Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pensacola’s Pelican Tribute to Native Americans

We’re on our way to lunch at Portobello, the restaurant in the old jail, when AdventureMan says “Look at that Pelican!” and I had just spotted it at the same time. It is fabulous. It is on the corner at the Wentworth Museum and is a tribute to our First Nation inhabitants. It reminds me of Alaska, where the Haida art was mostly black and white, with just a tiny accent of red here and there, or occasionally a tiny bit of blue. I love this Pelican 🙂

WentworthMuseumPelican

Different businesses and organizations in Pensacola sponsor Pelicans, and each one is different. At the main intersection at Garden and Palafox, the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines have Pelicans stationed. Local artists make the pelicans vibrant and unique. Love the pelicans, but I love this one at the Wentworth most of all.

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October 16, 2015 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Fund Raising, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

Celebration at the Seville

“I think we ended up exactly where we were meant to be,” AdventureMan said as we drove away, and I love him for thinking that, and saying that. I think so, too.

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It’s been an amazing week.

I’m tempted to say, about so many of the subjects, “I don’t have a dog in that fight,” and yet, somehow, I do.

Our Supreme Court is been so greatly conservative that I had no hopes that so many decisions would come down on the side of what I consider human dignity.

We have great medical coverage, thanks to what is truly socialized medicine – life time medical care through career military service coupled with the medicare that United States citizens receive when we turn 65. So when people complain about “socialized medicine,” I just laugh and say I love my socialized medicine. It pays almost all my medical bills.

So why does it matter to me that others have affordable health care?

I worked with the homeless for a year, with homeless families. It was a program; we provided housing, some food, and counseling, and guided our residents into degree programs, assistance programs that would lead them to an ability to self-sustain.

What I learned, over and over, was stunning. Many women with children are one man away from homelessness. Women with children are exceedingly vulnerable. When a child gets sick, unless you are protected by family, the child cannot go to day care and Mama has to stay away from work to take care of them. Too many absences and that job disappears. No insurance, and the costs are those hugely exaggerated sums you see on your reconciliation sheets your insurance sends – what the cost is, what insurance pays, what your share is. IF you have insurance, your insurance company has negotiated the costs, and those costs are considerably less than if you don’t have insurance. The least able to pay are charged the most. Is that fair? I thank God for affordable care, so that all people have access to decent health care for themselves, and for their children.

It was teetering on the balance. Which way would the Supreme Court decide on this technicality? By the grace of God, the majority opinion was that law is tough enough to write and often mis-written and corrected before the ultimate wording is finalized. This was no exception; it needed refinement but the intent was clear. Affordable care is the law.

The poor and the minorities are not to be discriminated against in housing, either, the Supreme Court decided. Again, it’s not my fight, no one has ever discriminated against us, except for being military (and the implication was that military was riff raff). The significance here was that even if the discrimination was not clearly intentional, if it was discrimination, it was not allowed. It levels the field; makes life more fair for all of us.

And last. That people who want to marry will have the dignity of that right. That those people will have the same legal rights, rights that guarantee inheritance, rights that guarantee access to the partner that becomes hospitalized, rights to make legal decisions as a legal married couple. Again, AdventureMan and I, one man and one woman, are married, so we don’t have a dog in the fight – except that as human beings, we want the laws to be fair, and humane, and applicable to all. We have no say over how we are wired or who we love, and, as we see it, no right to restrict others from what we have chosen for ourselves.

We’ve had a great day. We went to early service, where Father Goldsborough spoke as a Southerner, and how his views have changed, and how he believes that if the Confederate flag is a cause of grief and horror to those whose family were once enslaved, that that flag should be retired. Yes, keep it as history, display it in museums, but not as a part of a public, governmental display. He is a courageous man.

And while I agree that it is time for the flag to be retired, the flag is just a symbol.

It is a kid that killed the bible study participants in South Carolina. It was a kid with a powerful GUN. So why are we not talking about gun control? I have the feeling that a lot of people are willing to pull down the Confederate flag in hopes that it will keep the attention off the fact that people with problems who have access to guns are the problem. Sure, you can kill with a knife, or a car, or a hundred other ways, but nothing beats a gun for killing efficiently, and no gun beats an automatic weapon for super efficient killing.

