After a long morning excursion, taking in a viewpoint over the Bosphorus, the Sultan Suleyman Mosque, the Chora Museum and a final stop at Topkapi, we finally got to the port of Istanbul to board the MV Aegean Odyssey. Once we arrived at the terminal the check in was really quick and in no time at all I found my cabin, complete with bottle of champagne cooling in an ice bucket, and a plate of sweet delicacies including chocolate covered strawberries. After settling in we set off to explore the ship. Of primary interest to us was the dance floors, of which there are two.
Introducing my 2012 New York Travelblogue... Dining and Theatre in my second favorite city...after Vancouver of course.
I usually choose to travel to New York in the fall or the spring, occasionally the summer. When leaving Vancouver in the winter, my choice of winter destinations would involve warmth, sunshine , beaches or ... a dance cruise. But this year a family event drew me to Manhattan in January, and here I am in a city that today, despite the sunshine, is drier but far colder than home .
It's official - six months after spine fusion and I am back to normal. Well maybe even better than what passed for normal for me before recurrent lower back pain morphed into incapacitating sciatica - cured hopefully forever by the application of cutting edge (ooh bad pun) spinal surgery.
When your surgeon tells you that he does not want to see you again, that's a GOOD thing. Apparently bones are knitting together appropriately and the titanium hardware remains in the correct place so I am free to bend, rotate, extend and lift weights, and generally keep on leading the active kind of life I enjoy.
Today I achieved yet another small step on my way to recovery from my recent back surgery. I managed to get my sock onto my right foot. It may not sound like much but it was the absolutely last thing I needed to be able to do, in order to say that I could completely take care of myself, at last as far as getting dressed is concerned.
Actually I should not be too hard on myself. It is now day 15 after spine surgery and I am feeling good. The surgery pains frankly were trivial in comparison to the agony I have been in over the past 5 months - in fact for the first few days post-op the ABSENCE of pain was almost tangible and more significant to me than the discomfort from the wound.
Even though I was only taking one little blue pill 3 times a day - instead of the recommended dose of 2 every 4 hours as needed I decided the heavy duty painkillers were making me crazy and needed to be stopped. So I stopped, had one bad night of insomnia but feel a hundred times more myself now and more tuned in to what is actually happening with my body.
On my return from a blissful 10 night cruise, dancing from Brooklyn to Quebec and back, followed by yet more dancing - New York, New York Autumn 2010 I returned home to Vancouver to catch up on my travel writing. Feeling as fit as I have ever been, if I had been eligible (like under 30!) I was ready to give the kids on So You Think You Can Dance some strong competition. Well, maybe a slight exaggeration.
Roundhouse Community Centre
Sat, Apr 19th, 2010
Vancouver, BC: In an unusual conjunction, this weekend I had the pleasure of seeing two dance shows (instead of two plays back to back on successive evenings. Friday night's show was the stunning high energy Burn The Floor Ballroom and Latin Dance production at the Vogue Theatre. As a lovely counterpoint, on Saturday night, Ballet Kelowna, a small ballet company with a huge heart performed at the Roundhouse Community Center.
Dance Marathon at The Roundhouse Community Centre
bluemouth Inc. and Boca del Lupo
February 12 th, 2010
Vancouver, BC: I was having a blast at the Dance Marathon until I got eliminated in The Derby - how lame, so to speak! That was when I realized that my competitive streak is as strong as it ever was - because I was not ready to go and I was MAD.
The Dance Marathon is a greatly truncated version of the 1920s and 1930s endurance contests as depicted in the film They Shoot Horses, Don't They. Originally commissioned for Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, Vancouver's Dance Marathon is part of the exciting Cultural Olympiad that has been entertaining us with an incredible variety of art, theatre, music and dance.
As an Olympic volunteer I was able to to see the Opening Ceremonies dress rehearsal on Wednesday night and was really impressed but last night, watching the show on television, I realized what an amazing show Vanoc had put together. As the final speeches were taking place I made my way along Pacific Boulevard to the Roundhouse in time to see on the television there, the two cauldrons being lit.
Our South Pacific Cruise is rapidly coming to an end and this is the part that most of us had been waiting for; visiting the beautiful islands of French Polynesia that sit like exquisite jewels in the warm blue and green waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The islands we will visit on this cruise are Bora Bora and Moorea, and then the Pacific Princess will dock at Papeete in Tahiti. With a 7:30 am flight next morning I won't see Tahiti so I really wanted to get a flavour of the other two islands.
Bora Bora and Moorea are part of the Society Islands , an archipelago originally named for the British Royal Society by Captain Cook. There are two groups, the Windward Islands, in which Tahiti and Moorea are included, and the Leeward Islands in which Bora Bora lies. They have been a French colony since 1880.
Because of the time constraints, what these cruise visits do is just give you enough of a taste of each destination so that you can decide to where you would like to return for further experiences. Having grown up in Cape Town where I used to love to swim in the warm waters of the southern Indian Ocean, I was eager to dip my toes into the waters of the South Pacific. So Bora Bora and Moorea - here I come.
Wednesday October 7 Samba at Sea and Bora Bora
We were originally scheduled to arrive at the island of Bora Bora at 8 am and depart at 5 pm for Moorea, but adverse currents and choppy seas over the preceeding five days had forced a reduced cruising speed and that meant we would not arrive in Bora Bora until around noon.
This caused some concern among those who had booked early morning excursions, and lots of scrambling on the part of the staff to reschedule everything. I had not booked an excursion so it did not bother me. I was more concerned with the fact that I had rashly signed up to do a Samba routine in the talent show at 10:30 am and we had not really rehearsed anything.
