Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Sights in Yosemite: Life is Sweet

God is good. I had always wanted to go to Yosemite, and to stay at the Ahwahnee. It was a dream come true, but there can be a fly in the ointment – everything can go well, but if you have rain, or fog, or heavy clouds, the views don’t present themselves. Going in early Spring is a risk – maybe the waterfalls won’t be flowing yet, maybe it will be snowing and the roads difficult or impassable.

We were so blessed. We were blessed with deep blue skies and glowing sunshine, warm and light, but not hot. We were blessed to have some places all to ourselves, as it is not yet high season, and some great early morning moments. We were blessed that the streams and waterfalls were flowing heavily, and we were blessed to have the time to appreciate them. We are so thankful to have this opportunity in our lives to do the things we’ve always wanted to do – and we are thankful for all the things we have already been able to do. Life is sweet.

Note: Some of the national parks, like Yosemite and Yellowstone, have relatively steep entry fees. If you reach the grand age of 62, you are eligible for a life time senior pass to all national parks for the bargain price of $10. That ten dollars covers your car and all occupants. It is such a deal that AdventureMan and I each have one, so we don’t need to worry about passing it back and forth, we each keep one in our own car.

Coming from the south, we saw a car park on both sides of the road and hundreds of people taking photos, so we stopped. This is Tunnel View, meaning just after – or before – you’ve gone through the tunnel. It is an awesome way to enter the park, and a great place for selfies.

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Bridal Veil, which in mid-morning, has mists of gushing water surrounding it, like clouds of tulle in a bridal veil

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At Bridal Veil Falls, there were also some very tame, very unafraid deer

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Day breaking in Yosemite. We wanted to be out early, before the crowds arrived, and to catch the early morning light

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Yosemite Falls

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Rock surrounding road at the Merced entrance where we went to buy gas

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Yosemite bridge – there were all kinds of campers here, cooking up breakfast, brushing teeth, etc. There were restrooms nearby and running water and picnic tables – what more can a camper want?

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Early in the morning, you meet kindred souls. A very kind photographer told us that if we hiked to the middle of a nearby meadow, we would have spectacular unblocked shots of Yosemite Falls. He was right.

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Another unafraid animal, this time a coyote, waiting to cross the road

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April 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel | | Leave a comment

The Ahwahnee Dining Room

American diners have steadily avoided formal dining situations, it is a growing trend. I have to admit, unless I am in France, I’m less enchanted by all the formality than I used to be. I still love beautiful china and gleaming silver, snowy white real linen tablecloths and impeccable service, and at the same time, I really have to be in the mood. It really has to be worth the time, time to make the reservation, time to dress, time to enjoy a leisurely meal.

The Ahwahnee has that kind of dining room.

We ate almost every meal during our stay there. We found we liked the lunch menu better than the dinner menu, as we prefer eating our larger meal mid-day and eating lighter at night.

You have to have reservations, even when it is not high season. If you don’t, you may miss one of life’s great experiences. There is a dress code for the Ahwahnee dining room, both for men and for women. It’s a very mild dress code. They prefer coats for men, skirts for women, no T-shirts, shirts with collars only.

We were shown to what became our favorite table at the Ahwahnee, way at the end of the dining room, in a small alcove with five or six other tables, and a stunning view of the entire dining room, as well as mountains and trees. This is table 123, and a view of the 30+ feet high timbered ceiling which gives the dining room its grandeur.

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My very first meal there, I saw they had a Shrimp Louis on the menu. Shrimp Louis is very west coast; not something I get in Pensacola. This Shrimp Louis was my dream come true; it was served with real Louis dressing, not Thousand Island dressing. I nearly swooned with delight.

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AdventureMan has BBQ pork. He said it was good, but he gets good BBQ in the South :-) so he wasn’t swooning.

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The next day, he ordered a Reuben, and said it was good. He hasn’t had a lot of Reubens, and he said this one had a LOT of meat, but it was good meat, and that matters to him. He enjoyed it thoroughly.

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I had the Trout. I adore trout. This was pretty good.

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I didn’t take photos at the dinner meals, and some of our meals we also ate in the Ahwahnee bar, where they had a lighter menu, and we thoroughly enjoyed that, too.

You know me and light fixtures; I really loved all the details that go into making this such a designer’s dream of a hotel:

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April 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite

If you’re going to live a dream come true, might as well live it right. We loved the Ahwahnee as soon as we read about it. As long as we were going to be there, we wanted to enjoy the experience all the way. We booked the Ahwahnee.

It was so worth it, just to see the joy in AdventureMan’s face as he checked in. He couldn’t even take it in, it is so beautiful. It is European, and grand, but not in a formal way but in a rustic way. The public spaces are gracious and welcoming, and so beautiful. There is art everywhere, even the fabrics on the furnishings are chosen with care.

