Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Denver, Damascus and Pensacola

We are leaving Santa Fe, but we have time for one more Santa Fe experience: Harry’s Roadhouse. It’s on the road out of Santa Fe, and hey, we have to have breakfast anyway. We are so glad we stopped here. This is a very cool place.

 

There are lots of rooms. This is the room we ate in, below. They have all kinds of wonderful breakfast foods, and the furnishings are all different colors. It is a colorful restaurant, sort of like it breaks the rules of taste and it doesn’t care. It’s kind of freeing 🙂

We are making really good time on the way to Denver when all of a sudden, on a not so busy freeway to this point, everything stops. “What on earth???” AdventureMan asks, and I have no clue. “Probably rockfall,” I say. It’s happened to me before on Colorado roads. Sometimes a huge boulder will just dislodge and fall on the highway. It can really hurt somebody if it hits them – of if they don’t expect a big boulder in the middle of the road and they hit it.

We are stuck for around 30 minutes. When we drive by the bottleneck, one lane, the rockfall has been mostly cleared. It takes massive equipment to get the rock off the road.

 

We pass Trinidad, a town we’ve stopped in before, but we aren’t hungry yet. An hour later, we need gas and we need to eat, but there is a whole lot of nothing near the road. As soon as we see anything, we head for it.

 

First gas. Then – another Barbecue. LOL, it’s not as if we don’t get BBQ in Pensacola, but as it turns out, this is pretty good barbecue.

 

We hit Denver just about prime traffic time, and worse, Denver has just been hit by a heavy rain and sleet storm. We recognize a street name we know, exit the interstate and in very short time find my sister and her husband and happily settle in. Tonight we are all having dinner together over at Little Diamonds, with the kids; AdventureMan and I still have the remains of our BBQ, and we split a salad. Dinner is great, the conversation is even better, and the children are delightful.

The next day is so much fun, my sister has tickets for the Viking exhibit AdventureMan has wanted to see at the beautiful Denver Museum of Natural Sciences. This is a great exhibit, full of treasures and wonders, beautifully exhibited. We have such a great time.

This is my very favorite part of the entire exhibit, and I am sorry my photos are blurry but we can only take photos with no flash, and the light is very low in the exhibit to protect the artifacts.

There are people associated with the exhibit who are character actors. This is Tova, an older, still beautiful, much married woman, who tells us about her three marriages, her husbands, her life, her wealth and property, all the while holding a spindle with which she spins thread while she talks to us. She interacts with her audience, asking questions, but never straying from her character. She was enchanting, and even better, she was convincing. We learned so much from her.

I wish you could see how beautifully made so many of these articles are, and read all the descriptions. This was well curated.

Another of my favorite exhibit, and almost impossible to photograph. These are nails, exactly in the positions they were found. An entire Viking ship had been found, buried in dirt and mud. The wood all rotted away, and disappeared, but the nails stayed exactly where they had been, and in the exhibit, thin, nearly invisible lines hold each nail in its place. Together, the nails form the shape of a ship, but you have to find the right perspective to see it. I tried, this was the best I could get.

A tombstone put up by a wife to honor her dead husband – and to determine, also, her property lines 🙂

 

Another character actor helping the students find the answers to their worksheets.

 

 

 

The exhibit was full of school groups, with booklets to find the answers to. These kids were having so much fun, and learning so much. This group donned Viking helmets for a photo, but were in constant motion (sigh) in the low light.

Probably the very best gift (from his perspective) our grandson got was one of these paper Viking helmets; our grandson wore it all the next day, after we got home, even to choir practice!

We had lunch at Sams #3, wow, so much selection and every dish was wonderful. Then, home to pack up and have a rest before we all meet up again for dinner. Dinner is a lot of fun, we’ve all been to Damascus, so we are eating at a restaurant near Denver University called . . . Damascus!

Things did not start well. “Mike” greeted us and told us he was not really the waiter, but the waitress had quit and he was the dishwasher, but tonight he would try to be the waiter while the owner trained a new cook. They couldn’t promise that everything on the menu would be available, but . . .

