hurt so we went to our guide and told him what happened, and proceeded to tour the boma and all the souvenirs they had for sale.

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The cow manure house we visited inside where this Massai and his child lived.

Then we enjoyed a tour of a home containing only a cooking pot, fire, little stool and bed made of sticks. This home had an 8×10 inch glass window which I had never seen in a Maasai house that are always made by the women of cow manure.

When we arrived back to the hotel, a nurse checked my painful shoulder and asked me to lift up my right arm to the sky and I did. She said “Take these pills and use this ointment for 4 days and your shoulder will be well.” So I did and added an ice pack to it every hour.

Neither Sharon nor I wanted to return home as there was nothing wrong with me, according to the nurse. So we continued on the tour. Plus, the Tauck tour of Tanzania and Kenya was awesome. How could we leave those precious wild animals and the wonderful people, we said.

The next morning I looked down at my chest and the entire right side was black and the entire left side was white. I thought my right shoulder had something break and now I knew it was a blood vessel. But it did not hurt and the black stain lasted for several weeks before my chest became white again.

Two days later, we were in a small town that had a medical center. There I saw a doctor dressed professionally in his suit and tie, who took an x-ray of my still painful shoulder. He called me in, lifted up the 5×7 X-ray to view my shoulder and said “You don’t have any breaks so you are good to go.”

So again we agreed to continue on the wonderful trip of Kenya and those wild animals living their lives right before us.

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We saw this Momma rhinoceros and her cute baby in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

A few days later, the tour went to the Maasai Mara and I began having trouble walking on the right side so I used the hotel’s wheelchair while there and it worked well. I didn’t need to walk then and also didn’t use my right shoulder much either.

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Sharon is on this balloon ride over the Maasai Mara. Can you spot her?

I didn’t miss one safari or anything. However, I did decline the hot air balloon ride because I had enjoyed 2 before there. But Sharon went on the hot air balloon and she was ecstatic about it. I could ride and see the awesome animals with no problem and photograph the balloon in the air withSharon riding in it.

Again, we decided to continue on with the awesome tour around Kenya and then to Nairobi, the only city in the world that has a national park in it full of wild animals.

The tour finally ended in Nairobi, one week after my fall. By now, my shoulder was still hurting and I couldn’t walk on my right side. There we went to a hospital which had a CT Scan machine and the professionally dressed doctor said my shoulder was broken in 2 places. Then he put a sling on my arm to wear for weeks until well. But because I am only right handed, I took it off and used the arm very little.

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Again, we agreed to stay on in wonderful Nairobi until it was time to return home.

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The endangered Rothschild Giraffe at the Giraffe Manor Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.

I had booked a 3-day extension tour of Nairobi to again visit the rescued darling baby elephants in the David Sheldrick Orphanage where several of the babies had been rescued from Ambroseli. Next, was the Kazuri bead making ladies and finally, the endangered Rothschild giraffes that live at the Giraffe Manor. (“Read Eating Breakfast with Giraffes” at in Nairobi elsewhere in my blog)

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THE DANCE wall hanging I purchased in Nairobi. Notice the boy and girl dancing in the upper left.

We visited all places we had planned. And at Kazuri Beads, I purchased a priceless handmade piece of art made by the bead ladies at www.kazuri.com. I named it the The Dance with beads made every day by 360 women who roll every shape of bead from Kenya’s Mt. Kenya clay into necklaces and wall hangings and sell them worldwide using Fed Ex.

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Some of the 360 bead making ladies who serenated me with song and dance after I purchased their masterpiece wall hanging.

When I bought the wall hanging, the factory ladies stopped work, danced and sang for 15 minutes. They make $175 a month to support themselves and their many children as they had no husband or any help and each would get money from my purchase.

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Marie, the lady who actually put the wall hanging together while her assistant, Florence, helped with macramé and assembling beads.

Two of the ladies worked 6 weeks creating the wall hanging with the many beads then sewing them into a custom African pattern using macramé. (See my story called “The Bead Making Ladies of Nairobi” elsewhere on my blog.)

Our wonderful Tauck tour ended and upon arriving home, I went to a hospital for a CT scan and learned my painful right shoulder clavicle was broken at both ends and my painful pelvis was cracked.

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The red marks on this laughing skeleton show the bones that were broken in my body, all on the right side.

But I continued to hurt and went to Mayo Clinic and learned my pelvic bone was completely broken and so was the sacrum, which meant several of my world wide trips needed to be cancelled while I recuperated for 6 months.

