Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Wrapping up the Year in New Orleans

I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.

AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.

Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.

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New Orleans – and Pensacola – had an unseasonably warm Christmas, and when we arrived in New Orleans, it was 75° F. and the zoo was packed. Fortunately, one family was leaving and we found a good parking spot. Parenthetically, the three year old was a total trooper, doing her 10,000 steps with no complaints. We had lunch with the flamingos at one of the zoo food stops.
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We think the zoo has one of the most beautiful carousels we have ever seen. Tickets cost $1 and are worth every penny. This is a treat for children and their parents 🙂
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Two days, two trips to the zoo. It was fun, and plenty to occupy the kids for more than a couple days.
There are all kinds of enrichment centers and activities.
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We stayed at the Westin, which we discovered atop a high end shopping mall and offices when we had to rush to New Orleans to replace a missing passport at the last minute before one of our trips overseas. It is not where we stay when it is just the two of us, but it is a perfect place to stay with children who are going to the aquarium (next door) and the insectarium. It is also a very short drive to the zoo. Parking is $30 per day, and relatively secure. We looked over the city and the river, and had a very spacious room for two adults and two children.
We were also able to find some great places which welcomed children and provided fairly healthy food.
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A short walk from the hotel was Felipe’s, a taqueria, which we liked so well that we ate there two nights. Everything was freshly made, the kids loved the food (they had quesadillas and black beans), I had a taco salad made with pork al pastor, AdventureMan had tamales, tostada and a tortilla soup. We all split two flans. It was casual, the food was tasty and fresh and we were comfortable being their with kids.
Across the street from  Zito’s, where we take our Middle Eastern treasures to be shined up and sealed, is the Wakin’ Bakin’, where we had plates full of eggs and toast and fabulous biscuits, bowls of fresh fruit and good coffee.  They make their own croissants, and other wonderful goodies, and it’s all good.
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We introduced the grands to Ethiopian food at the Cafe Abyssinia, 3511 Magazine Street, close to the zoo and on the way back to the French Quarter. They loved the Ethiopian tea, and the injera, which they thought were pancakes. Not so fond yet of the Doro Wat or the veg entrees, but we have time . . . .  🙂
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Last but not least, as the weather turned chilly overnight, we snuggled into the Jackson Brewery, on Decatur, close to the Westin and close to the Aquarium and the river park walk. We started with beignets, which were a big hit, and orange juice. The brewery actually had good fresh options and the children loved the space and ambience.
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Entrance to Jackson Brewery from Decatur Street:
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We had such a good time, we think it might have to become a Christmas vacation tradition. In the meanwhile, we also enjoyed turning them back over to their parents and enjoying hours of silence. 🙂 Happy New Year!

December 31, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Holiday, Hotels, Living Conditions, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | 2 Comments

Afternoon in Washington Park, Anacortes, WA

“Is this park accessible by wheelchair” asks Trip Advisor, and I have to stop and think. Well, the Loop Road is paved, so a wheelchair bound person could be pushed along the entire route, and, of course, they could view from the car, as they drove the loop.

There are picnic areas where a wheelchair bound person could sit and visit with family and friends.

Off the paved roads, though, I would think a wheel chair might bog down in soft dirt and could get tangled in roots and vines and ferns.

So how do you answer the question?

I would say – if the required answer were not “yes” or “no” or “not sure” – take a chance. This park is so beautiful, and so much thought and care has been put into making it a joy for visitors – take a chance. There are spectacular hikes. There are spectacular vistas, land and sea, and roiling currents, and snow tipped mountains. There are eagles, perched and ready to strike the unsuspecting fish. There are kayakers, battling the currents. There is so much to see, and so much to appreciate.

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Take a chance! You’ll be glad you did!

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

The Carolina Wrens

Several months ago, we noticed a wren flying close to our house, flying out, flying back, flying out, flying back, and she was always carrying something.

 

“I think she might be building a nest in our watering can,” I told AdventureMan. He checked the can, and sure enough, it was full of little straw and twigs and pieces of string. Her mate showed up, also bringing strings and twigs and grass clippings.

 

Weeks went by, and we enjoyed their company. We gave the plenty of space.

 

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We had houseguests, and as we were about to leave one day,  AdventureMan spotted four tiny little wrens, trying their wings for the first time. He quickly snapped a shot with his iPhone of the two not yet flying. It is a good thing; by the next day, they were gone. We were just so thankful we got to see them, and our house guests got to see them, too!