The good news was that as much as we all love Middle Eastern, particularly Damascus, cuisine, more than anything we wanted time together, sitting, talking, laughing, telling stories, so we just rolled with it. We ordered and it seemed nothing was not going to be served.

First out was hummus, and mohammara, and a big basket of hot hot hot fresh pita bread. Oh! I had forgotten how good it tastes, fresh out of the oven, and so plentiful. We were so happy, we stopped even thinking about the rest of dinner.

A while later, our dinners appeared, and they were each wonderful. AdventureMan had a felafel sandwich, which I failed to photograph. I had ordered this wonderful vegetarian platter, which I was happy to share with everyone.

My brother-in-law had chicken on the bone, with rice and salad. Perfect!

Little diamond had fattoush and grilled mushrooms.

My sister had a cucumber soup. We all had lots of mohammara and bread. As we ate, the restaurant filled. Mike explained to each table that things might not go well, but every table seemed to get a great dinner. It’s the old adage, Under Promise and Over Deliver. Makes customers happy every time. 🙂

 

 

This was the BEST way to leave Denver, full, happy, having time with family.

We leave early the next morning for Pensacola. Not everything goes smoothly, but we arrive in Pensacola little worse for wear. It’s been a great trip.

And we’re off on our next adventure! 🙂

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Entertainment, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Santa Fe, Here We Come

We spent one night in Santa Fe two years ago, and knew we had to come back. We put a three day stay at the end of our parks visit to give ourselves some play time, we really love Santa Fe.

This was not a bad day, but I will not tell you it was another best day of the trip. Some days, you just have to drive to get where you are going. This was mostly that kind of day.

We came south back to Kayenta, turned left, and stayed on the same highway until Farmington, where we had lunch at the crossroad where we turned south. On the way, we saw flashing lights ahead, and were afraid it was an accident but it was a marching group. We didn’t know why they were marching. Then about ten miles later, we saw a similar group marching towards us. We gave them a big thumbs up; YAY! Marching for a healthier lifestyle! They all looked about our age 🙂

We were about to turn south when we saw this sign: Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.  Who could resist that sign? Not us!

We each ordered a sandwich. When they came, we discovered that SERIOUS meant huge. We couldn’t begin to eat the whole sandwiches, we had to leave about half behind. The restaurant was full of big burly cowboy types who seemed to have no trouble packing away that kind of serious sandwich.

All the following photos seem to be about food, but we did other things, too!

Checking in at the Hotel Santa Fe and Hacienda, AdventureMan reminded me we had one of the best meals of our lives at their Amaya restaurant. We reserved for that night, and AdventureMan had their duck, and I had the salmon.

 

As we were eating, we overheard another table talking about the Farmer’s Market the next day. We love Farmer’s Markets! We asked the waitress if she knew where it might be, and she didn’t know, but very soon, another waiter came over and told us how to get there – it was right across the street. After dinner, we took a walk, found where the market would be, and came back to the hotel, had coffee and dessert while we listened to the hotel musician, who plays Spanish guitar and Indian flute, then headed upstairs for some much needed sleep.

Although we were near the elevators, the rooms are so quiet, we never heard another guest. I love that the hotel has coffee service for guests on each floor; early the next morning while AdventueMan slept, I could creep out and fill my cup without him even missing me.

He was awake soon, and we headed for the Farmer’s Market, only to learn that there was also a Crafts and Artists Market in a separate row. Oh, what heaven! I found some wonderful gifts and AdventureMan and I found wonderful quiche and croissants at the Farmer’s Market, which also has baked goods and crafted goods, plants, all kinds of things. We loved the Santa Fe market.

I asked one of the vendors I was buying from where he and his wife eat when they come to Santa Fe, and without hesitation he said “The Pantry” so we put it on our list of places to take a look at. Meanwhile, we headed out Canyon Road, which we loved, with all the art shops and cute restaurants, then went to explore San Miguel’s, billing itself as the oldest church in the United States, with an altar that dates from the days of the Spanish exploration.

