By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Jeff the Elf

Elvis was in the building!

Here we are, a new year before us, with optimism and hope for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2024.  But before we leave 2023, I want to give a shout out to Bob and his wife, Linda, for hosting a fun and frolicking Christmas weekend.  As I mentioned in my last blog, there was a family talent show on Christmas Eve.  The emphasis was slightly more on fun than talent, but it was the highlight of the weekend.  Bob’s son, Jeff, served as MC.  I knew he would be up to the task but it was confirmed when he arrived dressed as Elf, replete with beanie and pointed shoes. He sang “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, with some slight lyric variations, and was sensational. Next, we had a surprise visit from Elvis (he looked amazingly like Bob) who serenaded us with his classic, “Blue Christmas”, not only on guitar but with kazoo at the same time.  He’s a very talented guy!

Us, not singing, thank God

My family did a riff on the Brady Bunch theme song with lyrics changed to poke fun at the assembled group.  My nieces, Stephanie and Dana, sang their traditional “Sisters” song from White Christmas, this year waving turquoise feathered fans, looking just like Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.  My great-nieces, Emma and Addison, sang “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth“, which was especially appropriate given that Addison is missing her two front teeth!  The show ended with Jeff singing, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!”, and all of the little children were enthralled by his performance.  There is nothing like small children to bring back the magic of Christmas and restore a sense of gratitude.  All in all, it was a great – and memorable – holiday.

This year, he was Christmas angel

But here we are in a new year and ready to take it on.  I am an (overly) sentimental person, so New Year’s Eve is always a bittersweet holiday for me.  Particularly as I’ve grown older, I think about the retiring year and recall the fun times, but also the loss of a family member or friend that each year has brought.  Of course, 2023 was the hardest year to part with because it was the last year that Alan was alive.   I will never again have a year with a memory of him in it.  So probably like many of you, I greet the new year with mixed emotions, wishing I could hold on to the old year, but knowing a new year beckons.  Just before he died, Norman Lear summed up this dichotomy about saying goodbye to one thing and greeting the next when he was asked if he was afraid to die.  He said, “I’m not concerned about the going, I just don’t like the leaving.” But here we go, into 2024, optimistic and full of plans.  As I said at the beginning, I hope this is a happy, healthy and prosperous new year for all of you.

Now go watch some football and nurse that hangover!

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

by Bob Sparrow

You’re sitting on your couch with a cup of coffee, staring at a tired Christmas tree, trying to decide if you’re going to turn its lights on or take it down.  You’re too tired to do either.  You’re feeling lethargic, exhausted, and numb, not just from the chaos of Christmas day, but from everything that led up to it.  You’re somewhere between reflecting on recent past events and preparing for what comes next.  You’ve just entered the Twilight Zone.

While the week between Christmas and New Year’s can seem like the Twilight Zone, it actually has many names that I offer here to perhaps help you figure out why you’re feeling the way you do.

Boxing Day – originated in England and is celebrated there and most of the Commonwealth countries.  It is the day after Christmas and originally it was a day when people would drop money into boxes (thus the name) that were in churches and other places of worship and the money was given to the poor.  Today, of course, it has been commercialized as a shopping day when you can take back the boxes that you got for Christmas and exchange them for something you really wanted.  But, don’t worry about the poor, they just loot the stores now.

Twixmas – It also originated in England and comes from the word ‘betwixt’ which means ‘between’.

Crimbo Limbo – typically used by people poking fun at the excesses and materialistic aspects of the season, it is the period between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.  It is a week-long blur when you’re not sure what day is it, you’re most probably living in your pj’s and you’ve eaten leftovers for three days in a row.

Festive Perineum – while this term could have a more ‘anatomical’ meaning, at this time of year, it is used as a reference to the time between Christmas and New Year’s.

Romjul – a Norwegian holiday that refers to this week as a tranquil time to spend at home with friends and family undisturbed by the outside world.  It is also known as Interscotia.