 

What fun! We hope they will come back and nest with us again next year!

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Birds, Circle of Life and Death, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Gardens, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

The Bird Man

At Kailua Beach Park, people are enjoying the last minutes of daylight before the sun sets and it’s time to get ready for the upcoming week. This has got to be one of the most laid-bak places on earth.

 

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We see a man who has birds everywhere. Clearly, the birds know him, they are flocking to him. He has some kind of food for them, and they sit on his arms, they sit on his head, they love this guy!

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The locals know him, and these little boys brought him a sick bird to take home to heal.

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Back at home, the light dims and a full moon rises. Life doesn’t get any sweeter.

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Our flight back is late in the day. We spend the morning walking the beach, down to the Marine Base, past the Obama house, the waves are high and eating away at the beach. We pack, we drink more coffee. I’ve only shown you the fun day trips, but the meat of this trip, the finest part of this trip has been the conversations, the laughter, and the deepening of a life-long friendship.

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I no longer have negative feelings about Hawaii. 🙂 We hit the local drugstore to pick up some great Kona coffee and bags of Japanese rice crackers in a million varieties, which we love. It’s been a great trip.

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Relationships, Travel | , | 8 Comments

Jurassic World Explosive Experience

We’ve been waiting for a free afternoon to see Jurassic World, and yesterday was it. We wanted to see it in 3D, although in retrospect, I am not so sure it makes that big a difference. It was LOUD. We are not hard of hearing, and at the beginning I had to cover my ears, it was so loud.

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And, for all the movies I have seen, this one had some twists I didn’t see coming. It was full of exciting moments, and, within its own context, believable. You have to believe that humans let greed overcome their good judgement. You have to believe genetic manipulation is possible. You have to believe that the minute someone says “this is totally safe” you’d better be looking for a life jacket and a way out. All this, I believe.

AdventureMan had some struggles with unexplained things, but I think they were good at covering their bases, if you paid attention when the scientists were talking. I had a really hard time believing velociraptors could be tamed in any way. Trained – maybe if they are bored enough, and the training follows their normal instinctive practices. Tamed? Ummm, I don’t think so.

I loved the homage paid to Jurassic Park. I always love it when the bad guys get their just desserts. I always wonder, if we get curious and clone/create a prehistoric animal, will we be able to foresee all the possible outcomes?

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Birds, Character, Entertainment, Environment, Experiment, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Movie, Safety | | 1 Comment

A Quick Trip To Edmonds, WA

I’ve shared many photos through the years of my home town, a little town north of Seattle where ferry boats comes in and go out to the Olympic peninsula; the ferries are part of the highway system. It is a small town with several beaches, homes with great views of Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains, home and headquarters for Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door, and a great community with a lot of emphasis on civility, community and the arts.

This trip is even better – AdventureMan comes with me. He hasn’t been in Edmonds for a while, and has forgotten how charming and fun it is. We check on our house, discover we love it as much as ever, and then head out around town.

Edmonds has an annual tour of gardens, and there are public gardens everywhere, and hanging baskets on the major streets.

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They have invested in a lot of public art, funded greatly by their annual Edmonds Arts Fest, held in June, usually on Father’s Day weekend:

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Down near the ferry, Adventureman spotted a bald eagle sitting on a piling:

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This is one of those photos I kid myself about. Yes, it’s a cool sign, and the photo also includes that bald eagle, the Olympics, the sound, and the ferry landing. Can I include anything more?

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There are all kinds of people gathered on the Edmonds beaches, soaking up the warm sunshine. These young women gave AdventureMan a candy bar; they had a bunch with them and were just giving them out. Anywhere else, you wouldn’t eat it, but in Edmonds . . . you might be safe

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May 22, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Birds, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Gardens, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Merlin

Many moons ago, I had given AdventureMan a plasticized raptor identifier, all the raptors in North America, so when we spotted this little guy, who we didn’t recognize, AdventureMan reached in the glove compartment, took a quick glance and said “It’s a Merlin!”