 

 

AdventureMan had heard of Jambo, an African fusion restaurant he thought we should try. It was wonderful. We ordered too much. We ordered a hummus appetizer, salads and a peanut chicken stew to share. The hummus was huge, and beautiful, with hummus, and also lots of veggies and olives, and pita bread, and then the salads came, huge and delicious . . . when the stew came with the rice, it was also delicious, but we were so full! We ate a few bites, then packed it up to take it back to the hotel for dinner. We love that our room has a fridge and a microwave, and we have plates and utensils and napkins, so we will feast again tonight in the glory of our own little suite.

xxx

(Forgot to take a photo of the peanut chicken stew, which when we first had it many many years ago was called Ground Nut Stew. This was a little different, but equally delicious.)

 

We were lazy on Sunday and didn’t get up until seven thirty or so, to get to the Pantry while there still might be tables left on a lazy Sunday morning. Oops, my bad, Santa Fe must get up early, all the tables are taken and there is a line to get in. The waitress says it will only be ten minutes or so, we decide to wait. In almost no time, we are in, and have a great table.

This looks like a picture, but it is actually a quilt someone did of the Pantry.

AdventureMan ordered biscuits and gravy – and beans!

 

I ordered blue-corn pancakes. Sigh. They were good, but they tasted like . . . pancakes!

 

At a nearby table was a friendly man who told us we might want to try Maria’s for dinner, that it was another good place where people from Santa Fe eat. He also told us he was a musician and an Elvis impersonator. Almost everyone we met in Santa Fe was very welcoming and glad to give out information. It was a lot of fun, being in that kind of atmosphere.

We visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum, walk around a little, but AdventureMan’s banged up leg make it hard for him to walk easily. That’s OK, we are in Santa Fe to kick back and rest up, so we spend the afternoon reading and snoozing. Later in the day, we hit Maria’s. Most of the people coming in were heading to the bar, evidently Maria’s has like 99 different kinds of Margaritas. We just wanted dinner – and our server was efficient, and sort of brusque. The restaurant wasn’t that busy, but getting busier. Maybe he had though he would get a break between lunch and dinner, and was just tired. He did the job. He did not make us feel welcome.

 

As much as we like Santa Fe, we are ready to start heading home. First step: get to Denver, where we will be staying with my sister and her husband, mother and father to Little Diamond, grandparents to the little little diamonds. From Maria’s, we head back to the hotel and organize our suitcases, take out the big ones and just keep the small overnighters. Sorting through now helps us plan for our time in Denver and for the trip back to Pensacola.

 

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Faith, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monument Valley: A Day to Remember

When we decided to go to Monument Valley, we decided to go all out, and we are so glad we did. We had read you can go down and visit many of the places in Monument Valley on your own, which we often like to do, go places on our own. On the other hand, doing Monument Valley on your own, you could very well miss something important.

So we signed up with Majestic Monument Tours, for a morning in Mystery Valley and an afternoon in the regular valley below the hotel. Bright and early we met our guide, Hope, in the hotel lobby and our day began.

Immediately we were so glad to be with Hope. For one thing, she is knowledgeable, not showy but quiet and modest and full of good information, if you want to know. Second, she is a really great driver, and some of the places she took us needed four wheel drive. Third, many of the places she took us were also off-limits to people who did not have guides. Last and not least, the roads were as bad as any we have ever driven in Africa or the Middle East, and our little rental car might have suffered damage had we tried these excursions on our own. Going with a guide was the right decision, for so many reasons.

This was another best day of our entire road trip.

While it was still cool, we hiked up to some dwellings, straight up the red rock. I didn’t have any problem going up, I wasn’t worried about going up, it’s always going down on rock where I worry – loose pebbles can make your foot slip, and there are no soft surfaces on the way down. I did fine, and I thought AdventureMan did, too, only to learn when we got back to the hotel at the end of the day that he had actually slid and tumbled badly down one rock slope when he had gone up to photograph some hand prints in a location that I would not attempt.