Witching Week – The time between Christmas and New Year’s Day where nothing you do in this week counts.  If only that were true of the calories consumed over the last month.

You probably didn’t realize there were so many names for a time when everyone did so little.  Most of us just sit around and watch football, read about that new diet, or some or all of the following, typically done from the couch while having leftovers and drinking the last of the ‘Christmas cheer’ . . .

  • Wonder how much longer these damn Christmas carols will be on the air
  • Think about leaving the outside Christmas decorations up all year
  • Wonder how Amazon does it
  • Make New Year’s resolutions that will be life-changing – Not!

I recommend that you wait a week or so before making any serious decisions, you’re still coming down from a Christmas sugar-high that will continue through New Year’s Day.




By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I know what I really want for Christmas. I want my childhood back. Nobody is going to give me that. I might give at least the memory of it to myself if I try. I know it doesn’t make sense, but since when is Christmas about sense, anyway? It is about the child of now. In you and me. Waiting behind the door of our hearts for something wonderful to happen. A child who is impractical, unrealistic, simpleminded, and terribly vulnerable to joy.

~ Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in the frazzle of preparing for the holidays.  As Erma Bombeck once wrote: time, self-pity, apathy, bitterness and exhaustion can take the Christmas out of you.  She summed up the sentiment by saying, “There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” By the time we reach middle age we see the holidays differently – it becomes just more work, heaped on top of an already hectic life. We realize that the wonderful Christmas memories from our childhood were produced by parents who worked overtime, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning, hosting and entertaining.  And once it is our turn to produce a holiday to remember, we long to be a child at Christmas again, when it’s all just wonder and magic.

Over the past few years I have found something that works for me to bring a bit of that childhood magic back: I simplify Christmas.  I no longer send out cards, as I stay in touch with most everyone on my list through email or in person.  Heck, some of them I see multiple times a week.  They don’t need Christmas greetings from me in the form of paper.  The biggest change is that most of my family and all of my friends now forego gift-giving.  Of course, we still buy something for the children – half the fun of the holiday is watching kids open presents, hoping your gift puts a smile on their faces.  But for everyone else we take pleasure in time spent together, whether over a meal or a cup of coffee.  None of us need more “stuff” and nothing we buy on Amazon can match the gift of a hug.  I highly recommend paring down on the holiday prep – it can do wonders for your spirit.

I am fortunate this year to be spending time with my family, who will gather at Bob’s home on Christmas Eve, to partake in a family talent show (this ought to be good!), share delicious food, and bask in the company of people I love. Of course, there is an empty chair this year, but there is joy to be found in the company of family and friends, and that is something to be celebrated, especially at the holidays.  I wish all of you a very happy holiday season.

One tradition I will always maintain is providing you with Pop’s Christmas Ice Cream Fizz recipe.  I hope you enjoy it as much as our family has over the years.  There is nothing like a little gin to make the holidays the slightest bit more fun!

         A jolly man indeed


Fill a blender 1/4 full of ice cubes

Add 6 jiggers of gin

Add 4 scoops of French Vanilla ice cream

Add 1 small bottle of soda water (the size you get in a 6-pack)

My brother Bob adds an egg, so the white adds some froth, brother Jack doesn’t add an egg.  Personally, I’d add it just because you can then claim it’s a protein drink.

Just blend it well and – voila – you have a concoction sure to put a positive spin on everyone and everything!

Our mom served them in a wine glass with a dash of nutmeg.  As we got older, we would conspire with Pop and ditch the wine glass for a chilled beer mug from the freezer. Saved having to go back for seconds…or thirds.

Happy Holidays!!  I’ll see you in 2024!


It’s Just a Number . . . Albeit a Rather Large Number

by Bob Sparrow

As someone who loves to travel, I am happy to report that I will complete my 80th trip around the sun this week.  So, it’s time to celebrate . . .