I headed straight for the commissary to do some weekly grocery shopping, while AdventureMan spent time in the garden. I got the groceries unloaded, and dinner started. AdventureMan came in and invited me to lunch at my favorite place, Five Sisters.

When we got to Five Sisters, every table was full and lines and groups of people were scattered around waiting. We headed to the Fish House for some fish and grits, but it was the same story. So we headed for Saville, where we found a parking place and while it was crowded, very crowded, we got a place in the Palace Bar, which we like anyway, and we liked that it was away from the music and we could talk.

After we ordered, I said “I think we are in the middle of a celebration,” and he agreed. We were surrounded by a very large group of guys about our age, but we had to guess they were gay, and they were all very celebratory. In fact, much of the restaurant was moving from table to table, hugging and exchanging greetings and congratulations.

The last time I remember feeling this way was in Alaska, last year, for The Celebration, where all the tribes gather to share culture and dances.

On our way out, I leaned over and said “Congratulations! We wish you happiness!” and they thanked us and we left.

Except, LOL, I had dropped my sunglasses, and we had to go back in. “Stop, stop!” our friends at the next table asked us, and thanked us again for our ‘kind words.’ But they needed to talk. It wasn’t about the right to get married, they explained, each jumping over the other in speech in eagerness to explain, “it is about legal rights in hospitals” said one “the right to be who we are” said another. These were men about my age, and they needed to be heard. I told them that I remember Juneau, Alaska, and I don’t remember any gay people. I said there must have been, but I never knew of any, and one man said “that was me! Imagine growing up knowing you are seriously different, that you like boys and not girls, and who do you talk to? There was NO-ONE!”

These guys had been married for varying amounts of time, but this weeks Supreme Court decision eliminated the anxiety that things could change, that a change in president could signal a cascade of change in state laws and the hard-won battles would have to be fought again. “The only person left in my family who would have the right to say whether to take me off life-support or not is a person who would likely say “pull the plug!” and my husband would have no say at all, before this decision!” one said, and the husband added “and she could keep me out of his hospital room, even though we’ve been married for years!”

I would have loved to hear more, but this was their celebration. It was like one huge wedding celebration, so much love, so much happiness, so much joy.

“I can be who I am!” one said to me, with such emotion. “I can be who I am!”

I almost cried with joy for him, for all of them. They have seen such change, from living their lives in hiding to being able to live legally, freely, as who they are. We were moved by their joy, moved beyond words. We felt so honored to have been able to share a little of their joy, even though – this isn’t our dog, this isn’t our fight, it isn’t our win.

Except, except that as human beings, maybe it all IS our dog, and is our fight. Maybe it is our win. Maybe, as Jesus says, we are all connected, we are all meant to love one another, and as weird as we are, as eccentric, as different, maybe we are all meant to love one another and to live in peace with one another. Maybe the dignity of every human being is relevant to my own . . .

It’s a heady thought for a celebratory Sunday.

June 28, 2015 Posted by | Aging, Alaska, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions | 4 Comments

The Nomadic Life: Our Journey to the American SouthWest

We still get restless. AdventureMan still gets calls asking him to come check something out, even goes back to Doha now and then, and I visit family. But we get so restless. We need the stimulation and challenge of other ways of seeing things, other ways of thinking, new sights, new smells, new adventures. There are so many places I have never seen!

Some people are just wired that way. I can remember, even as a young girl, being at the Juneau Airport, smelling that aviation fuel smell, and wishing I were going somewhere. It’s just the way I’m wired. I still love the smell of aviation fuel.

I am so lucky to be married to a man who indulges me. AdventureMan isn’t wired precisely the same; he is better at growing roots than I am, but he still likes to shake things up a little when it’s all same same same, day after day.

We’ve both had to adjust. I grew up in a family where when we were going, say from Germany to Italy for a vacation, we got up early and went, as AdventureMan so colorfully puts it, “balls to the walls” driving 12, 13 hours until we dropped from exhaustion. We were just intent on getting there. AdventureMan’s family traveled in shorter segments. It’s taken us about 40 years to find a happy medium. He has adjusted to sharing the driving with me. I’m a good driver, and I love driving. He goes to sleep, and I can drive for hours, it’s sort of a zen thing.