This is the rock hill I climbed, early in the morning, while it was still cool. By later in the day, it was too hot for me, I would hike, but hide in the shady areas.

This is Hope, our guide, with me at the top of the hill, and the truck down at the bottom of the hill.

I risked it all for petroglyphs.

I was cooing and babying him, so sorry I had no idea that he had hurt himself, but he said “I didn’t want anyone to know, and the most important thing is I didn’t damage my camera.” LOL, so stoic, and here we are bumping around all day in hard seats mounted on a truck, like we are riding really difficult hard horses most of the day, and he doesn’t make a peep!

 

This is the cliff AdventureMan fell down. He had gone up to take photographs of family hand prints and petroglyphs on the wall. He was the only one who climbed up with Hope.

 

The day was full of wonders, including backdrops from old cowboy movies. When we cam back, AdventureMan reviewed a lot of the movies mentioned and would call me in and say “Look! Clint Eastwood is climbing that rock formation!” or “John Wayne is there with those cliffs in the background!” That was a lot of fun.

 

 

I love pictographs and petroglyphs. Can you see these?

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what I find interesting about the following two:  each one has a right hand that is enlarged. I wonder if it is co-incidence, or if the enlargement of the right hand has significance? Look at the line coming out of the head of the top figure. That doesn’t look accidental, it looks intentional. What could it mean? These were intelligent human beings, problem solvers, artists. We have to give them credit for having as much capability of expression and intent as we have – or do we?

 

 

At one of the hollowed out areas, Hope pulled out her flute and played a haunting melody, echoed off the wall. It was a wonderful moment.

I liked this formation below a lot; it is called Three Sisters, and I am one of three sisters.

I think this was called God’s Eyes

And this was called God’s ear.

One of the classic cowboy movie backdrops.

Late in the afternoon, we got back to the hotel, grabbed quick naps (hey! it’s vacation!) and then headed to Amigos for a truly great dinner.

I woke up early to take this photo for you. This is sunrise in Monument Valley. You want this on your bucket list. Look, you can even see a star and the dim lights of the first trucks heading down into the valley to capture the early morning light.  🙂

 

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Local Lore, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: AZ or UT?

“Look! Look! Grab your camera! Grab your camera!”

“It’s just turkeys,” I grumble to myself, I’m not even settled in the car, I don’t even have my seat belt on and AdventureMan wants me to take photos of turkeys? I take a couple shots, then we head to the lodge and check out.

This time, the camera is in my hands. This time, when we see three turkeys, and two of them are male, trying desperately to get the turkey chick to give them the time of day, so to speak.

 

This was actually a great way to start a day which will have a lot of driving before we reach our goal, Monument Valley, which is sort of in Utah and Sort of in Arizona, or at least the hotel where we are staying is in Arizona, but the road to get to it starts in Utah. Because it is Navaho Nation, they have gone on Daylight Savings Time, in spite of the technicality that they are in Arizona, a peculiar state who does not go on Daylight Savings Time.

Farewell, beautiful Zion.

 

This is the route we will be taking today. Our maps tell us it has some scenic routes. Remember, cell phone coverage is spotty in this area, and physical maps are a really, really good idea.

 

We know where we will stop for breakfast – The Thunderbird, In Mt. Carmel Junction, where we had lunch the day before. It is right on our way. Actually, I had a healthy breakfast, but I had to order this cinnamon roll, which AdventureMan and I nibbled on, and then took the rest with us in case we were stuck somewhere in a remote place and needed some sugar-energy. This roll had a lot of sugar-energy.

 

On the road, after the glory or Arches, and Bryce Canyon, and Zion, we are spoiled. It is harder to appreciate normal beautiful vistas. As we drove through a forest, however, AdventureMan spotted a deer running, not a pronghorn, not a mule deer, we don’t know what it was. I am sorry it is fuzzy; he was running!

Maybe it was a mule deer, now that I see the ears. I am not sure.