Don’t Let the Old Man In

The Wine: I’ll celebrate with an expensive wine (because I am now definitely too old to drink cheap wine) from my favorite travel destination, a Tokara ‘Telos’ a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The Song:  Don’t Let the Old Man In by Toby Keith.  Here’s a verse from the song:

When he rides up on his horse
And you feel that cold bitter wind
Look out your window and smile
Don’t let the old man in

So, let me take a little time to reminisce about life back when I was growing up, back when the earth was still cooling . . .

TV programs we used to watch:  The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, , Sky King, Burns & Allen, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriett, Father Knows Best, The Life of Riley, Groucho Marx, The Ed Sullivan Show and Your Hit Parade.  

Ozzie & Harriett, David and Ricky

TV program I should have watched: Life Begins at 80 – If you’re not around my age, you won’t remember this television program, which ran from 1950 – 1956, and was on the radio starting in 1948.  It featured people 80 and over and their accomplishments.  I just remember them looking really old.

Radio Programs:  Following are the programs that my brother and I listened to on our bedroom radio as kids when we went to bed around 7:00 – 7:30 each night: The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, Fibber McGee & Molly, The Cisco Kid, Boston Blackie.  Later it was DJ, Wolfman Jack.

Favorite singing group: The Kingston Trio

Sports Heros:  Mickey Mantle, Johnny Unitas, John Havlicek, Arnold Palmer, Olympian, Bob Matthais, and my brother!

Popular Movies: Laurel & Hardy, The Road Movies with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, A Summer Place, Rebel Without a Cause, The Crimson Pirate, Titanic (the original), The Ten Commandments, White Christmas, King Solomon’s Mines, On the Waterfront, The Steel Helmet, Singng in the Rain.

Instead of new cars in ’43, ’44 and ’45

What was going on when I was born: That little skirmish called World War II, was just ending its second full year of combat in both the European and Pacific theaters.  If you wanted to buy a new car in 1943, ‘44, or ‘45, you couldn’t, the automakers were not making cars during those years, they were making tanks, jeeps and other military vehicles – in 1946 you could buy a new car for $1,800.  For car owners at the time, gas was 19 cents/gallon.  And while we’re shopping let’s pick up some eggs for 57 cents a dozen, a pound of bacon for 43 cents and a half gallon of milk for 31 cents.  At the time you could buy a three-bedroom house in Long Beach for $3,600.  Yes, great prices, however, the average annal salary in California in 1943 was $1,548; yeah, that’s not a typo, that was the annual salary!

But enough about the past, I’m looking forward to the next 80 years . . . OK, maybe not that long, but I’m at the age where I’m seeing too many friends and family cashing in their chips, so it’s more important than ever to understand that no one is promised tomorrow and to live life to its fullest each day.  I am hopeful that the future hold lots of time with my amazing family and allows me to experience some interesting places and cultures around the world that make me a better person and help me appreciate where I live.

Best Ever Kids and Grandkids




Jack, Suzanne and I believe we grew up with the best people, in the best place, at the best time









In keeping with the holiday spirit, I’d have to say . . .It’s a Wonderful Life!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

It’s that time of year again, when we perform a public service by providing a list of “can’t miss” gifts for those you love.  Or hate.  You get to choose.

First up, for the narcissist, the Selfie Toaster.  It’s a toaster that puts your picture on every slice of toast.  Those of you who are long-term subscribers know my dislike for selfies and this gift seems to exemplify everything that is wrong about the constant need to see yourself.  Plus, the manufacturer recommends using white bread to get the best image.  I say people who need to view themselves on toast at the breakfast table deserve all of the bad nutrition white bread offers.

While we’re on food, for the pizza lover I suggest The Pizza Pouch.  It conveniently holds a slice, either between bites or, if they want to save it for later, it can be slid into the pizza pouch and worn around the neck until they’re hungry. Not only will it keep the pizza slice nice and fresh, but it’ll also keep their pockets from getting greasy from stuffing pizza slices into their pants pockets, like normal people do.