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To focus on something besides my broken bones, I hosted a BBQ luncheon for these wonderful people of my International Travelers Century Club. It was so much fun and we all enjoyed it very much. Of course, all we talked about was travel because each one of us had visited over 100 countries to belong to the club. And several had been to 150 and 200 countries. I had been to 251 countries/territories.

But I needed another dimension to my recuperating “trip.” Since I could not go on a world-wide tour, I created one I could go on to replace the trips I had to cancel.

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And while I was healing, my doctor required I go to physical therapy.  Guiding me was Rachael Thompson of Select Physical Therapy who kept me going until I was in shape to travel again. Plus she gave me positive things to think about while recouping instead of negative thoughts.

Being able to get in a wheelchair and transferring to an electric shopping cart, Hester, my helper and I went shopping at stores with electric shopping carts. Plus, she helped me daily with food, cleaning, driving and all.

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Reverend Bernadine S. Davis was one person I surprised by purchasing all of her items she was carrying in her arms one day. She said I blessed her and I told her you sure have been and I love you because you are human. Bernadette and I both made a scene as we screamed in joy and hugged and thanked each other for the wonderful experience of meeting by chance. It was a win-win for both of us.

While shopping at Walmart, I would select a person in the check-out line and pay for the items in their cart. This opened the door to conversations with these folks and enabled me to hear their stories. It was a wonderful discovery experience that was a win-win for us both, and converted a very negative experience into a positive one for me. And I continue this wonderful “trip” every time I go to Walmart.

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Rachael Thompson made sure I performed each exercise correctly.

I was very grateful for the opportunity and I appreciated their kind responses more than they could know, changing a lemon event into lemonade for me so I can get back to thinking about my next world wide trip.

Photo Copy ©  2017 carolyntravels.com 

 

Oh they were so beautiful. And they were everywhere in Kyoto and Kanazawa and everyplace in between. We first noticed them in Kanazawa as we rounded a corner and there they were. DSC_0243We screamed with excitement for we just couldn’t believe our eyes seeing such natural awesome beauty.DSC_0070

Soon, we calmed down as we enjoyed the glory of those pink cherry blossoms in parks and gardens, alongside rivers and roads and many places in between in Japan. DSC_0935Those famous cherry blossoms provided us glorious beauty every minute for 8 days as we toured Kanazawa, Kyoto and Tokyo on the Tauck World Discovery tour.

Sharon and I just had to experience the blossoms up close and personal. DSC_0037So one day in Kyoto, the former imperial city, we enjoyed a rickshaw ride among the blossoms for 90 minutes dressed in a traditional kimono.DSC_0833 It was just outstanding and so much fun as we connected with people enjoying the blossoms everywhere we went.DSC_0696 While we were touring around Kyoto, we saw a geisha girl escorting her guest among the cherry blossoms. It was a famous Japanese icon touring a famous Japanese icon.DSC_0994

The experience began with getting dressed into a kimono. I never knew there were so many layers to a kimono. There was an under slip and another slip and then a garment that reduces the waist size. DSC_0984The two dressers pulled the strings so tight, I begged for relief and air because I had trouble breathing.

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A traditional Japanese wedding proceeding through the streets in the Geisha area.

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The cummerbund made my breathing problem continue but after adding an inch or two, I could breathe.

What relief it was when they loosened the strings a little. The kimono was wrapped last with the wide cummerbund added and pulled tight again.

 

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Our outstanding tour guide, Armin Geiger between us and Mickey-Son on the right, our Japanese national guide, were always laughing and happy which made for an even more fun trip.

Our hair was styled next and flowers and leaves were added to complete the total kimono look. Socks that worked with the sandals were donned and we were ready for our public debut.

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Our national Japanese Mickey introduced himself with a photo of Mickey Mouse so we could remember his name. Then we learned to show respect, the Japanese always add “son” to a person’s name. So from then on, we called him Mickey-son. He truly enjoyed  being our national guide, always happy, laughing, respectful, positive with a can-do attitude. He and our Tauck World Discovery Tour Director, Armin Geiger, made the trip A++ for all of us.

We first met our tour guide, Armin Geiger and our national Japanese guide, Mickey-son. They couldn’t believe our transformation and yes, we had to have our photo made with them. DSC_0032Waiting for us at the hotel entrance was our private rickshaws and the petite drivers. Now we were ready to tour Kyoto’s cherry blossoms and tour we did.

 

DSC_1057Every year those cherry blossoms pop open in late March or early April but no one knows exactly when.DSC_0202 So thousands of Japanese stage a vigil under the trees and wait for hours until just the moment the blooms pop open.

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Japan’s Mt. Fiji still had snow on it in April.

This sacred vigil tradition has been going on for thousands of years. We rode among the trees when the blooms were in full bloom and the pedals were beginning to fall.

 

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There were many Japanese families and children our to see the blossoms and get a beautiful photo.

It was like a light pink pedal rain adding to the ambience of the ride. It was the 9th of April.

DSC_0690They call it Sakura which means cherry blossom time. The moment the cherry blossom opens is a major festival in Japan that began in the Nara Period 710-794 A.D. Blooms happen February to May from south Okinawa to north Hokkaido, Japan.

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A precious little Japanese child. Children were everywhere and they were so cute.

It is a sacred time because it signals the beginning of rice planting. And thousands and thousands gather to eat and drink and be merry at this Hanami, blossom viewing because it is party time.

DSC_0807Climate conditions control the exact second the blossoms open. If it is a cold winter, the blossoms may not open until later. If it is a mild winter, the blossoms may open sooner. DSC_0826And if it is a rainy winter, the petals start to drop sooner. Because of these variables, the people watch the forecast and the blossoms by the minute. This year, the blossoms were later because it had been a colder winter.

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An ad from a Tokyo Hotel showing it and the cherry blossoms trees. The cherry trees do not produce cherries. They are only ornamental.

Everything is about cherry blossoms during this time. Special foods and drinks are made for Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties, for this most loved festival. There is Hanami beer, Kit Kat candy bars, dumplings, crisps, sweet alcoholic canned drinks and even Starbucks Latte.

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My soft serve ice cream cone cost $10 USD, the most expensive one I had ever eaten. But it was covered with gold leaf and Kanazawa, Japan was where they were sold. Kanazawa is known for it gold mines. It tasted great and I really couldn’t tell any difference from a gold or no-gold cone.

I ate an18-carat gold leaf ice cream cone in the Kenrokuen Gardens in Kanazawa. It was delicious and I didn’t get sick and I am still alive.DSC_1002

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Kenrokuen Gardens is the third most popular garden in Japan because it contains the 6 elements of a perfect Japanese Garden. They are spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water, and magnificent view from the garden.

DSC_0268At night, lighted lanterns under the trees shined their soft glow so the blossoms could be seen, making for a beautiful romantic and relaxing atmosphere for the night beneath the pink glow of those blossoms. And thousands came to view the beauty.DSC_1029

But there was more of this dreamy tour of Japan to come. DSC_0399And it was the onsen known as naked communion. Japanese have enjoyed hot spring onsens as an integral part of their culture forever because it breaks down barriers between others as they soak in the natural hot springs.

DSC_0402This Tauck tour included an onsen bath for every guest, But I was not certain I would enjoy one as I had been to Japan three times before and passed on one each time when I learned I had to do it NAKED. DSC_0409Swim suits were not allowed. I wasn’t sure I could take a bath nude along with other people in the nude. But this tour could be my last tour of Japan and if I was going to do one, I better do it now, I reasoned. DSC_0403So, I grieved and grieved over doing the onsen for days. But now the final chance had come to do it or not.

DSC_0675To check out one, I went to the onsen for a tour to see what it was like as we were staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. I learned that the Japanese have separate men and women onsens which helped my decision somewhat. DSC_0672And I learned I had to take a bath before I used the onsen.  Bathers could not get the spring water dirty and could not use a towel.

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Only a small cloth approximately 10×12 inches could be used to dry off and to cover any body parts getting in and out of the onsen. And when in the hot springs, the cloth was kept on the head so as not to dirty the water. That was it.

Now that I had seen the onsen, I decided to try it when everyone was at dinner. Then there would not be anyone using the onsen, I reasoned. After eating an early dinner, it was off to the onsen and there was no one there. DSC_0415

Hurriedly, I showered by the onsen and then made it into the hot spring. It was nice and not too hot. To my surprise, I floated and could not stay below the water but the water was warm and wonderful. After 10 minutes, it was time for my adventure to end. DSC_0689

After dressing, I made my way back to my room pleased that I had experienced a centuries old tradition of a Japanese onsen in cherry blossom time. And I was evenDSC_0671

more pleased and happy that we experienced so many more adventures and things. It was 2 weeks of heaven in Japan at cherry blossom time.DSC_0217

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Our bus driver was dressed professional at all times. And every taxi we took, the driver looked the same. Plus the seats were covered with white lace.