I woke as usual around 6 am and by 6:30 was sipping coffee and eating a banana nut muffin and yogurt in "my office" on the aft deck outside the Pacific Buffet. We had arranged for Jorge to come and help Richard and I choreograph a short samba routine - really simple stuff but energetic enough to look like we were doing something good. I had my I-Pod with some great samba music and we put together three mini-routines that we thought would be fun.
We went through several variations and by the end of our brief practice i already felt I had had my workout for the day. I went back to the cabin to recharge my I-POd and get changed. Ruby and Jorge decided to put together a tango routine. Cool - so as it turned out of the 6 "acts" 2 were from the Dancers at Sea group.
There is something strangely liberating about being among a mass of strangers who don't know your name, and whom you will never likely encounter again. I think I can almost understand why some people can make absolute idiots of themselves on those reality TV shows without it seeming to bother them. So although I was a bit anxious at first, when it came to actually getting out on the floor with all these strangers watching, I sort of forgot about them and just focused on not falling over when the ship rocked, and having fun.
I even made a joke about not having any Brazilian blood so that this would be a "Canadian samba." Since what I actually meant was that there wouldn't be any of the "frenziedly shake your chest" action that seem to be the most favoured celebrity moves in the Dancing with the Stars samba routines, I should probably have qualifed it further by saying this would be an "age-appropriate Canadian samba" but I don't think fast with a microphone held in front of me.
Anyway we got through the routine and Wendy videoed it on my small digital camera. Having viewed it, i don't think I will post it. Too many things to work on before I will be comfortable having anyone see a video of me dancing!. Having said that, the husband of one of the other performers said he had videoed our dances and said he would mail us a copy. Hopefully he wouldn't post them anywhere without asking first. Oooohhh...
Friday October 2 - the first of 5 days at sea, and the Formal Night dinner
We departed from Hilo shortly after 4:30 pm on Thursday afternoon and set course in a southerly direction across the Pacific Ocean towards Christmas Island. The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of all the oceans and covers two-thirds of the earth's surface. Compared to the distance between our various ports in Hawaii, an average of 100 nautical miles apart, the distance to Christmas Island from Hilo is 1088 nautical miles so it was no wonder that when we awoke early as usual and went up on deck, there was only the ocean to see all around us.
Wendy had scheduled 2 dance workshops each of the 5 days we were to be at sea. Originally planned for 9 am, the Cruise staff moved them earlier to 8:30 so that the next activities in the Pacific Lounge could start on time at 10:30.
Since both Wendy and I are early risers, we were up on deck having coffee and a light breakfast by 7 am. It was quite lovely out on the aft deck behind the Pacific Buffet. Fresh air, a V sign of bubbles trailing behind us and the vast Pacific Ocean all around.
The Pacific Ocean was named by Ferdinand Magellan, the 16th century Portuguese explorer whose fatal voyage (he was killed during fighting in the Philippines) nevertheless provided the proof that one could circumnavigate the globe without sailing off the edge and that therefore that the world was round and not a disc.
Pacifc means peaceful although that is difficult to believe when you are trying to do a Bolero and the ship rolls you down when you are supposed to go up!
When you think of the conditions under which Magellan sailed, and even as recently as when my great-grandparents immigrated by ship to South Africa and Scotland, it is absolutely amazing to think of what we take for granted these days. Forgetting about air travel - which to my great grand-parents would have seemed as bizarre as a time-travel machine seems to us today, we can be out "in the middle of nowhere" and yet expect hot showers, clean laundry, gourmet food - and what to me is quite mind blowing - wireless internet access as good as at home - though at many times the price.
The fact that I can talk to my children on Skype from the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it seems as if they are in the room next door - impressive - thanks to satellites, wireless routers, and the exponential increases in processing and data storage capacity that have occurred over the past couple of decades
So when I caught myself grumbling that wireless internet access was costing me 40 cents a minutes, 35 c if I had been smart and bought 500 minutes up front instead of 250, I reminded myself instead to say a silent thank you to the thousands of scientists and engineers who made internet access from a ship "in the middle of nowhere" possible with minimal effort on my part. Anyway, on deck in a fresh breeze, I used up some of my precious internet time to check emails.What a great office.
By 8:30 we were up in the Pacific Ballroom, Wendy had her I-Pod connected to the sound system and we were ready to go. Of the two couples in our group, both women loved to dance and their partners were there because they loved their women! So the range of dance abilities went from rank beginner to quite experienced. In order not to lose the beginners - and we all wanted to encourage Bob and Charlie to get as excited about dance as they claimed to be about golf! -the workshops were very basic. We essentially just did the box step in both the foxtrot and the rumba. I didn't mind though as it was additional exercise, although I thought a bit wistfully back to the West Coast Ballroom Dance Cruise rumba and chacha workshops where we learned some quite complex doublespin moves to practice on the dance floor.
The opportunity to join Wendy and the Dancers at Sea on a South Pacific Cruise from Honolulu to Tahiti came up unexpectedly while I was on the Labor Weekend Getaway Dance Cruise. A test of my developing capacity for spontaneity - something I have really been working hard to achieve - I needed to decide on the spot whether to take up an unexpected vacancy that had arisen - the only problem was that the cruise was scheduled to start a mere two weeks after I returned to Vancouver from New York (New York, New York 2009).
I checked my calendar to see if there was anything that could not be rescheduled, decided not to check my budget and my bank balance, and just go for it. So after just enough time back in the city to see a couple of plays, do my laundry and tidy my apartment, I was packed and ready for another great vacation dancing at sea.