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The private spaces are also spacious and welcoming, and on the mezzanine floor, they have coffee service set out every morning, and afternoon tea for guests. There is a full breakfast available in the dining room. This is our own space :-)

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And this was the view from our room:

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And this was the sunrise from our room on the first day:

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In the bathroom, they had rubber duckies. We wanted to buy them, but the staff wouldn’t let us; they insisted on giving them to us. Every staff member we encountered seemed happy to be working there. It was like stepping back in time to a place where customer service mattered. Total wow.

We could live here happily for months.

April 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Hotels, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sedona to Bakersfield, A Long Day’s Drive

We made a big mistake staying in Sedona as long as we did – we want to stay longer. But we have an incentive, we are on our way to another long stay, Yosemite. I’ve never been to Yosemite – we lived just hours away, in Monterey, CA, and I wanted to see it, but we had lives, obligations, and a young child. Now – we don’t! Time for another dream to come true.

But first, there is a price to be paid. A long journey, much of it across desert.

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As it turns out, it is more interesting than we thought. There are forests, there are trading posts, and wind farms. There is a little town on the Arizona – California border called Needles, where we stop for a very lackluster lunch. There are long rural roads in California full of trucks hastening to get to where they need to be.

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Shortly after we arrive in California, we encounter another Security Stop:

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Driving has been pretty laid back so far, but it changes as we get to California. I know nice people who live here, but the drivers we encountered were all “Me first!”

We totally missed our hotel in Bakersfield, had to stop at the airport and call to get directions. A mere seven minutes away, if you know the right way to go, LOL.

Along the way, we started getting strange extra charges for $3., $7.00 from the hotels. When we got home, AdventureMan checked. It was for these waters.

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We are Elite status, and in many hotels they provide us water as a benefit. We assumed these were that kind of water, the water has a tag that says ViP water, but if you look really really closely, you will see that it is not VIP but Very (line) Pure water. I think that’s kind of cheesy. Give free water or don’t put water in the rooms. I consider this deceptive.

All in all, not such a bad day, glorious weather, interesting sights, not bad at all until arriving in Bakersfield around rush hour.

April 24, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

“You Can’t Talk to Me Like that, Stupid Bitch”

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. . . she said, and hung up on me.

I really hate telemarketers, and I hate them most of all when they call around six, when I start making dinner. They intrude. Most of the time, I just ignore the calls, let the machine screen them. This one had a location where one of our banks is, and I answered.

“I would like to speak with (Intlxpatr)” the caller said.

“To whom am I speaking?” I responded.

“Jennifer.” She told me, and went on to tell me that my warrantee on my car was running out and I could renew it now, through her.

“Jennifer, we sold that car two years ago!” I said, at which point she said “You can’t talk to me like that, you stupid bitch!” and hung up on me.

I laughed, which I often do when caught by surprise.

My houseguest, who had heard the whole thing because I was busy with meal prep and had it on speaker-phone, was aghast.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

I had the number. I know who she is with. I knew I could report her.

I didn’t.

Who aspires to be a telemarketer? Who, as a small child, says “I want to grow up to make phone calls to people who don’t want to talk to me and who will treat me rudely?”

I figure Jennifer has talked to a rude person or two or ten. I imagine Jennifer doesn’t have a lot of options, and telemarketing is what she has to do to earn a living. My guess is that Jennifer has some difficulties with judgement and self-discipline. I don’t think I need to add any more to her plate; she sounds like she has had enough.

April 24, 2015 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Customer Service, Friends & Friendship, Language, Pensacola, Random Musings | 4 Comments

Wildflower Bakery and Cafe in Sedona, Arizona

“Wow!” exclaimed AdventureMan, when we finally found the Wildflower Bakery, “If we had known where this place was, we’d never have gone anywhere else.”

It’s not that easy to find, if you don’t know Sedona. You have to know where it is, and you have to know where to turn, and turn again. It’s not intuitive.

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When we got inside, there was a VERY long line, and I needed coffee. There was another place, for pick up orders, so I called and ordered a coffee, but I was standing too close to the ordering place and he looked at me and said “you can’t do that; you have to go stand in line.” So I did.

It was worth standing in line for.

Great coffee. So many wonderful options that it was hard to choose a virtuous oatmeal, but I did. There were so many wonderful looking breads, and croissants, my great weakness, and cinnamon rolls, and bear claws, and all the things the finest kind of bakeries carry.

There is a large seating area, and although it is very cold, a Japanese family chooses to sit outside, and then the woman and daughter come back inside, while the man and his son remain outside to eat. The coffee is wonderful.

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Even my virtuous oatmeal came with delicious additions, and was garnished with the thinnest slice of toasted buttered cinnamon bread I have ever seen, or gobbled.

