Ever So Grateful

Hello there, family and friends. Yes, I’m actually here and yes this is a post that is not a list. #shocker. I had every intention of keeping up with this blog when I returned home and didn’t think putting together posts would be so tough. But they were. Well, blogging isn’t hard per say, however finding the time and taking the time away from loved ones when you’re leaving is hard. So I didn’t blog consistently and that was that. Hopefully I’ll find my blogging groove next week, things have been so cuckoo bird crazy the past 60 days I haven’t really been able to catch my breath enough to get back on schedule.

Speaking of cuckoo bird crazy, we are officially living in Knoxville, can you believe it? I still find myself clicking into vacation mode at my aunt and uncle’s house only to realize nope, this is not vacation, this is where we will be living the next month or so. All of our essential possessions are down here with us and we are settling in with my family. They are incredible for hosting us so we are trying to pick up slack where we can to show our gratitude.

Which brings me to the crux of this post. Grateful. The word of the past three months. Grateful for this life and this opportunity. Grateful for a savings plan and financial advisor who believes in our dreams. Grateful Le Husband and I are on the same page in this journey. Grateful for outside support from friends even though the plan sounds a big crazy. Grateful for the financial freedom to walk away from good money. Grateful for a safe 30 days exploring a different continent. Grateful for no disasters. Grateful for a company who believed in me and allowed me a trip before I left. Grateful for parents always welcoming us into their homes no matter how long. Grateful for friends making time to see us before we left. Grateful for big hugs of love from family back home that opened up to let us take this journey.


Grateful for open and welcoming arms here in Knoxville. Grateful for a new view on life. Grateful for faith. Grateful for new bike trails to travel and new bike friends to meet. Grateful for blog friends in the area. Grateful for a BODYPUMP audition at a Gold’s Gym today. Grateful for being able to catch up a sleep deficit from April. Grateful I don’t have to spend every waking moment on a resume. Grateful for an area with multiple jobs in a field I hope to try. Grateful for family at the dinner table and not feeling alone in a new environment. Grateful for friends/family texting, calling and checking in with us. Grateful for friends who show up no matter what. Grateful for technology to stay connected to those I love. Grateful for this beautiful view to help me find my new bearings.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Thanks for being there for us, it means the world :)!

What I’m Really Gonna Miss

… seven malls [three high end] within thirty minutes of my apartment.

… playing kickball on the National Mall on Thursday nights in the summer. #airlikesilk

… randomly walking to dinner with P for a date night.

… our first home together in apartment 13.

… TAPS every week night from Fort Myer. #dayisdone #mybedtimecue

… soccer games at the Sportsplex with my teammates. #sevenyearslater

… teaching BODYPUMP to classes of 50+.

… dancing the night away at multiple bars either in DC or Arlington. #herestothenightswefeltalive

… lifting at the big boy gym and pumping heavy weight.

… hundreds of restaurants to choose from when we don’t feel like cooking.

… trendy restaurants which new fusion ideas.

… early morning bike rides into the city for kickball practice.

… groups texts planning an impromptu happy hour due to gorgeous weather.

… walking [or driving] to Menchies for a late night snack.

… sushi nights with friends when P is out of town.

… my bestest and her sweet lil family.

… pool time in the summer. #lovemypoolfamily

… meeting soccer peeps at bars to watch the US play. #copaamericanextmonth #wherewilliwatch

… having my two best friends and sissys a text and short drive away. #ughgonnacrynow

… family brunches after church and dinners after soccer on Sundays.

… my parents cheering at our Sunday night soccer games. #33andtheystillcometowatchmeplay

… kickball night in America.

… my friends.

… the Cowboys beating the deadskins at home. #ilovetogloatoverthatteam

… sissy wine nights and dance parties.

… Pollo Rico dinner nights.

… a job which gives me plenty of vacation and the ability to use it whenever I want.

… my family. #hearthurting

We picked this adventure and are more than ready for something new, but that doesn’t mean we turn our backs on our past. Northern Virginia holds so many special memories to us as a couple, dating and married and it will always be our FIRST home together. I am also leaving the place I’ve called home since 1998. I’m leaving friends, teams, jobs and memories behind which is sad. Knoxville is going to be a huge change, a good change, but a huge change. I am excited to start our new life, but I already miss my family and friends. To new beginnings with old memories to keep me company on the journey.