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This was the first sign I had seen like this in the world.

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Another precious little Japanese child and her Mother. Many people were wearing masks during this cherry blossom time. I learned that the blossoms produce pollen and some people are allergic to it.

And I was pleased that I had enjoyed Kyoto, Japan riding in a rickshaw dressed in a kimono while enjoying the people along the way who were also enjoying the enchanting and glorious cherry blossoms.

Photo Copy ©  2017 carolyntravels.com 

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Japanese ladies made the white Dove of Peace using Origami and gave each one of us this memento gift.

 

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Every dish we had of the Japanese food was delicious. But we did not know what we were eating even though Tauck provided the name of each dish. Still, each meal was a wonderful surprise.

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These 3 ladies rented their kimonos for the day and walked around and under the cherry blossoms all day. It added so much to the festivities for them and us.

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We had never seen a sign like this one either. I thought it was wonderful.

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Aren’t these 2 little dolls precious. They were with their grandfather who bought them an ice cream and he said I could take their photo.

 

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This dessert was light and delicious and my favorite. It was like a soft gelatin and I could have eaten many more of them..

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Inside our ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, where guests sleep on a futon on the floor.

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Sharon and I learned to make Japanese Ikebana flower arrangements. We also learned to make Sushi for one lunch and it was delicious.

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At our Farewell Dinner, we watched these Sumo wrestlers in a match.

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This little Japanese garden was our scenery as we ate a typical Japanese lunch. It was delicious.

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This wall of Japanese vending machines had every kind of food or item one might want.

People raised their hands and arms high in the air wanting more and more trinkets and then surrounding our pedicab and begging for more. Why are these trinkets wanted so much, I wondered.DSC_0367

It is the human exchange of value from one person to another, I was told by natives of New Orleans. And it is the thrill of catching those beads, plush toys, necklaces, plastic cups, doubloons (Krewe coins), and shells and getting a little gift during this time of celebration. It is the tradition of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.DSC_0310

And catching and throwing trinkets has been going on at Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, since 1870 when the Krewe of Twelfth Night Revelers became the first Krewe (crew) to throw Mardi Gras “throws”. And the Krewes have been throwing them ever since. And the people love it, both the throwers and the receivers, for this is celebration time in New Orleans before the fast begins for Easter.DSC_0038

Mardi Gras began in 1703 in Mobile, Alabama and soon was celebrated in New Orleans by the 1730’s where it became the premier celebration in the USA to this day. Mardi Gras is always held 47 days before Easter in the Christian religion. It begins Jan. 6 each year on the Feast of Epiphany or King’s Day. Parades are held all over New Orleans during this 47-day period by scores and scores of Krewes.DSC_0096

And it all culminates on the last day, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) when people stuff themselves, before the start of Lent on the next day, Ash Wednesday, where all begin to fast or give up something for Lent for 46 days to Easter. Mardi Gras is the time of parties, celebrations, food and drinks to the max before the fasting begins. And everyone joins in with the Krewes to party.DSC_0052

A Krewe is a group of revelers that band together to host a Mardi Gras ball, ride on a Mardi Gras parade float, and participates in social gatherings. So Sharon and I joined the Krewe of Tucks which began in 1969 by a group of students from Loyola University who came up with the name “Tuck” from a no-name pub. It started as a rag-tag group or animal house “theme” where anything goes yet keeps its sense of humor on everything.Carolyn-Sharon together-Mardi Gras 2017

We were told we would be lionesses, queens of the jungle, and each would ride in a pedicab “float”. So we arrived the day the final 5-day festivities began. Awaiting us was our costumes, designed by Mardi Gras costume designer, Alan. We laughed and laughed and took photos as we put on each costume piece. As luck would have it, that stash of large safety pins that had been riding in the checked bag for months came in handy as we pinned the lion’s furry “legs” to our black sweat clothes to keep them from falling off. More pins kept the lion’s ears in place. With all on and pinned, it was show time.DSC_0812

Arriving at out parade gathering location around 10 am, we saw some of the other funny characters in our parade. As we waited for the parade, we learned that it would be delayed for hours because a float in the parade before ours had a tire bend under the float. It was so bad; the repair man had to come to the float because it could not be moved.DSC_0734