And continuing on the ingestion theme, why not get that wine lover on your list The Wine Bra? Although the one in the photo is for women, they also make a version for men that wraps around their waist, so it looks like a beer belly.  This gift is convenient, whether the person is at a party or simply trying to sit through a boring sermon in church.  Who doesn’t need a bra that provides a little lift?

Right about now you might be thinking I’ve lost my marbles.  You could be right.  But I know I’m not alone and if you have a friend like me I have the perfect gift suggestion:  their Lost Marbles.  The trick will be getting them to remember where they left their marbles.  That seems to be a growing problem.

And speaking of growing, how about tormenting the children in your family?  You can give the perfect stocking stuffer: Donut Seeds!  Imagine all the fun you will have watching them bury Cheerios in the back yard and expectantly waiting for donuts to appear.  Strap on the wine rack bra and you really have the perfect night of entertainment.

For the hirsute man in your life, I offer up the Beard Bouquet.  Just think of the chills that will run up your spine when you open the door and these flowers are offered. Personally, all I can think of is that the flowers and leaves add more bacteria to facial hair that is already harboring food particles from yesterday’s breakfast.  I wouldn’t accept these flowers even if they were adorned on one of the Kelce brothers.

Finally, a joke gift with a bit of sentimentality: The Inflatable Cow.  This gift may not be for everyone, but for me and one of my oldest friends, it is perfection itself.  Thirty-five years ago, we moved into houses across the street from each other, and became best friends.  We prided ourselves in coming up with funny practical jokes. One year she burned her Christmas Cornish game hens and they “ding dong ditched” us with them.  The next night we tied red ribbons around the game hens and hung them from the maple tree in their front yard. I could go on and on about all the goofy, fun tricks we played on each other, but one of the best happened on a dark December night when drove onto our street and found a huge plywood cow, adorned with twinkling Christmas lights, on our front lawn.  It was a priceless sight.  This year, Alan has died, and her husband just went into a memory care home.  We are a long way from those fun, stupid jokes.  But when I saw this inflatable cow, I couldn’t help but smile and think of all the fun from that wonderful time in our lives.

I hope some of these stupid gifts bring a smile to your face too.  If not, try taking a smiling selfie and put it on a piece of toast.




customized plates that ensure your face is successfully imprinted on every slice of toast it serves up.  Anyone ordering simply needs to upload a selfie (the bigger, the better) recommends white bread for the best imprint,

Country Roads and AI (Actual Intelligence) – A Minnesota Thanksgiving

by Bob Sparrow

The Road

Minnesota between colors and snow

The narrow, winding road through the rolling hills had two lanes, one in each direction.  The darkening sky reached down to touch the expanse of furrowed fields, which were now brown and barren, but once were, and will be again, the verdant home to acres of corn.  But before that, and for several months to follow, it will be covered in a blanket of snow.  With apologies to Robert Frost, I noticed that in these parts, ‘no fences make good neighbors’, as there are no fences separating properties, whether it’s forty-acre farms or tract homes, no fences, except to keep the cows in.  And while there are no fences between properties like we’d see back home, there are lots of silos, something we don’t have a lot of in California. As I slowed down for a four-way stop, I noticed a middle-aged man, wearing a rust-colored, checkered flannel shirt and a worn Twins baseball cap, walking from his house, down his long, dirt driveway to his mailbox, which sat on a 4 x 4 post where the driveway met the road.  He had his collar turned up to a slight breeze and 13-degree temperature. Hickory, Maple and Oak trees stand bare with  dark branches stretching to the gray sky; only the pines and firs still hold their leaves, waiting for a dusting of snow to put them in their  holiday finary.  I spotted two deer carcasses lying in a ditch on the side of the road, reminding me to drive very carefully as it gets darker.   It had been quite a while since I had driven on a ‘real’ country road – it was at once calming and exhilarating.

