Focus On Fun Travel

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mesa, Az - The Beginning


     It is 1am on Dec 30 (Happy Birthday, Mom!). I was awakened by the clicking nails of our dog, Tallie, trotting through the hallway a couple times, when I should have heard the sound of THUNDER! . Oh, how I hate being a light sleeper!  Thunder does not happen very often in Winter, in Northern Utah, but it is snowing outside. My now awake mind made me realize that I had started this blog in a rather dull way, but the "thunder" brought an idea that I think most of you will appreciate. Let's take a look at places that I have visited, with a little more depth and purpose.  So I have abandoned the name One Beautiful World, and replaced it with a more exciting Around the World Every Day.  And with the name change, I will explore a different place with all y'all (that's Plural) each and every day.

    It is very appropriate that I start at the beginning.  The place of my birth..and my mother's birth...and her mother's birth.  Mesa, Arizona.  With a history of over 2000 years through the Hohokam indians, this city has found a way to thrive, inspite of being in the middle of an unforgiving desert.  It was the Hohokam's that created a canal system network of over 125 miles, that gave early settlers the ability to sink roots, so to speak.  That canal network is still used today.

     Founded by Mormon Pioneer's in 1878 (No, my Grandmother was not one of those pioneer's! How old do you think I am?), with the original settlement named after a Book of Mormon prophet, Lehi (pronounced Lee High).  The names of the early settlers are ones that I and my mother grew up with, Crismon, Sirrine, Pomeroy, and Robson.  So even though the city is officially 133 years old in January 2011, those names have remained.  Amazing, since they had to compete for space against Scorpions, Diamondback Rattle Snakes, Gila Monsters, Choilla (a.k.a. Jumping Cactus), Desert Rats, like my friend Kellie, and nearby lawman/outlaw, James D. Houck.

   I came to be... in 1963 (I feel a rap coming on) in Mesa Southside Hospital, near the corner of Main St and Mesa Dr, which is now a city government building.  My family lived in a few places throughout the city during my growing up years, but it was the house at 1755 N Forest, that I remember the most.  My parents built this house in 1969, in spite of my father having an accident on Mormon Flat Dam, on Apache Lake, which left him permanently disabled.  This house has special memories, like playing football with my brother and his friends in the "pasture" (our large back yard). Flood irrigation and catching frogs by night. Jumping the irrigation ditches on my bicycle. Lighting on fire the wheat field behind our house and pretending it was caused by "I Don't Know"! Dove hunting in the nearby orange groves. Walking the dirt streets bare footed. School grades 2-8. My brother sneaking up on me in a dark bedroom and scaring me half to death. Yep, this house is still awesome in my mind, and I have had dreams of buying it back.  After growing up (Many dispute that this has occured) and getting married, Barbi and I lived here for 14 years before relocating to Northern Utah.  Because I still have family here, we visit sometimes.

     Mesa has many wonderful places to see which are of interest.  Because of its Mormon Pioneer heritage, the Mesa Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is one of those building completed at a time, in a desert, that amazes even me. Located at the corner of Main St and LeSueur, this building was completed in 1927.  Though not the oldest building still standing, it is certainly the grandest.  There is a visitor's center and the manicured grounds are incredible for a desert community. There is an annual Easter Pagent perfomed here.  The Christmas lights are also a must see.

     Falcon Field Airport has an impressive collection of war birds (Not Romulon or Klingon), maintained by the Commemorative Airforce I have always had an interest in military aircraft.  This is a must see.  The airport also has an interesting history, as it was used to train British Royal Airforce personnel after its construction in 1941.  The Apache helicopter, used by the U.S. Army, is still manufatured at a plant near the airport.

     Dowtown Mesa still has that throwback feel to it. Not much has changed since the buildings were constructed.  It is fun to walk and visit the shops there.  Near the downtown area and across the street from the Mesa Temple, is Pioneer Park.  A great place to have a picnic lunch and let the kids play.

     For food, there is no more special place to me than Matta's. The first restaurant opened in 1953 on Main St, West of Stapley.  The kids knew it was a special treat when our parents would take us to Matta's.  I learned that my dad's favorite meal would become mine...3 soft taco's, covered in Chili Con Carne.  mmmmmmm.  Now they can be found in 2 different locations.  See them at  The hispanic community here is well established, making authentic mexican food easy to find.