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AdventureMan also had oatmeal, but he also ordered a fruit bowl, which was gorgeous.
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The smells were so seductive, so delicious, and AdventureMan is right, if we had found the Wildflower Bakery first, we would have passed on some of the other places (not the ones featured here; I only write about the ones we really like.)

But our next time in Sedona, we know where to find it!

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Eating Out, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Positive Energy at The Hideaway Restaurant in Sedona, AZ

“This is a very strange onion soup,” I said. “It has crispy crunchy onions on top, but it has mushrooms in it.” Mushroom soup was the special soup for the day, but I had ordered onion.

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We have wanted to try the Hideaway ever since we got to Sedona, and today is the day. We have to look to find it, it really is hidden away. It is at the end of a little strip/court mall, with a difficult entrance. You are supposed to enter at one place and exit at another. I say this with authority, because we did it the other way, LOL.

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As soon as we found the Hideaway, we knew it was for us. It overlooks a vast wadi full of trees and brush and a creek. It reminds us of places we’ve stayed in Botswana, you can almost hear the elephants crashing through the trees if you listen hard enough. We are sitting out on the verandah, looking at the menus, and everything on the menu sounds really good, a little different from the norm, very creative.

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This is the view above the tree line:

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There is a large seating area inside, too, but the day is so gorgeous, everyone wants to sit outside.

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I ordered the onion soup and a bacon, lettuce and avocado sandwich. AdventureMan orders a salad and a pizza.

AdventureMan is eating his salad, listening to me discuss how odd this “onion soup” is. “Mushroom soup is the soup of the day,” he reminded me. “They probably just made a mistake. Send it back!”

I can’t send it back. It isn’t the onion soup I ordered, I’m pretty sure, but I can’t stop eating it. It is unbelievably delicious.

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AdventureMan says this is one of the best pizzas he has eaten in his life, ever, and we have had a goodly number of pizzas :-)

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My salad and my Bacon, Lettuce and Avocado were delicious, but paled in comparison to that soup. I loved the freshness and variety of the greens, and the fresh taste of the sandwich, which was way too much food after that exquisite soup.

AdventureMan had a beer, I had a red wine. Both local, both very very good. We don’t drink so much anymore, but we enjoy it more.

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When the bill came, at the end of the meal, there it was, as clear as could be:

Mushroom Soup

I didn’t even make a squeak. I didn’t even tell the server she had made a mistake. That mistake was so delicious. This was probably one of the best overall meals of our trip. Wonderful environment, fabulous views, tasty food in copious amounts, good beer and good local wine, great service and reasonable price – life is sweet.

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Botswana, Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

Sedona, the Beautiful

We are up before sunrise (having our bodies still on Central Time has its advantages) and head for Red Rock Upper Drive, where we wait for the first rays of the sun in utter privacy, except for a family of hikers, with their hiking sticks, who shout ‘good morning!’ as they hike past our viewpoint and head on up the hill.

And here it is! Our first Sedona sunrise! (We didn’t get up for any of the others, LOL)

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The early light hits the red stone opposite:

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And every morning, there were balloons over Sedona while it was still cool in the mornings.

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It is still chilly in the early morning, but Spring has begun. By noon, it will be in the 70’s (F).

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This was one of my favorite formations, in Boynton Canyon, near the hiking trails. It reminds me of Petra, and our camel treks into the lands of Lawrence of Arabia.

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Lots of hiking trails here:

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This totally cracked us up. We know primitive roads. We went over a road in Tunisia that Montgomery used when he flanked Rommel’s forces. THAT was primitive. I was outside the car, guiding AdventureMan over ruts as deep as our Volkswagon Bus. These roads are not paved, but they are passable. Primitive is in the eye of the beholder.

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This is the only purple cactus I ever saw. Clearly it is related to the prickly pear, if it is not a prickly pear. I wonder if it is like hydrangeas; that you can change the color of the prickly pear by adding iron or something else to the soil? This was at an entrance to a new housing development that is just beginning; the houses will have pretty spectacular views.

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Sedona is beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to see. Of all the beautiful places, Crystal Creek park was my favorite. It had all the elements – red rock formations, a rippling creek, and a hungry heron. It also reaches a powerful vortex, at the base of Cathedral Rock, and we hiked the trail, took photos, enjoyed a lot of positive energy, but I don’t think we were sensitive to the vortex.

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Red Rock State Park is another of those wonderful parks created and maintained with public funding, and manned by happy volunteers. We met several here, this wonderful guide, who gave us a first rate explanation of all the geological formations, and volunteers who ran the gift shop and museum/gallery.

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Sedona has stolen our hearts :-)

April 22, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Environment, Jordan, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Spiritual, sunrise series, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sedona Airport Vortex, Watching the Sun Go Down

I do not want to be insensitive, or to offend anyone who understands vortex energy and has experienced it in Sedona, and finds him/herself consequently “on the path.”

In fact, I do not consider myself an insensitive person, so although I am by nature a little skeptical, I was willing to give vortex energy a chance.

I never experienced it.

In fact, every time someone started talking about vortex energy, I had a hard time keeping my face straight.

I DO believe in positive energy, and in energy, and how we interact with one another.

It may be a language misunderstanding; I do believe in holy places, and I have experienced the feeling of knowing I stood on holy ground.

Sedona is reputed to have special energies, and special sites for this energy. I only know this much because I went to a blog called LovesSedona.com where they explain the energy sources and where to find them and how anyone who comes within a quarter of a mile and has any sensitivity at all will feel the energy of the vortex.

We were near every one of the four vortexes; right at one. I felt awe at the beauty of Sedona, unending awe at this beautiful place. We met some wonderful people. But a special energy? I guess I am just not sensitive enough, but I allow that YOU might be, so I refer you to LovesSedona.com, from which I share the following information about Sedona Vortexes and their energy:

What is a Vortex?

A vortex is the funnel shape created by a whirling fluid or by the motion of spiraling energy. Familiar examples of vortex shapes are whirlwinds, tornadoes, and water going down a drain. A vortex can be made up of anything that flows, such as wind, water, or electricity.

The vortexes in Sedona are swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth. The vortex energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although it does leave a slight measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is strongest.

There are four main energy vortexes in Sedona. The subtle energy that exists at these locations interacts with who a person is inside. The energy resonates with and strengthens the Inner Being of each person that comes within about a quarter to a half mile of it. This resonance happens because the vortex energy is very similar to the subtle energy operating in the energy centers inside each person. If you are at all a sensitive person, it is easy to feel the energy at these vortexes.

If you are planning a trip to Sedona, here is a map to help you easily locate the four main energy vortexes. On the map, a diamond indicates the location of a vortex. Although the Sedona area has many hiking trails that only a vigorous hiker can enjoy, the vortexes are all easy to get to, and no strenuous hiking is required to get to any of them.

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One of the Sedona traditions is to go up to the airport and watch the sun go down from the airport viewpoint. It is supposed to be a very special Sedona experience. This is what it looks like in low season. There are probably three hundred and fifty people here to watch the sun go down, take selfies with the sun going down, take photos of your friends with the sun going down, etc.

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When you go, there are many many many many people, in fact if you have ever been in Key West to catch the green flash of the Key West sunset, you will have a deja vu feeling. This is a very funky kind of gathering, everyone is there, locals, tourists, probably a pickpocket or two.

We got there just in time to park, walk over, and catch the sunset. Sedona is laid back and has a wonderful sense of humor about all this, and individual Sedona residents volunteer to be The Ambassador, who shows up and maintains some order and good will as the people stream to the viewing place and then stream back to the parking lot.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it is going to be chaos once the sun goes down. As everyone else is watching the last gleams of the sun (and it is getting pretty chilly, I might add) we head for our car to head back down the mountain before the teeming hoard. The Ambassador on this night is a very tall woman, dressed as a Sheriff, I think, but a Sheriff in a dress. She is very good at keeping order.

We have made reservations for massages while we are here, and are trying to find where it is. When we get our confirmations, it is at a different location than we thought, so we have to find it again. I am confused because the lady says it is nearer to where we are staying than the original site, and the place where we think we are going is almost next door to the hotel. After a while, I figure out that where we have reservations is NAMTI, and the spa near us is NAMASTE, not the same. NAMTI is only a block away, we find it and we know where we will be going tomorrow.

A totally great day in Sedona, Arizona.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Environment, Events, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Red Rock Barbecue in Sedona, AZ

This restaurant was a lot of fun. The sun is low in the west, and our tummies are still on Pensacola time; Arizona is on God’s time, which is the same as Pacific Coast time, as they do not go on daylight-savings time. So we are a little early, but that is fine, we have other plans for later in the evening.

We snag a wonderful table out on the deck, a table with a wonderful view of Sedona’s red rocks, and also of the parking lot and our car, and a mini drama taking place. Someone hit a car and didn’t stop, and the Sedona police had caught the guy who did it and were working out the details with the victims, and getting the insurance (or not) information from the very remorseful hitter. Oh well, none of our business!

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What is not to love about this view? We sit with our drinks, just soaking it all in. We are so delighted to be in Sedona, and to be able to spend some time here. This is a place we want to take some time in. We explore now, but we also know we are coming back.

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AdventureMan loves to try pulled pork. We had to take pulled pork home!

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I tried the rib tips; there was so much, I had to take rib tips home, too.

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The management and service here were great, so friendly, happy to tell us about local lore, special things not to miss. We had a great long dinner, very mellow.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Environment, Food, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

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