The People

Linda, Starlet, Phyllis

I cannot remember the last time Linda and I were not home, hosting family for Thanksgiving, but then again, I can’t remember where I put my car keys this morning.  We typically would have the whole family to our house, which, for the last several years, has also included Linda’s sister, Starlet and husband, Donnie.  But for medical reasons they were unable to ‘snowbird’ from Minnesota to Arizona this winter, and thus were not able to drive over to California for Turkey Day.  So, we decided to take this opportunity to go back to Rochester, Minnesota not only to be with Starlet and Donnie for Thanksgiving, but also to be with Linda’s 97-year-old, sharp-as-can-be mother, Phyllis, who was able to break away from leading her retirement home attendees in their exercise program to join us!  We would also get a chance to see two of Starlet’s daughter’s family, oldest daughter, Denise and husband, Gene and their three kids Garrett, Lindsay and Will, and middle daughter, Debbie and husband, Paul and daughter, Anna and son, Matt; youngest daughter, Ella was unable to make it.

In case anyone has concerns about this ‘younger generation’, here’s a quick bio on Starlet’s grandkids with whom we were able to share the holiday:

Lindsay, Will, Denise, Gene (Garrett had already left for girlfriend’s house)

Grandkids from oldest daughter, Denise and husband Gene

Garrett – Graduated from U of Wisconsin, is now enrolled in a doctorate program at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, where he is studying Aerospace Engineering – it is rocket science!

Lindsay – Graduated from U of Iowa in Global Health & Physiology and is now working in the health field in Washington DC

Will – A junior at U of Wisconsin studying Electrical Engineering


Grandkids from middle daughter, Debbie and husband, Paul

Debbie, Anna, Matt, Starlet, Donnie, surrounding Phyllis

Matt – Graduated from St. John’s, MN in Mathematics, and is working for Edwards Jones Investment Company and living in Denver

Anna – Graduated with honors (3.96 GPA – What, she got a ‘B’?!!!) in Bio-Chemistry from Sacred Heart in Connecticut, was captain of the women’s hockey team and a candidate for NCAA female athlete of the year.  Now in a Physician’s Assistant program.

Ella – Studying Bio-Chemistry at St. Benedict’s in St Joseph, MN and will follow her mother in becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy

(Not in attendance) Grandkids from youngest daughter Melissa, who is an architect in Houston, and husband, Chris’ two daughters,

Sydney – graduated from U of Texas in Finance

Macy – currently a student at U of Arkansas – getting a teaching degree.

My brain hurt just putting that all together!  The whipped cream on top of this Thanksgiving Day punkin pie (home grown and made by Gene) is that they are all as ‘Minnesota Nice’ as they are smart – parents and kids alike.

Needless to say, we had a great, AND educational Thanksgiving; hope you did too!



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

       Dash and Lilly’s date

Two important events happen in the latter part of November -Thanksgiving and Dash the Wonder Dog’s birthday.  I have much to be grateful for this year, but first things first.  Last Thursday Dash turned 11 and celebrated with his girlfriend, Lilly.  As you can see, he’s licking his chops because she is so darn cute.  She not only brought him a spiffy birthday toy, but she also paid for his breakfast! That made her even more attractive.  She will turn 11 next month and her owners, Bob and Dahl, and I hope Dash and Lilly will be celebrating for many years to come.


             Dash on my leg

I was talking about Dash the other day when someone commented, “You know, he’s got you well trained.  You need to treat him like a dog.”  I’m glad Dash wasn’t within earshot of that comment.  A dog, indeed.  I am well aware that he has the upper paw in this relationship, but it has been well-earned.  After all, he gained his nickname, “The Wonder Dog”, when on his first day in our home, he turned my husband, Alan, from an indifferent dog owner into a complete sap.  Over the years he became our loving companion, whether we were sitting on the couch or traveling hours in a car.  As long as he was with us, we were all content.  He brought joy to others when he worked as a therapy dog and has excited countless children who have approached him for a pat and the occasional lick.  In the past four months since Alan’s death, Dash has been my anchor.  He has provided structure for my day and a reason to get up in the morning.  He demands to be fed (on time!) and jauntily takes me outside for a walk each day.  His head resting on my leg is all the comfort I could ask for. At night, he curls up on a pillow next to mine, and as I nuzzle into his downy fur, he looks me in the eye as if to let me know everything will be okay.  His snoring can resemble a freight train, but mostly it is a rhythmic, soft sound next to my ear that lets me know I’m not alone.  He has a heart condition and eleven is getting up there for a Cavalier, so I don’t know how long I will have him.  But I do know this: as long as I am drawing breath, Dash will be spoiled rotten.