     If you love to golf in the winter, there is no better place than Mesa and the surrounding Phoenix Metro area. I will say that the desert is most beautiful in the winter time. No Snow. Rarely gets below freezing.  This is why the "snowbirds" love this area. Retirees migrate to Mesa and the surrounding areas from colder regions northward each winter.  You can easily find all 50 states and all canadian provincial license plates here between October and March.  Because of its proximity, you'll also see mexico license plates.

My Family and Olga

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post Christmas Dreams

Christmas 2010 has come and gone!  I continue to be amazed at how quickly this year has passed, and 2011 is almost upon us.  Barbi and I, here at Focus On Fun Travel, have been hard at work for everyone who has discovered us. Our desire to help everyone discover this One Beautiful World, is what drives us.  We too want to share in what is out there see, smell, and revel in.  When we watched, The Bucket List, we started to keep lists ourselves. 

This year, we also have experienced some awesome wonders, such as: 
  • A Transatlantic Cruise on the Crown Princess from Ft. Lauderdale to Rome. We were a little apprehensive in not knowing what to expect crossing the Atlantic ocean for 8 days, but since, there are no regrets.  What glorious, restful days these were, on such a beautiful ship. Reading a book on our balcony stateroom. Enjoying Sushi in the Piazza, while listening to some entertainment. Naps with the gentle rolling of the sea, sometimes with the balcony door open. Meeting new friends, sharing first class cuisine for dinner, and watching world class nightly entertainment.  By the time we had stopped in our 3rd port (Barcelona), we were ready for more relaxing sea time.
  • Entering the Sistine Chapel after standing in a hard rain.  Once we arrived in Rome, after enjoying some of the most beautiful sites in the world (Gibraltar, Alicante Spain, Barcelona Spain, Marceille France, Livorno (Pisa and Florence) Italy), we were only anticipating all that we would get to see while we were here. It was a very rainy day, May 15, but we were excited for all that awaited us. The walk through the Vatican Museum, shown at left, was just the beginning.  Even though the crowds were huge, the amazing artwork displayed here was almost overwhelming. Hardly any space was not taken up with some type of painting.  If you wanted to, you could stop and just stare at what was in front of you.  From here were eventually ended up in the Sistine Chapel, which is a place that you cannot take pictures or video.  It was dark here, so pictures would have been difficult, but still the wonder of Michaelangelo's masterpiece can only be experienced.  From here, we entered St Peters Basilica, with its enormous roof, and again, more artwork to excite the senses. Statues, Paintings, tile work...WOW!  It was almost a relief when we left to go outisde to St Peters Square.  Now we find that all of Rome..almost, is one big museum of art.  Buildings are not immune from the master's hands.

  • Meeting a dear friend outside the Collesium. Saturday was Rainy all day, but we managed just fine with umbrellas, shops, and the metro. Our hotel was about 3/4 mile from the entrance to the Roman Forum, where the Collesium is. Sunday was sunny and absolutely beautiful.  After attending a local church, which I highly recommend, as it is all part of the experience, we had previously arranged to meet a former exchange student of ours, who lives in Germany. She decided to meet us in Rome! How cool is that? And what better place to meet, than at the Collesium.
Meeting Olga was truely the highlight of our trip. It was a tearful reunion that will always be remembered and cherished, as we had not seen each other for 9 years.  Facebook can only do so much.  There is nothing better than a hug and rubbing shoulders with a loved one.  To the right is the 3 of us in the metro station.  Our time together was much too short.  Notice my hat?  It was better than an umbrella and easy to pack. Just roll it up!
But this trip wasn't the only bucket list item we fulfilled this year. There are grand and glorious things to see right here in the United States, and we took the time as a family to enjoy some time with friends, who were our guides, in Northern California.  I honestly don't believe there is a single person out there who would not enjoy seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. 
Taking a ferry ride to explore Alcatraz Island for the day.
Sampling some world renouned cheese in Sonoma. Tasting perfectly aged wine in this cousin of Italy, which is the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  Seeing for your own eyes, a movie icon and most dangerous beach, Goat Rock State Park. 
Wondering up to the Harbor seals that are lounging nearby.  Gazing up in Awe at one of the many Redwood Forests in Northern California, such as the Armstrong Grove shown here.

