KEY WEST

I have always loved driving to the Keys (lower and upper) when I feel life is getting out of hand.

Key West is a good place to unwind and recharge your energy. In just about three (3) hour drive from Miami you’ll see a different world overlooking the most serene scenery that this side of the world has to offer. From the bluest skies, to the greenest ocean which provide a gorgeous view of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. There is nothing like driving along U.S. 1 and reaching the seven (7) mile bridge surrounded with water.

This is my Key West ~ a perfect place to escape from everything. As you spend time in here you will begin to see that everybody here is escaping from something. For some people it’s the law, for others a divorce or job failure. For some to escape the winter cold, and for the rest of us (like me) just want to get away from the city life.

Key West is an ideal place for someone to relax in the sunshine and strangeness. Key West is the end of the line. When you get here, there’s no going south and staying in the United States.

Key West attracts people from all over the world. The Island has this magical way of getting people to drop their guard, let loose and do things they would never normally do. It is an island of enchantment and mystery. It offers a place a little more laid back, a little more accepting, and a little less judgmental. Something has to be said for a place where you can dress how you want, say what you want, do what you want and be who you want without the worry of others wanting you to be something you don’t want to be. As a whole, the island runs a bit slower and a bit softer.

SHORT HISTORY OF KEY WEST – People who were born in Key West are referred to as “Conchs.” If you were not born in here, you are not, have not been, and never will be a conch. Don’t try to be – it won’t happen. But the fact remains, these are the people who helped make the island what it is today. It is estimated 20-25 percent of Key West population is gay. The island’s live and let live attitude has created a haven for gays. If you have problems accepting the sexual preferences of others, you might as well keep your mouth shut or don’t bother coming.

Key West has had many names, each with its own strange meaning. The first people to live and die in Key West were Native Americans. The first visitors to the island were Spaniards looking for safe trade routes through the Straights of Florida. Upon arrival, Spaniards found bones everywhere, and accordingly named the tiny spot of land “Cayo Hueso” that literally translates to “Isle of Bones.” Something wasn’t too appealing about the name “bone island” so as time went on the Spanish term was corrupted. “Cayo” became “Key” and “Hueso” became “West.” The name really has nothing to do with the fact that it is the westernmost key in the island chain.

Over the years a few attempts were made to change the name to something more desirable but most of the people creating the navigational charts of the day stuck with Key West, which has remained the official name for more than a century.

Key West first known visitor was Ponce de Leon. He discovered the island in 1513 during his search for the Fountain of Youth. It is believed neither he, nor his crew, ever came to shore due to the risk of jagged rocks and extremely difficult sailing conditions. Little did he know that Key West is probably the closest thing to the Fountain of Youth in existence.

For years, Key West was left to the pirates. As time passed, many ships wrecked, and the Native American tribe of Calusa Indians, pretty much kept the island to themselves.

In order to make a living, early settlers of the Keys had pineapple farms and the fruit was considered a delicacy. The fishing industry started to boom and a shark-processing factory was launched in Big Pine Key. Nobody knows what truly happened, but Key West soon became the wealthiest city per capita in the United States. As Key West flourished, more people started moving here, bringing more money. Key Westers soon starting branching out, going into business and selling the goods that are famous today (e.g. Cigars, Fishing, Sponging, Military, and The Coming of Tourism).

KEY WEST TODAY – The island has gone through its share of changes. Instead of pirates cruising the waters we have sunset sails. Instead of the great railroad, we have the Conch Tour Train. The one thing Key West has kept is its mystery and the legendary feeling that you are in Never-Never Land.

FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO MOVED TO KEY:

• Ernest Hemingway – writer
• Jimmy Buffett – singer/songwriter/author
• Kelly McGillis – actress
• Calvin Klein – Designer
• Robert Frost – poet
• Hulk Hogan – wrestler
• Harry Truman – President of the U.S.
• Roy Scheider – actor

Freshwater Conch – is a resident of at least seven years

Honorary Conch – is anyone the County Mayor sees fit to present the honor to

True Conchs – can obtain seniority with each generation and you will find it common to hear people damn proud of the fact that they are a 4th, 5th, 6th generation Conch.

Bubba – term comes from the word brother and started in Key West as a friendly term.

