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For the last night of our trip, Ron and I stopped in Bethlehem, PA. It’s about halfway from Massachusetts to home so it made for the perfect stop. We stayed at the Hyatt, mostly because it was within walking distance of shops and restaurants. After being in the car for more than 5 hours, it was nice to just park and walk to dinner. The hotel was amazing and we had a great dinner at Bethlehem Brew Works. The town was nice, but a little crazy because it’s Celtic Classic weekend, a massive three-day Celtic festival. I hear the area really gets into the spirit of Christmas though in accordance with its name.

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Continuing with our Maine vacation, Ron and I took a harbor tour this morning via boat in Portland and, after visiting several places in the Old Port, visited Old Orchard Beach. The place was rather quiet, but looks like it could be rocking in the summer. It even has an amusement park right on the beach along with shops and restaurants on the pier. I’d definitely like to see what it looks like in the summer when everything is open and people are milling about. Although we learned today that the water rarely exceeds temperatures in the low 60’s so I doubt there’s a lot of swimming going on, even in July and August. I could probably be okay with that though since I mostly like to sit on the beach anyway and hardly ever get in the water during our annual week in the Outer Banks. I’d rather soak up the sun than fight waves.

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Ron and I are officially on vacation! We’re not taking a cruise this year, opting instead to spend time in coastal New England. Tonight we’re in New Haven and tomorrow we head to Portland. It’s a little chilly up here, but absolutely gorgeous and I’m sure we’ll have a great time. I’m praying for safe travels and a great trip and feeling so blessed to be taking this vacation. I can’t wait to see some whales and eat some lobster.

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We are officially at the beach. We hit a little traffic on the way down this morning, but it wasn’t too bad. After lunch at the pier, we got moved into our house, went grocery shopping and had dinner. It was a good day for errands since it rained off and on throughout the day. Hopefully tomorrow will be nice and sunny.

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My second photobook came today! I’m really excited about this one because it’s of Ron and I’s cruise last year, which was my favorite so far. I had an amazing time, probably better than him because he was sick for a good portion of the trip. He was a great sport though and we did everything we had planned to, including amazing beaches, Mayan ruins, snorkeling, animal interactions and more. It was an awesome trip and one I’d definitely recommend to anyone.

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Tomorrow we head home, but today we saw Charleston! We walked along the waterfront and down to Battery Park, we walked along King and Meeting Streets, we walked through the market and we visited Rainbow Row. Having been to Charleston before, we had a pretty good idea of where everything was and what we wanted to see and do in our limited time here. Something new, which we didn’t do last time, was take a horse drawn carriage. It’s probably not like your thinking. It isn’t a two-person romantic carriage ride through the streets. These two little mules hauled about 16 people in one carriage through the streets as a tour guide shared stories about the homes, history and people of the area. The architecture in Charleston is amazing. When Ron and I finally build a home, I want it to look like some of these. It’s all about porches, gas lanterns, shutters and doors. Also, they have their own unique look. The first people who came to Charleston were accustomed to brick as a signifier or wealth, or actually a lack there of. So what they did when they built their homes, they used brick, but then put a layer of stucco over it. In the stucco, they carved lines so the homes look like they are made out of stone. With a lot of them, if you look on the sides, you can see brick, but the front looks like stone. The older homes have a limestone appearance, while the newer homes or those that have been renovated, have been painted bright colors Carribean-style. An interesting note is that the Civil War was started here in Charleston by a group of wealthy men who believed it wouldn’t be anywhere near the deathly war it turned out to be. Because of this, it’s said Charleston was “punished” and fell into disarray. A home in the 1960’s on the waterfront could be purchased for $65,000. Now, those same homes are worth millions. Unfortunately, they are usually passed down through the generations and while the older generations are passing, the younger ones can’t afford to live in these massive historic homes. The tour guide said the value is in the architecture, but because the structures are so old, they end up being money pits needing massive amounts of upkeep and restoration. We saw a house today that has original Tiffany stained glass windows, installed by Mr. Tiffany himself. The windows, not suprisingly, are covered with bullet proof glass and are worth more than the house itself. It was interesting to see that so many of the homes are up for sale, whereas not many were when we came here almost five years ago. I guess that just goes to show that the economy affects everyone.

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Today, Ron and I visited Grand Turk. and the world famous Govenor’s Beach. It was absolutely amazing. You could snorkel around some coral to see different fish. I have to admit, I don’t see well usually, so snorkeling wasn’t for me. The stupid mask would fog up and then I really couldn’t see anything. And it’s brutal on your hair. The rubber strap get stuck and pulls on it. Ron, however, really enjoyed it. While I only saw one fish, he saw a whole bunch of various colored ones. Lying on the beach was nice. The people there played music, mostly songs played in my Zumba class so I had to resist the urge to groove, and had a bar with sodas and other drinks. A woman was also grilling up food, but we never ate anything. After leaving the beach, we did a little shopping before heading back to the ship. Today was our last port day, now we have a day at sea tomorrow before we arrive back in Miami on Saturday. Our vacation is far from over though; we don’t have to be back to work until Tuesday!

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Today, our ship pseudo-docked at Half Moon Cay. Basically it just floated around in the ocean and we had to take tender boats to shore. Ron and I were up early, mostly thanks to Ron, so we were able to catch the first boat. We got on the island at about 8:50 a.m. and spent pretty much all day there, getting back to the ship around 3:15 p.m. Half Moon Cay is absolutely amazing. It was definitely a perfect way to celebrate our one year anniversary. If you ever get a chance to go there, please take it. The sand is super white and the water is this crazy clear blue color. All of these little fish swim around you and occasionally you can catch a little baby wave from the tender boats coming in and out. I rented a float for $11 and it was the best money I’ve spent thus far. I was able to just lay in the ocean and float around. Half Moon Cay is a private island in the Bahamas owned by Carnival and since no other ships were there, we had it all to ourselves. They have bars, of course, and waiters serve you drinks on the beach. They also serve a massive barbecue style lunch. You can parasail, rent boats, snorkel, rent cabanas, etc. We opted to just hang out on the beach and in the water. Sadly, the shop wasn’ t open when we left, so I didn’t get my prerequisite Christmas ornament, but they have some here on the ship that I add the place name to when I get home. Tommorrow is an at sea day and then Tuesday we’ll be in St. Thomas. I’m excited for St. Thomas because I’ve heard all of these amazing things about the Virgin Islands so I hope it lives up to the hype.

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Vacation planning is underway. At first, we were pretty settled on Siesta Key. Then, because it’s located on the gulf I thought maybe it wasn’t the best idea to plan a vacation there during hurricane season. Now, I’m leaning towards the Keys. That was until Ron suggested a cruise. After looking at what’s offered during September, it seems we could pay a ton to go on Royal Carribean’s Allure of the Seas, otherwise known as the Mack Daddy of cruise ships. Or, we could pay a cheaper rate and have a nicer room on Carnival which we have experience with. For now we’re undecided, but I definitely want to go somewhere with warm temperatures, palm trees, blue water and lots of sun. You only celebrate your first anniversary once.

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I have to send in my passport soon to have my name changed. If you do it within the first year of having your passport, you don’t have to pay the ridiculous fee again. However, if anyone remembers how bad it was trying to get my passport the first time, you’ll know why I haven’t done it yet. But that’s not the only reason. Unfortunately, getting a new passport means I’ll lose the one stamp I have. I’m pretty sad about it because it proves I’ve been out of the country. It’s the only time I’ve ever been out of the country, too, so it’s kind of a big deal. I guess I’ll have to go back so I can get a new stamp. Oh well, I guess maybe it’s not so bad then.