So we had time to see other floats like the man riding in a recliner chair on wheels complete with beer and cigarettes. And a group of bicycles that became a dinosaur, an elephant, a tiger and other fun designer animals. It was hodge-podge and it was so much fun.DSC_0303

But I didn’t realize what fun was to come as the parade finally started 1 ½ hours late. As our pedicab advanced along the parade route, we were inundated by revelers, one after the other. Soon our bag full of beads and shells and necklaces was empty.Carolyn Blows Kiss to Black Lady at Mardi Gras 2017

Talking to the people, seeing them in their creative costumes and interacting with them was the ultimate fun. And we did this for 6 miles and almost 4 hours. DSC_0528

When it ended, we did walk and move our arms slowly but we were very happy to have had a one-of-a-kind experience. And the people seemed to enjoy our costumes and pedicab “floats” as they took many photos of us..

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Even the trees catch the trinkets. But after Mardi Gras, the person who owns the tree cleans all the beads off so it doesn’t harm the tree.

We thought we had seen all the Mardi Gras parades until we attended the Mardi Gras Indian parade. It began by meeting the big chief, Shaka Zulu, a Mardi Gras Indian, in Congo Square in the French Quarter where he told us about the Indians and showed his elaborate costume. Shaka Zulu explained that the Indians began doing their own celebrations and parade because the Indians felt they could not do Mardi Gras with the American Sector of New Orleans.

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Chief of the Mardi Gras Indians is Shaka Zulu who also made his costume and personally hand beaded all accents. Then he added the feathers to make his costume an outstanding piece of art.

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So the 42 tribes started their own mask making, creating and hand sewing their beaded costume and finishing it with elaborate colored feathers. Then, each put it all together to wear and show in their “Black Parade.”DSC_0157

“We used to burn our costumes after Mardi Gras so no evidence existed of us.  And, we would make a new one anyway for the next year’s Mardi Gras, “Shaka Zulu said. But now their incredibly gorgeous costumes are placed in the Backstreet Museum for all to see.DSC_0908

Before or during parades, each day we attended a party along a parade route at a private home all decorated up with Mardi gras colors of purple signifying justice, green for faith and gold for power. At these private home parties, we also viewed a major Krewe’s night lighted parade while sitting on the front porch or balcony in perfect viewing seats.DSC_0166

At one parade, Sharon and I were sitting on the front porch of a gorgeous 1850’s home watching the parade go by. Sharon stood up one time with her hands in the air begging for a trinket. A man on a float saw her and threw her a bag of beads full of many necklaces and it landed on my foot. It was like a large rock had landed on my foot/ankle. My foot hurt so much and so long that I had to have a bag of ice applied to stop the pain. And it worked and I was fine.DSC_0912

When we watched parades, we were eating delicious New Orleans dishes like Jumbo, Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, PoBoys, or Muffelettas, with King Cakes and Beignets for dessert. This Virtuoso trip was a dream to experience plus we had a major adventure with Mardi Gras.mardi Gras

And all I did was ask that my travel agent Maureen Paap (mpaap@departurelounge.com) book a hotel for us during Mardi Gras. And we got wonderful revelers begging us for trinkets as we rode in costume in our pedicab with the Krewe of Tucks, went to parties at private homes, watched many parades, enjoyed our own parade as we participated in Fat Tuesday in our pedicab, and other experiences of a lifetime during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.DSC_0931

Contact your travel agent for this Virtuoso experience.

Photo Copy ©  2017 carolyntravels.com 

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Sharon didn’t catch that bag of necklaces that hit my foot so she went into the shrubbery to get other trinkets that had been thrown and also missed their intended recipient.

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When I took a Deviled Egg from this beautiful plate and complemented the hostess of the party that is was so delicious, she said that deviled eggs were back in style now. I was so amazed because I didn’t know they were ever out of style. As I left the party, the plate was empty.

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Another thing that caught my eye was these 6 foot (2 meters) wooden ladders that parents brought to the parade. They had a box mounted to the top of the ladder with wheels on the box and they pushed the entire thing like a wheelbarrow. The parents put their small children in them so they could see and enjoy the parades.

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Carolyn waistup in pedicab at Mardi Gras 2017

In the 4-hour parade, I carried snacks and water to keep up my strength. My favorite quick snack is baby food in a pouch. It is so convenient and only takes a minute for a mid-day picker-upper.

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