So off we went. We put over 6,500 on my two year old car, more than doubling the total mileage. It was a wondrous and joyful journey, full of surprises, full of delights, and with a couple days of truly awful driving.

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We packed too much. When you are going someplace every couple days, you really don’t need a lot of clothing. I worked out of a large duffel; I would put what I needed for the next day or couple of days in a smaller bag to carry into the hotels.

At our church, we collect toiletries for the homeless population in Pensacola and the recovery population. I came back with a lot of toiletries 🙂

Our first day was to Beaumont, TX. No particular reason to stop in Beaumont, it was just a good place to stop en route to where we were going, which was The National Butterfly Center and the National Birding Center, both of which happen to be in Mission, TX. Mission is right on the border, on the Rio Grande, and I have never seen the Rio Grande before and wanted to see it.

When lunchtime came, we were just passing Baton Rouge, where one of our very favorite restaurants, Al Basha, serves mouthwatering Arabic food. It’s just off I-10, we can see it from the road and what a great way to start our journey. But as we enter, every table is filled!

No worries, the waiter hurries over and leads us to a table way in the back, against the wall, which happens to be my favorite place. They have stuffed vegetables on the menu, which AdventureMan orders in a heartbeat, and of course, too much food comes.

We first became acquainted with stuffed vegetables long ago, living in Amman, Jordan, where it was a very common dish, served to family and to guests alike. Later, living in Kuwait, my friends knew how much AdventureMan loved stuffed vegetables and would make extra for him when they were preparing food for family or gatherings. What great memories this lunch brought back!

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00AlBashaStuffedVeg:ChickenSchwarma

Louisiana is a quirky state, a state we like a lot. At a gas station near Lafayette, we saw three restaurants and an antique shop, including one with Lebanese food.

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By the time we got to Beaumont, it was nearly dinner time. Beaumont is an oil refining town, and the hotel was full of men working in the refineries or about to be hired to work in the refineries. It was a very male populated environment. I went to the pool, but there was a large group of men sitting out on the patio by the pool, and I didn’t stay long, I wasn’t comfortable. It reminded me of the Middle East. I don’t like being oogled.

We were still so full from our Al Basha lunch that we found a local supermarket and got salads for dinner. It was a great first day on the road.

April 9, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Cultural, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Germany, Jordan, Kuwait, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

John the Baptist and Brood of Vipers

It is a rainy, chilly morning in Pensacola.

Even as I write those words, I smile. Our grandson inherited my cold genes through his father. By cold genes, I mean we are more comfortable being cool than hot. We sleep cool. We need less clothing to stay warm. He told his Baba, AdventureMan, that “chilly is not cold” because he didn’t want to wear long pants, he prefers shorts.

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(There are a lot of images of John the Baptist, but this one made me grin; he looks a little Rastafarian, and I hadn’t thought of him as so long haired and skinny, but he was living in the wilderness and eating locusts and honey . . . )

I can still feel the air grow still as the British Ambassador to Kuwait read a very odd scripture about John the Baptist. It was odd because while it talked about John, it was unfamiliar to me. At the end, he said “A reading from the holy Qu’ran” and I was astonished for two reasons. First, I didn’t know that the Muslims recognized John the Baptist (they do, he is called Yahya Yahanna, and they have a beautiful tomb to him in the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, where many visit and pray) and second, I didn’t know I belonged to a church that would allow the Qu’ran to be read as Holy Scripture.

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Life is long, and full of surprises. I love it. I think the ability to be surprised, and to ponder those quick flickers of perspective keeps us young in heart, and young in spirit.

Today, John speaks to us, each and every one. The true path is coming, the word of God embodied in a human being, born a tiny baby, a human baby, God come down into flesh. (My Muslim friends are quivering with fear at this point, waiting for me to be struck down for such blasphemy. They don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, but that he was a messenger, like Mohammed. They also believe Jesus will be the judge at the end of times.)

Life among the Moslems. Bible study with the Baptist. My very Mormon friends. My own very Episcopalian faith. All these influences – and my Alaskan heritage – mashed together with smatterings of others, have gone into making me a very odd sort of Christian.

