Enough cold weather, it was time to head to warmer climes. We chose South America to beat the winter doldrums. We left home on a cold and gray day and flew to sunny Coral Gables, Fla., one of the most charming towns in the U.S., and stayed in one of my favorite hotels, the Biltmore.
The elaborate Spanish-style Biltmore was built in 10 months and opened in January 1926! The same architect designed the Plaza, the Pierre and the Biltmore in New York City. It has the largest hotel pool in the U.S. It also has two of the most charming, elaborate ten-foot-tall birdcages full of beautiful colorful love birds in the lobby.
There we joined other passengers who were gathering to leave the next day on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner for a cruise all the way around South America.
Once on board we settled in, saw staff we had sailed with on other trips and got our calendars out to mark in dinner dates with new and old friends. Our first dinner was with the Cruise Director and old friend, Jamie Logan, and two other friends, Martha and Marc Elovitz from Birmingham. Marc is an onboard lecturer on geopolitics and always causes your brain to gear up. Last year one of his talks was on the shortage of water being worse than oil. This year he started on all of the differences between all of the factions in the Middle East and the fact that they all have the same DNA!
Because of rough seas we arrived at our first port, Willemstad, Curacao too late to do the shore excursion we had planned. But, it was sunny and cheerful and with not much else to do except shop or spend the day at the beach, we caught up on post cards and laundry.
The next day with calmer seas we docked at Oranjestad, Aruba. We opted for a sightseeing tour of the town and then went out to an ostrich farm. Did you know that the female ostrich lays the egg and then walks away? The male sits on the egg â€˜til it is ready to hatch. The egg will support 350 pounds! The baby inside hits the egg shell with the back of its head over a five-day period until it breaks free!
Back at the ship we ran into Ann and Ray Lovelace, Joan Muir and Prentice Brown from Louisville! Small world, large ship â€“ well, not too large, it only holds 700. We made plans to have dinner in the next couple of days and catch up on whatâ€™s happening in Louisville.
Next we arrived in Cartagena, Colombia. We docked and immediately walked down the dock to a replica of a pirate ship, got on and cruised the bay. We had a hokey group of natives doing native dances, but then their leader spent the next two hours giving us the run down on present-day Colombia.
He was fascinating. He talked obliquely about cleaning up the drug traffic and the fact that all the population has the same ethnic background. They have cleaned up the city and inferred that the drug trade has moved on. It is a very religious city with beautiful Catholic churches.
He talked about the early days when the Spaniards came to loot the gold. Gold to the Colombians and many others was just something they had a lot of and used it to fashion religious artifacts and for ornamentation. The Spaniards looted all of the beautiful gold artwork and melted it down! They did not care about it being a part of the culture or patrimony. It was easier to transport as ingots.
They stayed and forced much of their culture and religion on the natives. I guess it worked out in the end. Everyone seems to be from the same melting pot now.
Then it was back to the ship for a big dinner party on the top deck. Next we are going shopping in Cartagena (famous for emeralds as well as gold!) and then we will sail into position to transit the Panama Canal.