So good it has its own Facebook page

As for Thanksgiving, obviously I will have an empty chair at my table this year.  There have been some moments when I’ve thought about pulling the covers up over my head until January 2 and just let the holidays slide by.  But on reflection, I realized that although life will never again be the same for me, I am lucky to have had almost four decades with a wonderful husband.  Over the past four months I have been blessed by the warm embrace of family and friends, who have sustained me through a very tough time. What better time than the holidays to celebrate that?  So especially this week as we pause to give thanks, I want to express my gratitude to my family, friends and to so many of you who have reached out to me.  You have put the “thanks” in my Thanksgiving.  I wish everyone the very happiest of holidays this week.  Remember to have that second slice of pie!!



















Cruise Epilogue and a Photo Finish

by Bob Sparrow



After sailing all night on Friday night, we returned to New York harbor around 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, where I was able to get this great photo of our Miss Liberty and a full moon setting.  Great ending to a great trip!




As most of you know, I love to travel, so when Linda found this cruise and asked if I was interested in going, I said ‘Yes’ before she could finish the sentence.  But, as I previously mentioned, I was not that excited about spending a couple of days in New York and this cruise line was not my favorite.  Additionally, the northeastern coast of the US held no particular interest for me.  As I admitted, I was so wrong about New York and now I can say I was so wrong about the northeast coast; I would highly recommend this tour to all travelers.  My favorite part was probably the mansions in Newport, RI – the stories behind them and just how ostentatious they were is amazing!  The entertainment on board was marginal, other than the casino where I was a small winner at craps, and where Linda was a big winner on the slot machines.  The food, as mentioned, was improved and the staff was excellent, very helpful, friendly and professional.

I recently checked the weather back there and it’s VERY cold, with snow in some places!!  We were so fortunate to have such extraordinarily great weather during the whole cruise.

Following are some additional photos from the trip.

Linda enjoy the song . . . and the singer

In NY, our only day of inclimate weather

The triple treat – shopping bag, ice cream & wine!

Linda checking out a ‘new’ phone system


Monday Night Football Arggggggg!!!

I present you, the Marble House

Lazy Lamp posts in Halifax

“Better luck next time”



                                                “That’s All Folks”

Beautiful Oh Canada – New Brunswick & Nova Scotia

by Bob Sparrow

Pete in Kings Square

St. John, New Brunswick – Prior to this trip I couldn’t tell you the difference between New Brunswick and Old Brunswick.  Oh, there is no Old Brunswick?  So I really wasn’t that excited about getting off the boat in St. John, but now having been there, I’m very excited to tell you about it.  It is a great little town that we had shown to us on Pete’s Walking Tour, yes, the same Pete from Pete’s Pub.  Oh yeah, you don’t know about Pete’s Pub.  Let me start at the beginning.  I must say it again, our trip through Acadia National Park could have been much better, except our guide was a goof, this guide made the tour.  Aside from being one of those people that you just liked immediately, Pete owned a pub in St. John for 35 years, prior to Covid shutting it down.  He then found his real calling in life, as a tour guide to the city he grew up in.  Our walk through the city was two-and-a-half hours, but it was so interesting and informative that it went by in a flash.  Pete gave us names and dates of historical people and occurrences, in those two-and-a-half hours, without ever referring to any notes.  He also told us a few of his old pub jokes, like the time a couple of tough Irish longshoremen came into his pub at nine o’clock in the morning and wanted a drink; Pete told them that they didn’t open until ten; they didn’t move and looked at him rather sternly, he then said, “Would you like to have a drink while you wait?”

Kings Square Pavilion today

Kings Square Pavilion next month

St. John’s history includes a robust shipbuilding industry that attracted many workers, mostly Irish, and at one time made it the third most populous city in Canada, after Montreal and Quebec. St. John’s early history includes many battles between the French and the English, during the 17th century and in the 18th century St. John became a city inhabited by ‘Loyalists’ – those who left America, who were on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War.

Our walk on this beautiful day took us through picturesque Kings Square park, where we were shown a photo of this unique park in the winter.  We knew we were among the last cruise ships to stop here this year, as from this point forward, the weather gets mighty cold and windy.  It is really a great little city, although I just wouldn’t want to spend a winter there.

Hallifax, Nova Scotia (New Scotland) 

Peggy’s Cove

Our last stop on this cruise began with us getting off the ship in the morning and taking a walk on the Halifax waterfront on a picture-perfect day.  They were expecting the temperature to get up to the 70s (a record for this time of year here).  There was not a cloud in the sky, so it was a great day to explore this fascinating city.  Our walk on the boardwalk took us about an hour in a half – lots of tee shirt shops and restaurants.  We had to get back on the ship to meet up with our group so we could get back off the ship for the start our bus tour of Peggy’s Cove and the Titanic Grave Site.

We climbed on the tour bus and found that our guide was very well qualified, as he was raised in this city, worked in this city’s school district and retired in this city to a job of being a tour guide.  Our bus was going to take us to Peggy’s Cove, which was about an hour drive, but our tour guide filled that hour with many facts about the history of the British and the French fighting over this area, as well as the growth of industries based on beaver skins and lobsters.  Our guide told us the story of when he was a junior high school principal and his effort to help better prepare his students-athletes, who all thought they were going to play professional hockey.  He would ask them to make sure they had a Plan B.  When he asked seventh-grader, Sydney Crosby what his Plan B was, Crosby said, “Endorsements!”  Today, Crosby has been one of the premier players in the NHL and has plenty of endorsements – so ‘check’ for both Plan A and Plan B.

Our guide then related several stories about 9/11 and how airlines headed to the US from Europe at the time, were diverted to Nova Scotia, where local families took in the passengers for several days, until flights were once again allowed to enter the U.S.  He said that many of those airline guests still stay in touch with their Nova Scotia host family.

We arrived at Peggy’s Cove (there’s two stories about who Peggy was and why this is her cove, Google it if you care), which is a beautiful, rocky peninsula with one of those classic red and white light houses at the end – it is a spectacular day!  After exploring the area, there is a restaurant there where I decided I could get my full lobster lunch.  We wait in line to be seated and before she seats us we tell the hostess we have about 30 minutes before we have to get back on the bus, and if that’s enough time to have the lobster lunch?  She says that’s not enough time to cook and serve you a lobster – of course!!!

Titanic gravesite

Our final stop of the day was at the cemetery where 121 victims of the Titanic were buried in 1912.  Our guide walked us through the cemetery and pointed out gavesites, and had several stories about a number of the Titanic victims and their families.  Some of the victims are still unknown and thus the gravestones are marked only by a number, which was the number that the rescuers assigned to each body as they found them.

We learned about the booming lobster trade here, how expensive it is to get into the business, how limited the lobster licenses are – everything except actually getting to eat a lobster.


Lobster Update: This was our last stop and I’ve gone ‘lobster-less’ at every port!!!!

Bye Bye!!!








Next Monday: Cruise Epilogue and a Photo Finish (Finally!)



The Emerald Princess and Bar Harbor, Maine

by Bob Sparrow 


Emerald Princess – before we jump on a shore boat and head into Bar Harbor, I should probably tell you a little about the ship we’re on.  As I mentioned previously, the food on previous Princess cruises, in my opinion, was average at best.  Perhaps I was a bit harsh,  as we had dinner at the ship’s steakhouse, the Crown Grill, and it was excellent. So, I’d probably move the food a grade up, from a C to a B+.  The entertainment, which has been pretty good on previous Princess cruises, has dropped down a notch and in some cases more than a notch; like the big musical production, Magic To Do, a combination of a magic show and a Broadway musical, which failed at both.  There was a comedian who wasn’t very funny and a big soul music production with only one person of color.  Fortunately, there are plenty of bars on board and they do make great cocktails!  I will say that the staff of 1,200 was very efficient and friendly.  There were just under 3,000 passengers on board and as you might suspect, at this time of year, no kids and mostly older couples; the men’s hair is either gray or gone.  Going by ourselves afforded us the opportunity to meet other people at dinner at a ‘shared table’, so we would typically eat dinner with three other couples.  A few we wish we had never met, so we eat rather quickly and excuse ourselves, but most, who came mostly from the Eastern seaboard, were fun and interesting to talk with.

Bar Harbor, Maine – Bahh Hahhbahh, as it is affectionately called, is a cute little tourist town with lots of t-shirt shops and lots of bars and restaurants featuring lots of lobstahhs.  Let me get this out of my head and then we can move on.  I saw this on a tee shirt in one of the shops: “Khakis in the rest of the country are brown pants, in New England they are what you use to stahht your cahh”.    

Ivy Manor Inn, Bar Harbor

We have a bus tour scheduled for 1:00 in the afternoon, so we had time to shuttle in from the boat, poke around in some shops, wander past the picturesque and golden leaf-covered Ivy Manor Inn, but mostly have some lobster for lunch.  I figured I had plenty of future opportunities to have a full lobster, so when I saw a lobster roll, which I had never had, I order one.  Our server said they made some of the best lobster rolls on the planet (of course they said that, but did they really?) Having never had one, I obviously couldn’t compare it, but I can tell you it was heavenly!  I was really delighted with my choice, until I saw the couple next to us who each ordered a full lobster – which were about a foot long and looked delicious!  Our lobster roll cost $30, the full lobster that each of the couple next to us was feasting on cost $32!!!!  Back home that lobster would have cost over $100!!  I was certain I would be eating a lobster just like that one, in one of our next two stops.

View of islands and our boat from Cadillac Mt.

Our afternoon bus tour was to Acadia National Park; where the trees were not all resplendent in their fall colors yet, but some of them were.  This park, as is Bar Habor, surprisingly, is on an island, Mount Desert Island, and has everything from heavy woodlands to rocky beaches to glacier-scoured granite peaks, such as Cadillac Mountain, which our tour took us to the top of.  It is the highest point on the U.S.’s East Coast at 1,527 feet – a mole hill in California terms!  We were told that moose and bear run the woodlands and whales abound in the ocean, but the only thing we saw was a squirrel.  The park would have been beautiful if the plants and flowers that were now brown and dead were in full bloom.  Making things worse was our bus driver/guide.  As I’ve said before, the guide can make or break a trip – this one broke it!  It would have been fine if he just pointed out the points of interest, but he tried to be funny . . . and wasn’t – he could never get a job as a Boston Hop-On, Hop-Off driver!  But, it’s still a beautiful park which afforded us some spectacular views of the oceans and surrounding islands.

Off the bus back in Bar Harbor, we happened to pass Paddy’s Irish Pub on our way back to where we caught the shuttle boat, so, of course, we had to stop.  We had a bowl of clam chowder soup and a local beer and were told that we were in the Irish pub in the U.S. that was the closest, geographically, to Ireland.  It made everything taste just a wee bit better!

Lobster Update: OK, I didn’t have a full lobster here, but I checked the lobster roll box, and there’s still time, as they have excellent lobster in our next two ports.


Next Post – Thursday: Oh Canada! – St. John, New Brunswick, Halifax, Nova Scotia