He was very sweet about sitting still long enough for me to take a photo:

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April 14, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Environment, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Benson – Rio Grande Park and the National Birding Center

The National Butterfly Center wasn’t opening until ten, and we decided to watch the sun rise over the Rio Grande. We had read you could see the Rio Grande from Benson – Rio Grande Park, so we got there by 0630. The park was closed, but campers told us people are allowed to walk in; you pay at the honors post, so we did. This is the only place on the whole trip I sprayed myself thoroughly with mosquito repellant, as mosquitos love me, especially at dawn and dusk. It’s one of the smartest thing’s I’ve done.

Walking into this park was a thrill. The birds are so excited about the sun coming up, and there is this huge, raucous clattering of bird cries. As we get further into the park, there are also owls calling to one another, WHOOOO-OOOOOOO, WHOOOOOOO-OOOOOOO; we can’t see them, but we can hear them, and it is thrilling. We keep walking to get to where we can see the Rio Grande, but all we can really see is almost the Rio Grande.

So before you go any further, remember, it is really dark, and I am shooting under the worst conditions. It is early morning, cloudy and foggy. I’m just sayin’ . . .

Benson – Rio Grande Park is part of the Texas Birding Trail, and later in the morning, like around 8, so not late, just later, all the bird watchers in the world start to arrive. They are looking for migrating birds, and they have their lists and huge bird-watching telescopes. We are not those birders. Mostly, I can identify cardinals, and blue jays. I can identify a raptor. I’m not a real birder, just a bird appreciator. These guys that come, they are SERIOUS birders, and they travel to Mission, TX to set up camp and tick off as many birds as they can, like in the movie The Big Year. This is either the National Birding Center, or a national birding center, and as day broke, hundreds of birders flocked into the park.

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This is a part of the Rio Grande, but not really, it is a side-stream sort of Rio Grande place. The park guides told us if we really want to see the Rio Grande, there was a great restaurant you can see it from or you can go to Anzalduas Park, and told us how to get there. It was cloudy; I never did get a sun rising over the Rio Grande.

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Campers are allowed to do ‘primitive camping’. I didn’t know what primitive camping was, but as it turns out, it’s what we used to do when I lived in Alaska. You bring everything yourself, you hike with everything on your back. There may be some paved areas, or minor structures, but you have to have brought everything you will need with you. No cabins, or things like that. There are, in this park, public restrooms and public showers. This shower is too public for me!

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The floor is also covered with roly-poly bugs. Honestly, I am not born to camp. I applaud the park for having public restrooms in a place where it is simply impossible to keep the bugs out, but I cannot imagine walking on this floor in bare feet. There were some very brave primitive campers finishing up as I entered the restroom; they had showered and were brushing their teeth and they looked really happy. I am happy for them (shudder) and very thankful for a hotel with linens on the bed and hot water and no bugs!

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Almost alone in the park, we managed to get turned around. I did my 10,000 steps before eight in the morning, and I was wearing the wrong shoes, so when we found benches at a bird feeding area, I was happy to sit down. There were glorious birds everywhere, and then, the happiest volunteers I have ever met came along in a little golf cart with bird seed and peanut butter, and put out breakfast. They were having the time of their lives, and gave us all kinds of good advice about Mission, Tx.

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Early morning, low light and the birds wings are going faster than my camera can capture.

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A little while later, the “tram” came by and we hopped on, happy for a ride back to the entry. It was a couple weeks before our blisters healed!

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Environment, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Local Lore, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Cold Saturday Morning in Pensacola

It is warming, but “warm” is relative. Compared to 19°F, 31°F is “warm.” In terms of hands and toes and cold tile floors, it is still very cold. I was reminded this morning of how very cold I was in Kuwait those few January days when it would get down to 0°C; when windows are not sealed tightly and all your floors are marble, it’s like having winter inside your home.

And that is how my doves must feel. Normally, they sleep under our rosemary bush, or snuggle down under the lavender. I think, now that we have pulled a lot of our larger potted plants in close to the house under the awning, they are sleeping under our plants. This morning, they know I am here, with my camera, and they don’t care. They want to catch a few more ZZZzzzz’s in the first few rays of the early morning sun.

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They fluff up their wings to capture air and warm it with their bodies. Look how puffed up this one looks, about twice it’s normal size.

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AdventureMan goes out every day and breaks the ice in the bird bath, and puts in fresh water. People are good about feeding birds, but forget how hard it can be for them to find water when outdoor temperatures fall into the freezing zone.

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Birds, Gardens, Kuwait, Pensacola, Weather, Wildlife | | 2 Comments