I’m OK with that.

Luke 3:1-9

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler* of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler* of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler* of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holly Beach and Hackberry, Louisiana

AdventureMan knows how to thrill my heart, and just down the road, we find Holly Beach.

“Do you want to walk on the beach?” he asks slyly. He knows the answer to that question will always be “YES!!”

Holly Beach is not Pensacola Beach. I don’t see a single restaurant, not a single hotel. I don’t see sugar white sand. The sand here is golden grey, and the beach is littered – with SEASHELLS! So many wonderful seashells! I could stay here for a long time!

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LOL, it’s also an Alaska kind of beach!

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On our way into Lake Charles, we make a stop at Brown’s Market, in Hackberry, Louisiana, for a list of items, and they had every item on our list. It is a great little stop, and has clean restrooms, too 🙂

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October 30, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Beauty, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inequality: No Respect For Our First Nation Citizens (Blog Action Day)

I grew up in a small town, Juneau, Alaska, and not even in the main town, but on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My neighbors were fishermen, hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and hard-working people struggling to make a living.

It was an upside down world. In most places, those who live there the longest are the leaders of society. In Southeast Alaska, those who lived there the longest were at the bottom of the heap, the Native Americans, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. I went to school with them. Yes, the boys carried knives. No, they were not dirty, and none of my little friends in elementary school were drunks. We were kids, we played together, we were all in the same classes all through elementary school – it was a small school.

Many of them did have family problems. There were problems of alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence and hunger. They weren’t the only ones. The big problem was no respect. Although there were a few pieces of Native Art in the city museum, Native culture and Native craft were given little value. The Native way of life, living off the land, hunting and fishing, had greatly diminished as lands were apportioned off and hunting and fishing activities regulated.

In 1971 a huge lawsuit was settled and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided some restoration for the damaged peoples. Alaska Natives now have regional corporations to administer and grow funds to support the culture, to provide education for the children, to provide health clinics and hospitals. SEALASKA began to organize a biennial Celebration, a gathering of all the Alaska natives to share their stories, to celebrate their culture, to dance and to transmit culture to their children. It’s a great opportunity for people you might see every day in their western life to remember where they come from and to be proud of who they are. This Celebration is held every two years and includes Alaska Natives from all over Alaska who want to participate. It is a very inclusive Celebration. The next Celebration will be June 8 – 11, in 2016. You can read a little more about Celebration 2014 here.

They learn the legends of their clans – the Eagles, The Ravens, the Beavers, the Bears and a number of other clans. They spend the time between celebrations stitching together elaborate costumes for their parade and dance exhibitions, hollowing out canoes from trees, making elaborate hats and masks.

We first learned of the Celebration gathering in 2012, when we already had tickets to go back to Zambia at the exact time the Celebration was taking place, but my sweet husband promised we could go back for the 2014 Celebration. As we researched, we discovered just how much of Alaska we wanted to see, and did a reconnaissance trip in 2013. We loved our time there, and we were delighted to be able to return this last year for Celebration 2014.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, to see the gathering, to see the old women cry as canoes came into sight full of young Alaskan natives, and say “I never thought I would see this again in my life”, to watch the exhilaration of the dancers, to feel the energy of the parade and especially – to see the children. To see the pride in marching, in dancing, to see the joy in being able to express who they are and to share that with others. I was moved beyond my ability to express in words; it was a feeling that in one small way, a train of events that had gone very off track had moved incrementally back in the right direction.

Here are some photos from the joyous Celebration of 2014:

 

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00PreParade

00Ravens

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00Eagles

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00TransmittingCulture

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creeping Towards September

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This is the hottest part of the summer. You’d think in late August things would start cooling down a little, but no, we hit a record high last week and we haven’t had a good rain for weeks.

September is worse. When I think September, I think back to school, sweaters and wool skirts. Even in Seattle, it is too warm in September for sweaters and wool skirts; the afternoons can get really warm in September. In Pensacola, it’s just mostly a continuation of an endless August, a waiting for October. The only hint of winter is a slight cooling of night time temperatures.

I dream of Alaska, of Montana, and North Dakota, I dream of cool nights sleeping with an open window, I dream of featherbeds and brisk walks on chilly mornings . . .