 

The Last Day Has Arrived

Today I turn in my badge and walk away from a ten year career with my company. What started as ‘just a job for two years’ somehow turned into a ‘day in day out’ that lasted through the years and here is where the story ends. Today, May 27th 2016, will be my last day at Verizon.

I joined the company with a resume employees would laugh at now. My only experience was with an administrative job and I was only a year out of college. Gigs, metadata, Cable labs, mezz files and xmls were words I’d never heard of,  but I learned and studied and learned and here I am today with ten years of media experience. Four managers later and I am the senior member on my team. I’ve had hats in business intelligence, media operations, content and production and been the self appointed social and ‘fun’ chair on all my teams.

My pink cubicle is no more and all of my Cowboys paraphernalia has been boxed up or bestowed on other fans and friends. My laptop has been wiped clean of all Pinky and my desk phone no longer has the funny Pinky name a coworker gave it. Snuggies, blankets, snacks and coffee has been packed up and I even found an old CAT5 wire in a drawer from strike training so many years ago.

Career is a word I use lightly as I never wanted a career here. There was too much time behind a computer screen and not enough out in a field working with people. Hopefully my next job will bring a lil more people interaction, but who really knows what the future will bring. I’m thankful for my time here, despite the major ups and downs, this job has been very good to me. I’ve been able to take mission trips [seven] and travel twice a month for kickball tournaments. Everyone on my team was so kind when I got engaged and so incredibly supportive the month of my wedding. Sick days have never been questioned and working remotely when needed created a unique sense of appreciation.

Yesterday was a crazy day and one that had me nostalgic. I completed my exit interview and leaving the room everything really felt final. This is the end. We had a big team fun day yesterday [kind of cool how that coincided with my last week] and our team played in a kickball game. If I weren’t leaving I would have bailed on the game and playing because I’m not really a ‘hangout with work people outside the office’. Man am I glad I allowed myself to be talked into playing this time because it was a lot of fun. We didn’t win, lost by one, but our team did a great job for having maybe four athletes out there. I enjoyed myself more than expected and actually played really well myself [guest played on another team after our game]. Walking away from the field I honestly felt sad this was the last game I’d participate in with my team.

I am so thankful for my experiences the past ten years. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a growing media environment, where every year something new has come from part of our bigger team. Job security has never been a worry as my niche was perfectly carved out in the new and old production.  While there wasn’t as much growth as expected, I did gain new responsibilities here and there to keep from staying stagnant.

The nostalgia may be heavy, yet I know in my heart it is time to move on from this job. There are other avenues I hope to pursue and other mountains to possibly climb. The risk right now is big but I believe the reward will be even bigger. So, thank you, Verizon. Thank you for a decade of growth, possibility and knowledge. I go forward smarter and more aware than when I arrived and I plan to use everything I learned in my new adventure.

30 Days Later…what is normal?

Here we are home five days and  I’m feeling all kinds of emotions.

The past few mornings I’ve woken up in my parent’s home and felt so disoriented. While it is nice being back in the USA where maps made sense in English and we knew where everything was located, it still is quite weird being home. Because really, we’re not home, yet.

Normally when you come back from a vacation, long or short, it takes a bit but you get back to normal. In fact, finding the normal is often what we aspire to do. The resetting of a routine is crucial to our equilibrium, even if we’d rather still be on vacation. Once we’re home, things get back to the status quo and normal.

But that’s not us right now. I maybe have headed to work on Thursday/Friday, later than normal thankfully, but it’s not to get back to normal. I will be training my replacement not just catching up and relocking into work mode.

We are no longer living out a of a carry on [never been so happy to see my clothes], but we are still living out of suitcases. Half of my stuff is in storage and the other half is divided between different rooms and boxes at my parent’s house.

Cooking our own meals, the gym and seeing friends is all on my to do list but it’s from a different angle. I’m cooking in my mother’s kitchen. I’m going to the gym and not teaching every week. I’m filling my calendar to the brim to see everyone before we move.

I’m not complaining, I’m not venting and I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m just feeling. The past thirty days were days of a dream it seems. Everything was go, go, go and we were hopping around like crazy seeing sights and breathing in culture. It was amazing. It was incredible. It was the trip of a lifetime. But, like all trips it had to end and we had to come back to reality. But this time it wasn’t our ‘normal’ reality.

A new reality. A reality not already planned. A reality of new jobs, resumes, bills to come and new places to explore. While we were traveling I offhandedly said to P “I miss our bed”. This was probably after three hotels or so and it was just that feeling of ‘this is comfy but not what my body is used too’. He looked at me and said “Me too. And who knows the next time we’ll be in OUR bed”.

Talk about truth. There will be a bunch of temporary homes in our future and we are so blessed to have them. But, I don’t think NORMAL will be here until we finally find our place and unpack and sleep on our bed. So here’s to the abnormal and the new adventure.

Colosseum Day: When it Rains in Rome You Put a Rain Coat on and Tour It Up

Today it rained in Rome… All day long! Yes, the rain was back with vengeance. We were teased slightly when we met up with our tour group and it even stopped drizzling. But right as we started the walk toward the Forum the rain started again, you can tell I was super excited!

Despite the rain I took a few minutes to smell the lovely roses in the Vestal gardens.

Rosario took us through the gardens and we ended up at the Colloseum enterance. Even though  the weather was nasty the lines were long.  

Trap doors like these were everywhere below the stage. Our guide told us it was estimated the Romans had up to 25 working at a time and the it took around 8 slaves to work the devise and corral the animals.

Part of the reason we upgraded our tour was the access to the underground and highest level of the Colloseum. The underground was fascinating and you can just imagine how chaotic and dark it must have been when they ran events.

One tunnel was from the gladiator barracks straight to the underground and the myth of thumbs down from the emperor was debunked by our guide. She said it was thumbs to the side to mimic the slashing of the throat and we also learned injured gladiators were not killed as often as many people think. They were expensive to train and if the gladiator won enough battles they were granted either their freedom or a place protecting the emperor.

From the bottom we worked our way to the third level of the building for one of the best views.

The true name of the Colloseum is actually the Flavian amphitheater after the man, Flavian, who constructed/designed the arena. Amphitheater means a theatre inside a theatre and the guide used a book to show us the two in the Colosseum.

Do you know where the name Colosseum originated? There was a bronze statute of Emperor Nero depicted as a sun god right next to the arena. Because of the size of the statue and the stone below it the area was often referred to as “the Colloso” and there you have it, the Colosseum. 

The tour ended on the second level and we decided to walk around a bit longer and see if we could wait out the rest of the rain storm. It was not happening so all of the restaurants near the area were packed. Since we had  two day metro passes we decided to hop on the train and get off at random stop to find a local place to eat. The stop we chose seemed to be a bad idea until we saw the words STEAKHOUSE. How fun does their menu look and how random is a western restaurant in Rome? Oh yeah, the had a teepee over tables too!


During lunch we saw the sun come out and decided to keep sight seeing around the area. Well wouldn’t you know, as soon as we walked to the Basilica de San Paolo the rain returned. And it was back to the metro to regroup and replan. Normally I’d be all for going back to the hotel for a nap but we decided to try and hit the last big monument on our list, the Pantheon. Since we didn’t have a map I took pictures of any map we found, including ones on metro doors and on the ground. 

With a lil bit of thought process and quite a bit of dumb luck we ended up right in front of the Pantheon. And to be honest I was a bit underwhelmed. In my head it was like the Parthenon, offset on a small hill, not right in the middle of a plaza. People were milling around everywhere and there was a huge line to get in because a mass was being served and access was closed. Neither of us had any desire wait in the line so we finally headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. 


Along the way we walked through the plaza where Mussolini made his speeches and stopped at a pasty shop for a lil appetizer. 

My poor skirt was dunzo after all the rain and as my dad said, it looked like I was wearing tights because of all the dirt that hit my legs walking. Good thing I planned to get rid of it anyway huh?

About a block away from the Crosti was another quaint lil restaurant rates highly in trip advisor so we gave it a shot. Our waitress spoke very little English so we knew it was going to be authentic food. The menu was translated pretty decently and we were both excited to dig in when our plates arrived. We ordered a carafe is red wine to accompany our meal and in this restaurant a carafe is a bottle, who knew. While waiting for our check the cook came out to eat his meal ( we were the only patrons left at this time) and in broken Italian/English we attempted to convey our compliments on his cooking. His response “just good luck”, haha! Despite the busted nature of our words it made him smile and that was the point.


For some reason P nor I was tired so we looked in on one of the bars around the area. Good Fellas was playing soccer red zone ( so amazing ) and the vibe was perfect, prompting us to order another bottle of wine. The place had free wifi too so we were able to chat with family and friends which was nice.


When the bottle ran dry we both were ready to head home and crash. The decision to upgrade our tour was the best thing we could have done and now we have all of Sunday to just hang out, walk around and enjoy the beauty of Rome.

We’re Off to See the Vatican, the Wonderful Vatican in Rome!

Our Vatican plan was simple, we didn’t have one, ha! Every other tour has been off the cuff so we figured this one would be as well. Yeah, not so much. The Vatican is incredibly organized in telling you where you can and can’t walk and when we were stopped at a light one of the guides from a tour have us his pitch about using the company to see everything. After looking at the forever long line and realizing we’d need to buy an audio devise inside anyway we asked for a price quote which was very good and promptly bought tickets for the next tour. We had a few minutes for snacks and then we walked to another office to join another, much larger English tour.

Obviously we expected the tour to include more people, however we were not expecting the 40+ people. Walking around to get to the museum enterance proved to be a bit of challenge with so many people and all of the barricades for lines. 

Once inside we were given an audio device linked to our guide and we made our way through the museum. Most people think of the Sistine Chapel as he main art point of the Vatican but there are so many beautiful paintings, tapestries, ceiling paintings, mosaics and statues.

This tapestry of Jesus was created to have the affect of His eyes following you wherever you stand. I spent a few seconds testing it out and sure enough His eyes never left me.

Soon we were to the main event, the Sistine Chapel. Due to the sacred nature of the Chapel our guide was not able to talk to us inside and she reminded us about covering our shoulders, remaining silent while inside and no pictures. I knew going in pictures weren’t allowed but oh how I wished I could have snapped one to share with everyone. We spent the entire 20 minutes looking around the room and each time we found something new. I hope each of you reading gets to experience the beauty in real life, it is truly an incredible sight.

Our tour ended after the chapel and we were dropped off right outside Saint Peter’s Basilica. Oh my gorgeous, the inside is breathtakingly beautiful and huge. While taking in the beauty we heard singing/chanting and when we looked up a bunch of priests filed in ceremonially. Since we couldn’t understand the langue we weren’t sure it was a mass or a funeral. 

Next we went to buy tickets to the dome of the Basilica. P read on several blogs it offers one of the best views of Rome and we figured since we’re here we might as well. The lift dropped us off at the entrance to the inside and just like that we were staring down at the altar in the center. Inside the top of the dome is just as opulent as the first floor. 

360 steps later our eyes were greeted to the vast city. Saint Peter’s Square, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum were visible on one side with the other giving us an unobstructed view into the Vatican gardens. So pretty and lush.


Before walking to the square we had to snap the token picture of the balcony the Pope speaks from and of course the Swiss guards. Apparently when the Vatican became its own state the Italian military was not very trustworthy so the Pope (check who and date) hired the Swiss army for his personal protection which is a tradition lasting through the years.


Saint Peter’s square is much larger than I imagined and I could not fathom being present to hear the Pope speak. Too many people in one place for me.


My tummy was talking as we walked back to the metro which meant gelato of course! Our walk took us through a common plaza and all around us was life. Children were playing soccer and roller blading, parents were keeping watch and enjoying each other, tourists were snapping pictures and walking through en route to their destinations and it struck me how much this reminded me of home and the National mall.


After a quick turn around for dinner we walked across the street another top rated restaurant in the area. Being hungry Americans we a were two of the first to arrive and decided to eat al fresco since the evening air was lovely. For my primi I ordered the shrimp risotto and found a lil friend at the bottom :)! 

It was another dinner jackpot and to add to the fun an older American couple sat next to us and we all began chatting after hearing random MNF music. They were from Wisconsin and in a hiking trip with REI, one of three they’ve done in Europe. There was a lot of laughing, talking about American culture and some marriage advice given. P and I really enjoyed getting to know them and might have our next big trip already picked out ;)!

Tomorrow we are on to the Colosseum and are both super excited for our upgraded tour!

When in Rome… Your First Day You Get Lost Seeing the Sights

Using the hotel wifi to finish up some blog posts! Below is the recap of it first day in Rome!

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The cruise is officially over and we are back in Italy!

Debarkation was incredibly smooth although I was bummed we didn’t have to show our passports as I had hoped to get a an Italian stamp on my passport. Nope, no luck. We just walked right off the ship, through the gates and onto the bus chartered to drop us off in the central piazza.

After a bit of a heart attack with paper work we grabbed a cup of espresso then hailed a cab to our hotel, the Crosti. It was another wonderful hotel, located more in the business district which we found to be wonderful when it came to dinners.

We did a quick drop of our things, grabbed the map given to us from the hotel and began our own tour of Rome. Our main order of business was getting some lunch and P found one of the highest rated lunch spots in the area. It was basically a fast food authentic pizza to go place and we just beat the lunchtime rush. The pizzas were reheated in the wood burning oven and we just ate them standing outside. Once we refueled it was time to start our adventures in Rome.

First thing we noticed, the streets are not gridded at all and only a few of them have cross streets and names marked. Full discourse we walked in circles twice before due to map being not oriented with a compass. Once we figured directions out we wandered towards what we thought were the Spanish steps. 

Except they weren’t. The building was Il Vittoriano which is a monument built in honor of the first king of unified Italy and also housed Italy’s version of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. By happenstance we arrived during the changing of the guard which was a bit different than ours, but still moving. 

A guard at the museum gave us directions to the Trevi Fountain and soon we found the signs and followed the sounds of a crowd. Oh my goodness, there was a crush of tourist taking pictures, it was a bit overwhelming. Everyone was crowded around taking pictures while tossing coins into the water and forget about getting to the front of the fountain for an unobstructed picture. We settled for the usual selfie on the side of the fountain and we both threw in our coins :)!

From the Trevi we meandered towards the Spanish Steps which sadly are under construction so really aren’t much to look at right now. We we bought some postcards we saw what they look like in their glory and finally understood the fascination.

Our hotel was off one of the main roads so we walked up and ran into a de other monuments along the way. There was also a gelato stop for a snacky before dinner. It was a good thing we grabbed something to eat because all of the restaurants were closed until 6pm. During the downtime we tried to blog, catch up with people online and then looked up ratings of restaurants nearby.

Rebuscalia was two blocks away and was very highly rated, with good reason we found out. The English menu was helpful especially since the staff spoke only a few words of English. All of the food tasted incredibly fresh and overall was delicious. We were also able to upload pictures using their wifi which was helpful since the hotel wifi was the second weakest we’ve had so far. The European dinner linger was in full swing as we chatted about our favorite moments on the cruise and made plans for our Vatican trip the next day. Here’s hoping the weather stays clear.

Pompeii: Last Day of the Cruise

The last day of the cruise arrived way quicker than we expected. Hard to believe we leave our wonderful ship tomorrow (insert sad face here). 

But enough of that, on to the list city of Pompeii. This was a late excursion add for us and it was a fabulous add.  Our bus guide, Gian Carlo, was incredible. He is a part time guide as well as an archeologist so we learned a lot about the history of the city and the excavation process on our ride to out. 

Much of the relics of Pompeii were destroyed when the the Kings found the city. They grabbed all the valuables and took them to their palaces, leaving much of the area still buried. While historians knew about the buried city due to letters from people who witnessed the eruption by sea, it wasn’t until archioglocuat began extracting day to day items that they realized the holes in the ground were left from decomposed bodies trapped under the ash. They began pouring plaster into these openings bringing to life the horrors of the eruption.

Once we arrived we were given two hours of wandering around time on our own. The preservation of the paintings of homes and all of the pieces caught in walls was unbelievable to see in real life. 

Most people immediately head to the forum area so you know the two of us headed as far away from the crowds as possible. Pompeii has been split up into 9 parts by the excavation teams and two of them are still underground, waiting to be catalogued. The village stadium is near the the grids of nothing so we decided to check it out. 

Had to attempt a handstand outside the stadium. 

In my haste to get ready for the early morning I left my sunglasses in the room and therefore have severe squinty face in all of our selfies. #nothappy #ilookreallytired

There are blocks and blocks of roads, houses and villas so after a while they all start to look the same. Slowly we made our way to the forum in the middle of the city.

Only a few of the plaster pieces were on display and it was quite eerie seeing them in real life.


Groups were everywhere and even though selfie sticks abounded you could kind of get a sense of the bustle that must gone on in the square.

The most popular attraction…the big green man, he must be important, but his p***s was the main event. Everyone in the square took pictures with the green man, specifically placed. We even saw a few kids get their phones snatch up by an adult. #hilarious

Quiet Mt Vesuvious in the background.

The tour was only four hours so we had a good deal of down time. We spent it checking out the shops and also buying a coffee to check in on wifi with family. I openly admit not being able to chat with friends and family the  two days before frustrated me to no end. Being so disconnected for so long has been the hardest part of this whole trip.

I meant to post a picture of our dinnertable in my last post so here is the picture from the second formal night. We lucked out with our such a wonderful group and look forward to exchanging cards and emails in the future.

The rest of the evening was spent finishing up packing and then playing a lil bit of craps. The casino workers befriended us early in the crusie so we spent a lil bit of time chatting with them before we headed back to the room. We are both so sad facing the end of th cruise. The past twelve days were incredibly fantastic and being in one place was so nice after all of the hustle and bustle of the first leg of traveling. Rome beckons though and we can’t wait to see what the new city has to offer.

Carryon Update: we did laundry on the cruise and took advantage of their fill the bag special. I purposely packed a few items that were on their last leg so I could leave them after the cruise. However we were both still stuffed to the gills leaving the ship. #doesntmakesense

Santorini: The Island of Dreams… Or So We Thought.

Playing catchup again today, recapping Monday’s trip to Santorini!

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This is the cure we woke up to Monday morning! Santorini was finally here and we were so ready to get onto the island and enjoy the day!

The first step in our adventure was getting from the bottom (the port) to the top (the town). There were three choices: take the lift, ride a donkey or walk. Riding a donkey sounded fun but the price was much higher than expected and the poor animals looked so pitiful I didn’t want to make them walk up the stairs agin so we hoofed it ourselves. It was not easy and when we reached the top we were drenched and tired, not the smartest move on my part.

Our ship tendered us to Fira, not Oira which is where the beautiful blue roof homes are located. And honestly if you didn’t plan an excursion through the ship you were pretty much out of luck trying to see more than one place on the island. I was expecting an island similar to Mykonos and that was not the case. Santorini is not as beautiful throughout as Mykonos and the lay of the land does not make it easy for wandering. 

Our original plan was to head to beach for a few hours then wander around the villages but because we were docked for less time than normal we weren’t able to do both. I managed to find an information booth and they pointed me in the direction of the bus station to ride to Kamari beach which was the closest to Fira.

Y’all the bus station was a bunch of charter buses driven by differ companies and crowded (and smelly) as all get out. The ride was cheap and quick so it worked out in the end but I found myself wondering what I gotten us into he first few minutes of the journey.

The beach was not what we expected either as it was a black rock beach not a sand beach. Cue another disappointment, but we made the best of our time there. The sun felt great and the people watching was quite entertaining. 

Since our on board time was earlier than normal we didn’t dally on our way back. There was a quick stop for our LAST GREEK MEAL and a few last minute picures. Then we hopped on the lift for a quick ride down ( not facing those steps again) then jumped on the tender boat waiting in port.

Holland America hosted a fabulous sail away party from Santorini since this was the last port in Greece.

After the sail away party we went to dinner and hard about everyone else’s visit to Santorini. Then it was off to listen to the BB King band. The band has been one of the highlights of the cruise as they are each so talented and sound incredible together.

To be honest, Santorini was a bit of a let down. It had been built up via blogs and Pinterest and when we arrived with the cruise the layout of the island was not at all what we expected. If you’re planning a trip here you need to understand that you’ll need two days to see everything and that once you view Oira there really isn’t much else to do. I wish I had known the beaches weren’t really worth the time and that Oira was the biggest deal on the island. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed our time there, but it wasn’t quite what we expected from the information online.

Tomorrow is a sea day and both P and I are looking forward to taking it easy and catching up on sleep.