It probably began in Savannah, Georgia eastcoast 006 where we stopped on our way to Florida and a cruise ship.

We took in the moss hung streets of that southern belle of a town eastcoast 004then went in search of southern seafood. We found thick crab cakes with grits and rich scallops alfredo. eastcoast 007 We stayed at a cheap motel in the swamps west of town where the morning fog smells like the paper factory nearby and the coffee tastes like the sulfur water common in the southeastern seaboard.

Mary Lou told me her life story while she brewed the sulfur coffee in the motel office. Years of southern cooking made her wide as she was high. She “wasn’t always that way”. In high school she learned automotives and welding and became a specialist at fitting new engines into her beloved “Cheevrooleets” before she even had a license. Her father got sick and she quit school to take care of him. She became a roofer, bought a trailer and moved her mother in when her dad died. Then she got pregnant, took the motel job and the rest is history. She’s never traveled, never had an interest really, but when I told her we were driving to Florida to catch a boat to Britain she said she’d have her bags packed by the time I finished the sulfur coffee.

Erica, unlike Mary Lou, was not that excited about the cruise. Grant it, we were attempting a 9 day North Atlantic passage on our first cruise. The cruise was 13 days in total under the able control of Captain Remo cruiese5 capt remo (that’s right, Remo) a Norwegian like my merchant marine grandfather.  The highlight of the first five days was our visit to Old San Juan where I saw Puerto Rican style basketball.

Iguana play basketball?

Iguana play some hoops, man?

This made me feel slightly better about missing  the US College Basketball finals.

On the 6th day we got down to the serious business of the Atlantic passage. I quickly slipped into the cruise pattern:  breakfast, cruise2 050  pool, cruise3 027  lunch, cruise3 009 a little rest cruise2 016 coffee break, cruise3 008  a visit to the frozen custard stand cruise3 011 by the pool, cruise3 033  dinner, cruise4 004 high cultural events like this art auction (free champagne for all attendees) cruise4 002 repeat.

I started becoming aware of the problem with this pattern when I found myself combining buffet food in creative ways like Italian antipasti with Chinese pot stickers or, my favorite, an orange/banana cold soup ladled on top of chocolate ice cream. Yummm!

Our focus on food changed off the Azores when a cold front hit us with gale force 10 winds and 30 foot seas. turning the pools into fountains.cruise4 008 It was only with appetites diminished that we took the time to discover the most interesting part of the cruise, the staff from 72 different countries. Most staff were from the developing world, each with their own stories. Erica entered the sauna one day to find a fully uniformed member of staff  from the Philippines trying to blunt the arctic chill of the North Atlantic. While warming up she told Erica of the 10 months at sea and how she misses her 2 year old son back home. As Lands End came into view I saw staff girls jumping and hugging with joy, some seeing England for the first time, others coming back home after so long.

We’re back in Llandudno now. We took a walk on the promenade today. At times we felt like we were back on the deck of the ship, tilting and riding. Tonight we’re looking out on the sunset on the Irish sea and like the staff girls I’m feeling the joy of being home after such a long time away.