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | Leave a comment

Putting Pensacola Weather in Perspective

I know, I know, you all are tired of hearing me gripe and groan about heat and humidity. I just had a humbling experience. I finished my Lectionary Readings and went to Weather Underground to see how the weather is shaping up for today and caught a glimpse of Kuwait weather. I have it marked as a favorite so I can see how my friends there are doing.

113°F in Kuwait City.

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At the other extreme is my old hometown, Juneau, Alaska. This is the forecast for today, and the next week or so:

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You know, today it’s supposed to be less than 90°F in Pensacola, and the humidity feels lighter today – so far. We are expecting a thunderstorm, and yesterday, the temperature dropped ten 15 degrees at noon as a thunderstorm rolled in – how cool is that? We have those beautiful white sand beaches and a surf as warm as bathwater – 84°F – Pensacola in the heat of August is looking a lot better 🙂

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Kuwait, Pensacola, Statistics, Weather | Leave a comment

“Perfect!” The Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage

Language changes, and usage changes, and one of the differences I heard on this trip was an increasing use of the word “Perfect!”

We had eaten at Mooses Tooth (see below) and we wanted to change up the pace for our last night in Anchorage, finishing with really really good seafood in Anchorage. We decided on The Bridge, and we decided to make reservations.

“I’d like a reservation for two at seven o-clock” I said and the lady taking the reservation said “Perfect!”

She asked our name and I told her and she said “Perfect!”

Our name is perfect? That we gave her our name is perfect? That she wrote it down perfectly?

I told her we would see her at seven and she said . . . well, you can guess what she said:

“PERFECT!”

It took us a missed exit and some driving around to actually find The Bridge, and oh, what fun. It is in the downtown most part of downtown Anchorage, on the banks of the river, spanning the river.

00TheBridgeExterior

There are a lot of parking lots with limited parking, limited to like two hours because they have so many people wanting to fish in this river. At seven at night, this river was PACKED. The river was packed with people, fishing! They had gorgeous weather, and the fish were biting.

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This is the kitchen at The Bridge:
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And this is a view of a part of the interior. There are a variety of seating areas; this area was for those who had reservations. There was seating on a patio, but this is a very brightly lit place on a hot, sunshiney day, and I am glad to be inside, out of the hot sun, hot sun at seven at night – it’s the equinox.

00TheBridgeRestaurantInterior

We loved this restaurant, and while we had many wonderful experiences on this trip, this would be one of my first choices going back. It’s a little off the beaten trail, (although we saw two tables of eight reserved for Orvis fisherpeople) and the people who worked there seemed to really love working there. At least half of the people were from Anchorage.

We ordered the Smoked Salmon Pate, not realizing we would also get more pate with our bread. The Bridge is like that; it gives you more than you expect. Sorry for the high contrast photos; there is a lot of bright sun I am working with here.

00TheBridgeSalmonSpread

AdventureMan also ordered crab legs, not realizing they came on the appetizer buffet you get with the full meal, which we ordered. We ordered too much food for our last night in Anchorage, when it didn’t make sense to take food back with us.

The Bridge has a fabulous appetizer buffet.

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For his main course, AdventureMan had the grilled halibut, which he says was the best on his entire trip:

00TheBridgeGrilledHalibut

And I could not resist ordering The Bridge’s Alaska Cioppino – I am a sucker for Cioppino, and this was exquisite.

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They also had rhubarb crisp as a dessert, but I could not even think about eating another bite. Next time I hit The Bridge, I will start with the Rhubarb Crisp 🙂

The Bridge is only open for the summer season. It is a total WOW.

It was (you guessed it!) “PERFECT!”

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Cooking, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Miscellaneous Around Anchorage

Anchorage bumper sticker:
 

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View from our hotel room:

00HotelRoomView

Live aquatic transportation:

00AquaticTransport

Moose crossing signs are everywhere; hitting a moose is a lot like hitting a camel, not good for your car and not good for the moose:

00MooseCrossingSign

We didn’t expect much from the Golden Palace on Tudor, near our hotel, and we were delighted at the quality of the meal. It was wonderful and spicy, and the flavors shone!

 

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July 21, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment