We made the most of our first few days on the Celebrity Silhouette as we were cruising to our first port of call, St. Croix, USVI. Mostly we relaxed – Brendan slept a lot and I gambled a lot – and we did many, many laps around the Celebrity Silhouette on a voyage of discovery. Here is a picture of the ship (which we took in St. Croix): Our first meal on the cruise ship was around noon where we took in the lunch buffet and were impressed with the “build your own” options – salad, pasta, stir fry – as well as the copious variety of different types of cuisines. Despite that I went with a soup and salad for lunch. There was certainly something for everybody. The Celebrity Silhouette also emphasized sanitation, which we appreciated. Many a squirt of hand sanitizer was aggressively placed on our hands by eager crew members prior to walking in to any eating area. Also, there was an established etiquette for refilling water bottles at the water/juice stations – rather than put your bottle up to the dispenser, you’d use a clean glass to get water and then fill your water bottle with….
We spent the start of our Thanksgiving holiday getting to FLL so catch our Caribbean cruise with Celebrity. Opting out of Thanksgiving and going on vacation instead has become a Jacobs-Heck tradition, started last year on our trip to Morocco, where we got in engaged. After a hell week for both of us at working tying up loose ends (and Brendan getting sick), we were ready for a full two weeks off sipping fruity drinks with umbrellas in them on the beach or by the pool. Our journey began the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving with a Lyft picking us up to take us to DEN at 8AM. We flying American Airlines on some frequent flier miles I was trying to dump, and were flying DEN-DFW-FLL a day in advance of our cruise to give ourselves plenty of time in case something went awry. Everything was on time when we left the house, but as soon as we got to the American check-in counter to drop our bag, the delays from the winter storm system sweeping the country just as wintry mix Denver weather began. We had a tight connection (45 minutes) in DFW on an all AA itinerary without split….
I traveled to Latvia for a work trip with Travelport and decided to extend and spend the weekend in Riga to see the city and an old friend. I left on Halloween (had a kitchen pass from Brendan) and arrived the next day, Thursday, November 1 on a DEN-ORD-BRU-RIX 2 stopover itinerary on United and Air Baltic for the final leg. I easily grabbed a taxi for about 30 Euros at RIX and arrived at my luxurious home for the next 4 nights – the Grand Kempinski Riga hotel. I promptly took a nap, and then by the time I woke up it was time for dinner with some work colleagues at a restaurant near the square with the Laima clock meeting point, across from a popup Christmas market. It was only a few minutes walk from the hotel. It was a very pleasant evening and we enjoyed the walk over to Livu Square. The food was delicious (I ordered a caprese salad and a vegetarian stew – I was delighted to find more than a few vegetarian options in this part of the world, which was a difference from when I used to live in Prague). The highlight was….
We woke up at 8AM for a day of Skyline Drive, starting with Brendan meeting Susan at 830 to feed the donkeys, cows, sheep, dogs, cats, and chickens. I prepared coffee and the French toast that was dropped off the previous day while he was out (by prepared, I of course mean “stuck in the oven”, since it was all already done for us). Today’s breakfast turned out even better than the day before – we really enjoyed the homemade organic lamb sausage, the apples, and of course the French toast with fresh butter from the farm. We especially loved the fact that these hearty breakfasts were enough to fuel us for the entire day. As this was our final day on the property, we again took our time in the morning with breakfast, finishing our puzzle, and savoring the last views of the sunlight dancing on the river. Susan was more than kind, offering a check-out literally whenever we wanted since she didn’t have more guests until the weekend, but we got out by 1130AM so that we could take Skyline Drive back to civilization at our own pace. We took our basket back up to the main house….
In the morning, we slept as long as we wanted (10AM) since we could cook our breakfast any time and take it easy until we were ready to go to Luray Caverns. This was really a wonderful thing. Not only were we not under any rush or timeline, but we could eat in stages, starting with some delicious organic coffee. We then started preparing breakfast which consisted of oat bran muffins (as easy as dumping the dry ingredients with oil and an egg in to a mixing bowl, mixing, and distributing in to the muffin tin nearby), elderberry jam, blackberries, bacon, grape juice (which was surprisingly delicious) and eggs from the farm. It turned out great, except for overcooking the bacon slightly to burn off the fat. After breakfast we set out for Luray Caverns, the highest rated caverns in the Shenandoah’s. It took us an hour to get there and the scenery was splendid. Moreover, being a Tuesday, there was very little traffic and no crowds at the caverns (and very few children). The entry fee was steep ($28/per person), but we were also paying for natural air conditioning for 2 hours which helped ease the pain. Luray Caverns….