Saturday, April 30, 2011

Grenada



We decided to tour St. George's, the capital city, by foot to get a flavor of the local shops and food. It retrospect, we wish we had gone on a hike instead. On the other islands we visited, the people were very warm and friendly and basically happy to see tourists because they contribute to the local economy. That wasn't the case in Grenada, at least regarding our experience. The people we encountered were not at all friendly. We really felt like we were in their way. We actually feared being hit by cars as we walked through the city. The sidewalks were very small and often occupied by locals who wouldn't move for us to pass, so we had to step in the very small street to do so. The drivers didn't seem too interested in yielding to pedestrians. It really was nerve wracking. Here's what I mean:
We returned to the ship and decided to relax by the pool. There were an awful lot of people with the same idea, so apparently we weren't the only ones who were disappointed in the port. After a few hours at the pool, we decided to get dressed and attend the 2nd art auction just for fun and to gain some insights into different artists. The night before, we had strolled through the art gallery, pausing to reflect on the new paintings that were displayed in preparation for the 2nd auction. The curator had put out his other painting by James Pratt (the same artist that painted the first painting we bought). I fell in love with this painting. Seriously...in love! It's called Vine Reflections. Ohh...the purple door. The vines. The rustic stones. I simply LOVE it! (This is a horrible photo taken on my phone. The painting is not this yellow, but you'll get the general idea.)

Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dominica

Dominica (pronounced like the name Dominique with an "uh" at the end) is a small island, only 278 square miles and with a population of 73,000. Though Caribes had already lived on Dominica for at least 500 years, it wasn't until 1493 that it received it's official name~as Christopher Columbus sailed by it on a Sunday, he named it "Dominica" which means Sunday in Latin. This tiny island was pretty much ignored for the next 200 years until the French and the British fought for ownership rights, which the British finally gained in 1805. Dominica gained her independence in 1978, only to be devastated by Hurricane David the following year. (We actually saw quite a few relics left by Hurricane David, but I wasn't able to get any photos of them.) Today, Dominica is known as "The Nature Island of the Caribbean" and is famous for its tropical forests and beautiful waterfalls. It has an agricultural economy, primarily bananas. In fact, there is such an abundance of fruit and vegetables growing on this island--much of it on public land and accessible to anyone--that hunger isn't an issue for Dominica's people. Still, there is an abundance of produce that simply goes to waste as it rots on the ground. Dominica has yet to develop a sufficient exportation system.

Here is an overview of the port (Rosalie, I think).
Here are a few shots along the way to our first destination, The Emerald Pool.
At this site, there were some local vendors selling their trinkets. I picked up this necklace, made of coconut shells, for Emma.
The Emerald Pool, a waterfall that drops into a small pool, is in the Tres Pinot (Three Mountains) national park. To get there, we had to hike through a lush rainforest.
Here's a shot of the waterfall from quite a distance.
A few shots as we continued our hike down to the pool.
There at last!
There's my sweetheart swimming in the pool.
I like the light coming through the trees on this shot, taken as we hiked our way back up through the rainforest.
At the park entrance, there was a small collection of local artisans selling their crafts. I was really touched by this older woman, hand weaving baskets of all shapes and sizes. I just had to buy one from her to add to my collection of "boxes."
As I said, bananas are the major product on Dominica. They literally grow everywhere. As the bananas mature, the farmers wrap the bunches in blue bags to protect them from insects. Did you know that it takes nine months for a bunch of bananas to mature?
Pineapples also grow everywhere,
as do Cocoa Trees. This is a large cocoa bean.
Our second destination was a black sand (volcanic ash) beach. It was really soft and pretty~but it was the biggest pain to get off of our feet! It rained while we were at this beach, and we were actually a bit cold.
Up next: Granada.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

St. John

We actually pulled into St. Thomas, but since we visited St. Thomas last year we decided to take a ferry over to St. John. St. John is 28 square miles in size, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin islands. Two-thirds of the island is a U.S. National Park. St. John is known for its beautiful beaches. These are the breathtaking views we had from the ferry.
Rick would like to retire to this house!
This boat crashed into the rocks a few years ago in a storm. Don't know why it has never been removed, but it was cool to see.
Just thought this shot was cool~I had never before seen the U.S. Virgin Islands flag.
This was the beach we were heading to~Trunk Bay. Can you believe the color of this water?
Christy, I took several branch shots just so you wouldn't be disappointed. LOL I seriously love taking photos through tree branches!
A few more shots as we approached Trunk Bay.
Just thought this was cool~it's the bridge down to the beach.
We swam and snorkeled, then just relaxed on the beach. I think Rick was daydreaming about owning this sailboat.
Looking back down at the harbor.
That's it for St. John. We had to be back on the ship rather early, so we didn't get to do much exploring. But that's okay~a lazy day on the beach was just fine with us!

Now for the entertaining part: we have realized that we are truly middle aged, LOL! Now that we are empty nesters, we have been redecorating our home. We decided that we wanted to acquire some fine art to complement our new decor. The ship had quite an impressive art gallery, with a very knowledgeable curator. Since we aren't into gambling or partying in the nightclubs, we decided to peruse the art gallery and attend the auctions. We discovered that we love palette knife paintings, the art of applying thick coats of paint to the canvas using just the palette knife. The result is a 3-dimensional mix of rich textures that catch the light and provide great detail and contrast.

One of the current leading palette knife artists is James Pratt, a New Zealand native who lives and works in Charleston, North Carolina. (I am going to Charleston in July with my friend, Robyn~I think a trip to this gallery is a must!) As did the masters, Pratt uses only the three primary colors (blue, red, and yellow) and only a palette knife to create his masterpieces.

Rick fell in love with this original (one of a kind) painting in the gallery, called La Grande Cafe. We went to the first auction and were fortunate to acquire it for its opening bid. It is being reframed and we should receive it within the next few weeks. We are thrilled!
While we were at the first auction, Rick also eyed this painting, Antica d'Ora, by Russian artist Viktor Shvaiko. As a young man, Viktor's talents were stifled by the Russian bureaucracy. Unable to obtain a visa to the United States, Viktor was permitted to travel to Yugoslavia. During the Yugoslavian civil war, Viktor fled to Italy, supposedly with his paintings strapped to his back as he encountered and escaped from roving bands of militia. He survived in Italy by selling his art on the streets of Rome. He eventually landed in the United States, settling in New York. His trademark is his portrayal of small cafes. The painting we acquired is a limited edition work, meaning that it is a lithograph copy of the original, upon which the artist has added painted accents. The good thing about limited editions is that they cost significantly less than originals. The down side is that they don't increase in value as much as do originals. But we buy art that we love and that moves us, without any plans for selling them, so the "investment" is much more personal than financial.
As you acquired (or won the auction) for a piece of art, you were given a raffle ticket. At the end of the auction, they drew a raffle ticket, and one of ours was drawn! We got to choose which lithograph print (valued at $500) we wanted FOR FREE! (Of course, the framing wasn't free, but it was significantly cheaper than what Michael's or other framers charge.) This is the print we chose.
So it's official: we are getting old. Our kids are grown and gone, we are grandparents, we love cruises and relaxing on beaches, we eat dinner between 5 and 6 (because of my esophagus issues), and we attend art auctions and buy fine art! Oh, and the knees crick, our backs are stiff in the mornings, we need glasses to read anything, everything sounds like a mumble, and on and on and on! Ha ha!

Up next: Dominica.
Have a wonderful day!