Our personal bucket list, I believe, is very dynamic, as we find that we can add things to it when we discover places we did not know were there, just by driving down the road.  And though I, like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, wanted to have lunch at the Great Pyramids, or unlike them, want to climb to the top of Mont St. Michal, dive in the crystal waters of greece, walk the streets of Jerusalem, spend an evening in an Irish Pub, Stare in the face of a Beef Eater, float down the Danube River, dive for pearls in Bora Bora, Barbi and I will continue to take it one year at a time.  Looking back at 2010, even though it flew by, we had a great year for family memories.  And it is the Family memories that you can take with you when you go, not the souvenirs.
So, What is your bucket list of dreams and why?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time ... At Least It Should be

Christmas is fast approaching, and I am drawn ponder and be thankful for the things in life that are most important.
  • Family - Those closest around you that love you unconditionally. Who care deeply enough to let you make the hard decisions.  Who stick with you through the hard times and try to help you through the the tears and pain. Who are first in line to laugh and cheer you on in your triumphs. Those who you can receive the most hugs from because they are so near.
  • Friends - The ones, though you may not see them or talk every day, will drop everything to come to your rescue. Who are just a call or text away, and will listen with an objective ear and give sound advise. Those that are willing to serve and be served. Who will let you return the shoulder to cry on, or the arm to lift and strengthen. Who say "Thank You", OR, "Because I love you."
  • Faith - Believing in that, which cannot be seen, yet you feel it is true. Seeking for a higher power to draw strength from.  Receiving a calm assurance and warm feeling that what you believe is real and that you are never truly alone, no matter what your circumstances are.
This is the time of the year, which often we wish would last all year, that we can forget ourselves, and lift another.  And if you think about it, and it really doesn't take much brain power, you can think of many who you can serve.  Service doesn't take any money.  It only takes a willing heart.  What could you do for those around you that you see each day?  I'll share my thoughts on what I believe to be the most important, for those of you who have this opportunity.

Your Spouse - This Should really be easy.
  • Turn off the T.V., the Video Game, your iPhone, Android, or favorite book.... and listen. Really do it. Give your full attention!  Have a 2-way conversation.  I have to remind myself on this very often.  I am no marriage counselor, as Barbi would attest to, and I never claim to be perfect, but in my heart, I know what I should do.  I guess I should listen most often to my heart. My friend Laura, who I met on a couple's cruise in 2007, who is a Relationship Consultant, would be pleased to see me say this. There is no better reward in life than serving your spouse.
  • Have a date night...Regularly. Your best friend should share your best times. Date nights don't have to cost a lot of money. But you should devote your whole attention to that person while you are on your date...every time.  I need to learn from this statement more as well.  Too often, my smart phone will alert and I'll pull it out and read a work email, or a Twitter feed, or John Heald's Latest Blog.  Though I enjoy reading John's blogs, I can certainly wait until I am alone, in the bathroom, or sliding down the water slides on the Carnival Magic.
  • Take a trip together.  Now this one I believe I have accomplished well since meeting Laura on that Valentine's cruise 2007, aboard the Grand Princess to the Western Caribbean.  Barbi and I have discovered a whole new meaning of reconnecting and enjoying the beauty of the world, TOGETHER.  It has now become at least an annual event.  It has not always been aboard The Love Boat, but it has always been together.
We have even incorporated family, friends, and faith in these events, due the multiple days that cruising gives us.  On each cruise, we make new friends, some who we stay in contact with on Facebook or by having dinner with. These contacts expand our world and give us opportunity to explore other places we have never seen. Australia, Mexico.....Kentucky! How awesome is that?  When we sailed through the Panama Canal last year, we took the time to participate in Jewish Sabbath Services.  We are not Jewish, but we really enjoyed sharing in the faith of these individuals and experiencing something new and uplifting.  We shared a cruise with our son to the Southern Caribbean, which was a wonderful experience.  Though we did not hang out with our 21 year old, the times together were experiences we will never forget.  Our next cruise, on the Carnival Splendor, we will be taking more of our family with us.  Our younger children who have never had a cruise vacation.  They are so excited and I look forward to seeing their eyes light up when we get on board.

So this most "Wonderful time of the year" really should last all year long. Laugh each day, like you are Karaoke singing.  Laughter makes all the troubles of the world disappear. Search Endorphins on the internet!  Love more deeply!  Picture yourself dancing under the stars on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. Where no one else is around.  Take lots of pictures.  I don't know about you, but my memory doesn't remember everything, but pictures help me to remember.

Travel Well,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Another Fun and Exciting Day in the Trenches

We have re-booked most of our group on the Carnival Splendor for Feb 20.  It has taken us several hours of phone calls to Carnival, and several heart pounding moments, wondering if we were going to be able to help everyone stay on board.  Some have decided to take a later cruise in March and others are going in May, but with our help, we have been able to get them scheduled and taken care of...except for one family and extended members.