Eastern Europe Vacation

In the spring of 2009, my husband and I celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary aboard Celebrity’s brand new ship Solstice.

with free wine

We flew non-stop from Miami to Rome aboard Alitalia Airline. As usual I slept like a baby during the entire trip and woke up only when they started serving hot breakfast. Two hours later, our plane landed at the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport.

As soon as we retrieved our luggage, we then proceeded to the immigration window to have our passport stamped. The whole process was quick. Few minutes later we spotted our driver waiting outside the airport holding a cardboard sign with our names on it.

2009 Eastern Mediterranean Cruise

We have been on over 15 cruises, but our first on Celebrity. In my opinion Celebrity’s newest fleet, Solstice is the most beautiful ship we’ve been on by far. Our chosen Eastern Mediterranean itinerary gave us six ports of call visiting three countries (Italy, Greece and Turkey).

Thinking of cruise wedding?

Solstice is truly a large ship, with all the whiz-bang aspects you’d expect. But despite of its size, it retains a sense of connection. The decor is without a doubt upscale, trending toward contemporary, but without the starkness of true modern. From the time you step onboard, the clean lines, yet warmth of welcoming envelop you. This ship has an aura about it~ a feel good energy.

Wine Tower

As I wandered aboard the ship I could not helped to notice its effortless sophisticated design. I have to say that I was bowled over by its quality and grandeur. Its elegance is quite different from any other lines we have been on. It is quite stunning to see the quality of such things as the chairs and tables. Similarly on some of the sun decks there are huge sun beds, cabanas, sun tents in the indoor pool and comfortable couches on the aft deck.

Theater

You should see a huge piece of real lawn which brings a feeling of great calm and peace. I used this space to relax, to read, and/or meditate, and amazingly it never seemed to get crowded. Another design feature, similar in many ships is that of a large central atrium served by 8 glass lifts and including a real tree. From the lift atrium one could view many of the bars and facilities such as the coffee shop, library and card room.

Atrium

Spreading out from the central atrium on decks four and five were the shops on the boulevard, the casino and the numerous restaurants and bars. All in all a stunningly designed and executed ship which oozed modern quality and freshness. We were amazed.

Blue Restaurant

In addition, Solstice have 10 restaurants to choose from. The main dining room is luxurious and I found the food to be quite good. Portions were not large, but adequate. Our dining room service were both prompt and professional.
We were particularly impressed with the Ocean view Café. Countless individual buffet stations offer an endless array of ethnic choices and traditional favorites, as well as a number of made to order stations.

Cirque du Soleil

As far as its on-board Entertainment – Solstice put together such a magnificent show every night. One of the shows which is my all-time favorite is a Cirque de Soleil type of performance. Talented performers, strong vocalists, accomplished dancers and impressive sets made each of these performances the best I have seen in a long time on any cruise ships, and far superior to the typical cruise offerings.
The music venues around the ship are varied and enjoyable and there is something to suit all musical tastes. When it comes to improving on a good thing – the lounges on the Solstice truly deliver. There seems to be music everywhere. Lots of different styles which makes everything seem more alive and relaxing.

Grand Epernay Dining Room

There are several other venues onboard for lounging (The Serenity Pool is my fave), drinking and entertainment, and I visited them all and spent hours admiring its beauty, and elegance. In conclusion –We had a fabulous time!! For 15 days I was living and treated like a princess in a floating Palace. This is a kind of vacation I wouldn’t mind doing every couple of years just to break away from the bustle and hustle of the city life. Bonne la vie.

ON MY NEXT REPORT I WILL BE TALKING THE PORTS OF CALL WE VISITED.

Women Over 50

In case you missed it on 60 Minutes, this is what Andy Rooney thinks about women over 50.

“As I grow in age, I value women over 50 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 50 will never wake you in the middle of the night & ask, ‘What are you thinking?’ She doesn’t care what you think.
If a woman over 50 doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She goes and does something, she wants to do, and it’s usually more interesting.
Women over 50 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant.
Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated. Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 50. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 50 is far sexier than her younger counterpart. Older women are forthright and honest.
They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk or if you are acting like one. You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.
Yes, we praise women over 50 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 50, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize.

For all those men who say, Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Here’s an update for you:

Nowadays, 80% of women are against marriage. Why?
Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

Andy Rooney is a really smart guy and I am going to miss him!
Enjoy your retirement, Andy!

Trust The Voice Within

When someone is as successful as Steve Jobs (founder and CEO of Apple, died from pancreatic cancer), there is interest in gaining insight into their mind and spirit.

Jobs unveiled glimpses of himself in a commencement speech he gave to the graduating class at Stanford University in 2005.

A year earlier he was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer, an event which led to probing insights on death and the meaning of life.

"How To Live Before You Die."

In his address to the graduating seniors that day, Jobs said:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. All external
expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment of failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Moving on with his thinking, he observed:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Certainly, this is excellent advice for any graduating class, but it is also wise and inspirational counsel for us.

It is so important in life to find out who we are and, therein, to have courage to be our self. Being our self, of course, requires that we find out what we love – and what is our passion. This discovery is one of the most important uncovering in life for any of us. To varying extents, it takes time, effort, focus and commitment.
It also requires that we trust our heart and intuition. How do we go after our passion requires complete honesty and determination.

But first: Don’t settle: If you haven’t found it, keep looking; and don’t settle. The consequences of settling in life are all about us. We need to go after what our heart desires. It is any of us who settles for something less that what our heart and intuition call us to. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.

When we settle, we live a life of what ifs. What if I’d followed my heart and not worried so much about income and status? What if I’d pushed on to grad school, gotten the degree I always wanted simply trusted that things would work out. What if?

It takes courage to be the person our heart and intuition keep telling us who we are. Courage, because it’s hard not to doubt yourself when other people keep wrapping you in their dogma and truth. And yet, there are great benefits from pursuing the courageous path. They’re called inner peace and a calming in the spirit. There is the palpable sense in life that the greatest thing we can do in our human journey is to live an authentic life.

Bottom line – we really don’t have much time in this life. Life is amazingly fleeting; it doesn’t wait for any of us. And to a great extent, our lives are about awareness and boldness. Awareness of who we are, where we are and what time it is; and the boldness to stay the course, to fight the fight and to never give in to the forces of mediocrity that are forever trying to pull us down to their level.

In conclusion – once in a while we need to listen and trust that little voice within and don’t be afraid to take a chance. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Not Old Yet

Who says senior citizens don’t wear stylish clothes. Hah!!


No matter where I go, there I am.

SENIOR CITIZENS

ARE THE NATION’S LEADING CARRIERS OF AIDS!

HEARING AIDS
BAND AIDS
ROLL AIDS
WALKING AIDS
MEDICAL AIDS
GOVERNMENT AIDS
MOST OF ALL, MONETARY AIDS TO THEIR KIDS!


Not forgetting HIV (Hair is Vanishing)
Give me the grace to see a joke,
To get some humour out of life,

My Road To Happiness

Cultivate simplicity.
Laugh at your own complexity.
Share and analyze it with others.
When you use words, have them say what you mean.
If there is a key to your mystery, let people have it so they can understand you.

Act in fresh, spontaneous, freeing ways.
Speak to someone who appears forbidding.
Make a telephone call you’ve been afraid of.
Break a heavy silence.
Write a letter that has long been written in your mind.
Help someone to smile or laugh.

In your imagination walk up a mysterious street you have long wondered
or dreamed about.
Study its detail and make it real.
Don’t worry about what other people think.
Most of them are thinking about themselves.
Laugh uproariously if you feel like it.
Go to a park and ride a swing.
When you look at a picture, a bird or an ocean — when you hear a poem,
the wind or a cello — cry if you are moved and want to.

Find a quiet place (at least within you), sit down, take a deep breath,
exhale slowly, quiet the mind.
Anxiety is a notorious foe of life, peace and love.
If you’re at ease with yourself, others can be at ease with you too.
Since no one is an island, quit acting like one.
Reach out for help, ask for it, and humbly admit your need.
And when you perceive need in someone else, offer help without feeling superior.
Survival means banding together; justice requires it.

Life is brief, measured by a few decades.
Do you realize this?
Has this absolute reality permeated your consciousness?
What can you do?

Blue Hills

Strip and dive into the water.
Drop the other shoe. Say, “Yes.”
In a far moment some future earthling, or a visitor from outer space, may observe remnants of our lives and exclaim: “These were good people. They were truly our brothers and sisters. I wish we could have known them.”

United Kingdom – Stonehenge

Welcome to Stonehenge

In September 2008, my traveling bud (my aunt) and I went to England for a 15 day vacation and to also give my brother and his family a surprise visit.

During our time there, we visited many places around the city and its neighboring counties. On our third day, my brother and his wife took us on a day trip to Wiltshire to see for ourselves the most famous Stonehenge site. When we arrived lots of people were already lining up at the ticket counter and it took roughly about 15 minutes to obtain our tickets. We were then given a complimentary audio guide to listen to during the tour in order to fully understand what we were looking at.

Behind the Big Stone

To go to the actual site, we walked through a tunnel going under the road and up a paved path until reaching the monument.

God only knows the truth behind this monumental site...

The first part of the walk takes about an hour, passing some of the series of burial mounds and supposedly ceremonial routes aligned for about a mile around the stones. The walk circles the edge of this huge piece of land art, offering a series of glimpses of the stones as you climb up and down one set of barrows. The scenery is very pretty providing clearly marked paths explaining the features of the landscape.

Eventually the route leads to an open land believed to have been an area for ceremonial processions. Honestly, I have never heard of Stonehenge prior to this trip [shame on me] so when we arrived at the site I had very low expectations. I was glad we went because I’ve learned quite a bit about this sacred place.

After the tour, I left with more questions than answers. Number one question that puzzling to me is why would anyone move the stones so far away? What is the secret beyond this shrine? Why was it erected? What was the purpose?

Even though I did not get any mystical feeling when I was there, I felt very intrigued about the story behind this site and vowed to do further research about this holy ground to satisfy my curiosity.

Here is what I found:

Stonehenge was built the same time as the pyramid in Giza, Egypt. It has been covered with mystery and fascinated the world for centuries. It was also the biggest and complicated building project in all around Europe.

Some says it is a temple to the sun or the moon, or may be astronomical calendar which offered a way to establish calendar dates when no other method existed, or a shrine to dead ancestors or even a place of sacrifice.

This site drew thousands of people every year and they come here for different reasons (e.g. for healing, and/or a place for pilgrimage; witness the sunrise).

Most of the archeological dig of the site took place in the last century and the final one took place nearly 50 years ago in 1964, which left many mysteries still unsolved. Then in April 2008, a small area inside the stone circle was excavated hoping to establish a more precise date for the earliest stone structure. We still don’t know when people started coming here but it is now believe that Stonehenge was built on a site that previously contained in wooden circle. Then more than 4,000 years ago something persuaded ancient Britain to start building in stone.

Sunset at Stonehenge

The monument then rose in four name phases.

The first phase involved small bluestone which stood for around 200 years. Then came a single pillar in the center known as the altar stone. At some point later, ancient Britain decided to build big for reasons no one fully understand. In came circles of colossal stones called Sarsen (sp?), the small bluestone were added to form an inner ring followed by another outer circle of bluestone. And finally another circles of giant sarsen stones to complete the marking. Stonehenge would stand in full glory for some 200 years until 1900 BC.

The stones came from a great distance. The large size stone came from 20 miles away but the blue stones came even further (150 miles). It would have taken 100 people possibly several years, which is an epic challenge – so why go to so much trouble?

The pillars

The archeologist argued that bronze age people must have believed these bluestone has magical power and mystical energy. They also believed that natural world was filled with spirit and mystical energy, and Stonehenge builders try to harness that energy for the power to heal.

Why it was built has puzzled archeologist for decade but most believe it was designed for a deliberate purpose. They believe Stonehenge is an ancient calendar signaling when to plant the next harvest. Another recent theory argues that Stonehenge was a temple to dead ancestors. Claim based on 50 cremated remains found outside the circles in 1920.

Magical Power?

There is reason to believe that when Stonehenge was being built, Bronze Age life was undergoing a dramatic transformation. The sacred nature of Stonehenge celebrated and maintained by the GRUETTES (sp?). They believe the power of mythology walls of gruettes temple; maybe it’s the small bluestone holds the key to the monuments original purpose.

Healing Power?

But despite all these speculations, we still don’t know when and why the first stone erected. Experts such as professors Wainwright and Darvill believes Stonehenge may have been an ancient healing and made it a place of pilgrimage for the sick and injured of the Neolithic world.

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