Patrick H. Hoy here – and I can’t believe that this week on Monday the 23rdof September, summer ‘officially’ ended – and Fall began – how did that happen?!? Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were welcoming in the summer with Memorial Day?! It seems the older I get, the faster the seasons seem to fly by! As a kid, I used to want the summer to go on and on and on – it was that time of the year when I didn’t have any cares in the world – and I didn’t have to do any homework – but most of all, it was that time of the year when I got to be with my friends – and with my family – more than any other time of the year. I knew that the minute Labor Day arrived, it was going to be time to head back to school.
I’m sure we can all remember the first assignment of the new school year. We would all arrive to our first class – and our teachers would have us take out our notebooks – and they would ask that question that let us know the new school year had truly begun: “Okay students, what did you do on your summer vacation?” It was probably my favorite paper to write the entire year – because it allowed me to stretch out the summer just a LITTLE bit more – and to be able to relive the happy moments of my fun in the sun – so, in this blog, I wanted to share with you what I, as a grown-up kid, did THIS summer!
Without a doubt, the BEST thing I did on my summer vacation this year, was going on a cruise with my mother, father, brother, sister-in-law, my 2 nephews and my partner! This was a trip organized by my mother – and it was a trip that I will remember for the rest of my life! What made this even more fun was the fact that, as a family, we had never taken a cruise all together. Here’s a picture of me with my parents & my brother – it’s the first picture ever of the 4 of us together on any cruise ship!
Mom had always wanted to go on a Windstar Cruise – so that’s what we did – and it was AMAZING – and the itinerary was magical!
We started in Lisbon – and then sailed over 8 nights – ending up in Barcelona. I wish I could tell you what city was my favorite – but it’s impossible to pick just one! It really was about the whole journey – and in all honesty, it really was about us all being together. My parents now live in Little Rock, AR – and my brother and his family live in New Orleans, LA. And with me living in London, it’s rare these days that we’re all able to be together in the same place – so this cruise was about reconnecting as a family – and exploring a part of the world that none of had been to – so I guess THAT was my favorite part of the cruise!
I will tell you what was pretty amazing though…the cruise ship! WOWZA – Windstar is an amazing line – and it was the first time any of us had sailed on them. We were on the Windstar Surf ship, which held about 310 passengers – and it actually had working sails on the ship. Here’s a picture of that beautiful ship:
And if you think it looks great in the daytime, just see what it looks like in the evening at sunset with the sails up!
I’ll never forget the moment all of us stepped on board – it was pure magic – and I knew this was going to be one of the BEST vacations of my life! Of course, one of the first things you must do when you get on a cruise is to attend the Life Vest Drill. Here we all are. I think you can tell from this picture that my nephews are silly guys – and YES – Charles eventually got the vest on correctly – and YES – I finally had my first cocktail of the cruise!
And let me tell you, the cabins on the ship were beautiful! They were really well appointed – and the beds were the BEST beds I’ve ever slept on!
And the food….oooooooh the food! I think I must have gained about 10 pounds during our week on the ship. I can say, without a single doubt, that is was the most Quack-A-Licious food I’ve ever had on a cruise ship – seriously! And if I had to pick just one meal that stood out the most, it would have to be the mid-week BBQ Buffet that Windstar does on every sailing. The upper deck is transformed into a restaurant – and the chefs come out of the kitchen and set up a BBQ for all of us to watch them cook. They had steak, ribs, shrimp, paella, salads, homemade breads, luscious cakes & pies – and my favorite – unlimited grilled lobster tails!! Just look at what they prepared for all of us:
And look at how content Mom & Dad were after the meal – this is definitely one of my favorite pictures of them during the trip:
One of my other favorite pictures from our vacation is this one of my father, my brother Tim and myself – I think there’s a little bit of a resemblance there – what do you all think?!
But my absolute favorite picture is this one with my gorgeous mother Ann – isn’t she stunningly beautiful?!
Speaking of favorites – one of our favorite excursions was in Barcelona. I had organized, for our whole family, a guided tour of the HUGE food market in the middle of the city – which was followed by a hands-on cooking class. WHAT FUN that was!! Here are some pictures of the main food market – the colors, smells & displays were AMAZING!
And here we are after the tour at the cooking class. We helped cook and prepare everything we ate that afternoon. You’ll see my parents slicing & peeling fresh fruits for the Sangria we drank. You’ll also see Mom taking her turn at preparing the Paella – which is a Valencian rice dish full of seafood or meats – similar to the Jambalaya you would have in New Orleans. And you’ll see me caramelizing the sugar on top of our delicious desserts. You’ll also see that my nephews definitely gave this meal 2-thumbs-up!
Another highlight of the trip was visiting the La Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited many major cathedrals and churches around the world – from St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5thAvenue in NYC – to the Vatican in Rome – but I would have to say that La Sagrada Familia is one of the most beautiful, interesting & STUNNING churches I’ve ever seen. The detail on the outside is incredible:
And you’ll see even more heavenly detail from the other side of the church:
And if that wasn’t magical enough – just look at the glorious lighting – and detail – inside the church!
And look at the light coming though these stained-glass windows – along with the detail all the way up to the ceiling – it is truly majestic – and it is worth the trip to Barcelona alone just to see this church!
Soooo, what was the best part of our family vacation??? That’s an easy question to answer…getting to celebrate my beautiful mother’s birthday on the last night of the cruise – it really doesn’t get any better than this!
What an amazing family trip this was. My brother & I are so grateful that our parents graciously included us – and were so generous by including our own families. We made new memories that will stay with us for the rest of our life’s – it’s a voyage that I will never forget. Thank you Mom & Dad again for an amazing experience!
I hope that you all had wonderful summers as well. Please let us know what YOU did on your summer vacation or staycation – we’d love to hear what new memories you made over the gorgeous summer of 2019!
Love & Quacker Hugs From Across The Duck Pond!
Patrick H. Hoy
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