We stopped to look at this vast overlook, and I was sort of thinking “ho-hum” when an Asian family drove up, a dad and his three daughters, and the daughters all had iPads and were taking photos and one of them said to me “Just look! This is right out of the old West! Can’t you just see an enormous herd of buffalo stretching all the way to the horizon, and what if they get spooked and stampede??”

And then, I saw them, thousands of buffalo in the valley below, nibbling on the new green grass, stretching to the horizon. I owe that girl. She gave me a great gift, a major shift in perspective.


AdventureMan said “Why are there so many contrails?” and he was right, there were contrail everywhere. We were close to the Northern side of Grand Canyon, which is still closed at this time of year, so maybe they were planes coming and going out of Phoenix? Maybe the air is so cold that the contrails form more easily? I don’t know, but he is right, the sky is streaked with them.

I think these are the Vermillion Cliffs, fabulous, but . . . we are jaded after the glories we have seen. We drive on.

 

 

We stop for gas in Kayenta, and we go into the Basha Market to buy water. Two things, one is that we have this totally deja vu feeling, like we have been in this shopping area before. AdventureMan says we had lunch at that Subway store, and I kind of remember. Second, all the people in the market, mostly local Navaho, have carts full of sugary foods, sodas, sugary cereals, snacks and candy. It’s like the don’t know that sugar is the new poison, that it leads to obesity, that it rots your teeth and inflames your gums. Or they know, and they don’t care.

But we are starving. We see Amigos on the side of the road as we are heading to Monument Valley, and decide to give it a try. As soon as we get inside, we know we are in the right place. There are local people. There is a lunch special up on the blackboard. The smells are wonderful.

AdventureMan had Tostada and Enchilada. See that salsa? That salsa is one of the best salsas we have ever eaten. In the photo it looks red, but it actually was very green.

I had two tacos. The tacos were enough, I didn’t need the rice and beans and I left them, but I did ask for another salsa, it was so good.

We liked Amigos so much that we came back here again for dinner the night after we had been out all day in Monument Valley.

 

The name of our hotel is The View. It is a Navaho owned and operated hotel in Monument Valley proper, where all the tours start. We chose it for so many reasons, for one, because every room has a view, for another, that it is Navaho owned and operated, and last but not least, they advertise that they have some of the best star-gazing because there is no light from nearby cities; there are no nearby cities (Kayenta is about 30 miles away.)

At check-in, we are delighted; the lobby is lovely! It is light and bright and full of art works. We are also chagrined, the receptionist is rude to the people in front of us, and not at all welcoming to us. She wasn’t rude to us, just very businesslike and unsmiling. Maybe she was just having a bad day.

 

This is the area where people met up with their tour guides for the morning, afternoon and evening tours.

 

This is our room. It was lovely. We loved the art work, we loved the very spacious bathroom, and oh my, we loved the view.

 

 

The view, straight out:

 

The view to the right

The view to the left

 

As the late-afternoon sun begins to mellow, the colors morph and darken

 

 

Staying in this hotel is SO worth it.

 

The hotel has a fabulous gift shop, full of lovely jewelry, art items, artifacts. AdventureMan looked at a beautiful knife for our son; the cost was over $500. Oops! They also had more affordable things, one of our grand children’s favorite gifts was a bag of colored rocks, LOL. They had some good books, with Indian legends, written for children, and of course, T-shirts.

 

We ate dinner in The View restaurant, it was packed, full, with lots of families with young children and lots of tourists, some in groups. The servers did their best, but it was chaotic. AdventureMan had the “famous” green chili stew, which he said was not very interesting, and I had a taco salad, which was equally not very interesting. Our breakfast there, the next morning, was equally not very interesting. It was a breakfast buffet with a very limited selection.

There is another downside. During the day, the hotel facilities are dominated by the day-trippers. The hotel area is sort-of separated from the more public areas, but the feeling is chaotic. It all calms down dramatically when the last bus leaves. Wait to visit the gift shop after the teeming hoards have departed.

The upside of The View is the view. The upside is that the view at sunset is gorgeous. The upside is that it truly is magnificent star gazing. The upside is that the sunrise is beyond magnificent.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment