Subject: Greetings from 44.52 degrees North, 45.37 degrees West
Hello, Ziners. Have you figured out where I am?!

We left a hot and humid Texas on July 11 and spent Week 1 exploring a bit of southwest Ireland (highlights included our guided Burren hike and the misty Cliffs of Moher). Weeks 2 & 3 on the continent began in the spectacularly gorgeous albeit hot city of Prague (thanks to a cheap EasyJet connection from Cork) and continued with our stem (Vienna) to stern (Bregenz on Lake Constance) Austrian road trip (highlights there included our brush with the rich and famous, not to mention the Presidents of Austria and Italy, on the opening night of the Salzburg Summer Festival, our refreshing break from the heat wave in the Tirolean village of Seefeld and our attendance-- together with 6,896 others--of a brilliant performance of West Side Story on the floating stage at Bregenz). Making our way north, we enjoyed some special sights in Bavarian Germany, along the Romantic Road and up the Rhine River to Cologne (German highlights included a very special room with a view of Mad Ludwig's Cinderella castle and the memorable Castle Hotel Auf Schoenburg on the Rhine). Finally, we arrived in the ever bubbly, always colorful Amsterdam (where we even braved city biking this time!). It was a spectacular trip for one and all (my husband and I, plus our two children, ages 12 and 10).

So, what's the perfect end to a go-go-go trip like that? We decided a week of 25-hour days and non-stop pampering was the way to go, and on August 4, we boarded the brand new German-built Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas in Amsterdam for her maiden voyage across the Atlantic. We arrive in Boston on August 11. The ship's a beauty, and the service, food, entertainment and accommodations are top notch. There's nothing out here on the high seas but us and the occasional sea bird, flying fish or dolpin. Oh, yes, and that oil derrick we passed this morning. But, thanks to satellites, we remain connected with the world whenever the mood strikes. (It hasn't struck often!)

Happy trails, and a special thanks to Linda for caretaking the GTG calendar in my absence and Ziner Jane of Germany for the pre-trip planning assistance.

Diana Ball from aboard ship on the Atlantic Ocean