The challenge that comes with having to change travel plans are the psychological disappointments that come with.."I gotta wait how long to go on vacation?"  I have been feeling the same way, since Barbi's and my last vacation in May (a transatlantic cruise aboard the beautiful Crown Princess for 2 weeks, visiting Gibraltar, Spain, France, and Italy).  That seems like a lifetime ago.  I have been working myself up for this Mexican Riviera cruise with the whole family (A first for us), and counting down the days.  I was about to send out a facebook update, this past Wednesday, to tell everyone "HEY..Only 45 days to go", when the trouble began.

The family I mention are associates in another industry, and they enthusiastically encouraged some other friends to come along.  Now, all of a sudden, calendars are not working for Feb 20th for everyone. They are torn between coming with us, their friends, and taking the vacation sooner -- OR -- Waiting til later and going with the other friends.  "I want to go now" or I want to be with you guys".  They have looked at all kinds of options, but it really comes down to now or later.. AND .. which friends do we choose to be with.  I don't envy their decision, and I hope they choose to go, rather than NOT go AT ALL.  After all, Friends are Friends.  We'd love to be with them, but it is ok if they go with the other friends.

Carnival has certainly been in a tough situation with the Splendor.  The equipment needed from the Ship builder has to be manufactured from scratch, thus the longer delay.  Though the agents we have talked to have not been consistent in their answers, they have been excellent to work with and have done much to accommodate all passengers affected by this delay.  Carnival has a long and excellent reputation.  I know many who will sail with no other cruise line.  The safety record of the cruise industry as a whole is remarkable, which is one reason I am such a huge fan.  If I had more time off available, I would take the lead of my Australian Friends, the Stewart's, and cruise to every destination I could...Rather than Fly.  It is so much more comfortable and relaxing getting there.  When heading westbound, you even get to enjoy 25 hour days (One Time Zone per day).  No jet lag there.

Your Friend, Marty

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Carnival Splendor Cruise

I was glad I awoke early this morning to watch the MS Statendam (Holland America) begin its transit of the Panama Canal.  We have good friends who departed Ft. Lauderdale last Friday for the 14 day voyage to San Diego, and I wanted to save some pictures from the live webcams that can be viewed at the Gatun and Miraflores locks.

Upon discovering that I was late waking up and missed the entering, I started to send out a facebook update to our friends going with us on Barbi's birthday cruise on the Carnival Splendor on Jan 30.  I had a question on how many days til the cruise and pulled up Carnival's website and saw "Carnival Splendor Update".  I clicked on it and to my horror, saw that this morning they cancelled 5 more sailings due to needing parts from the ship manufacturer in Italy and also correcting some problems that surfaced during testing.  This means sailing from Jan 16 - Feb 13 we canceled! OH MY GOSH!

I ran upstairs and rallied the troops (Barbi) and immediately started alternate planning.  We found ourselves ahead of the game, as we had not yet received official notice from Carnival, so rebooking should be a breeze.  Well, looking at options, we quickly discovered that it would be in everyone's best interest to wait until Feb 20 to sail on the Splendor.  There were no other 7 day west coast sailings to take advantage of the price guarantee before then.  And moving to a longer or shorter cruise on the Carnival Spirit would mean using the 25% discount, instead of the price match, which really did not help in keeping rates in line with what we negotiated for our group.  The 9 day spirit sailing would have cost $200-$400 more depending on the category of the reservation.

Armed with lots of information, we quickly sent out an email to alert everyone, followed up with phone calls, where needed.  At this point, only one couple in our group decided not to re-book, the rest are pretty set on Feb 20, though we all agree that 3 weeks farther in waiting is a heart break.  We all can use the break NOW!

Here is a quick synopsis of the details:
  • Next sailing available to book on the Carnival Splendor is Feb 20, 2010
  • All passenger affected by the cancellation of sailings between Jan 16 and Feb 13 can reschedule between Feb 20 and May 22 to take advantage of the Price Guarantee on the 7 day voyages on Carnival Splendor.
  • A 25% future cruise credit is being given to all passengers on cancelled voyage to use within 2 years.
  • Passenegers not re-booking will receive a full refund within 10 days.
  • Airfare change fees will be reimbursed through a refundable on-board ship credit.
This is the real benefit of using a travel agent, like us, who do not charge any fees to you for our services.