Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“If Not Now, When?”

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(This is not the actual slide; the YMCA slide is indoors, and has two loops)

Our brand new YMCA has opened in Pensacola, and it has TWO pools – and a water slide.

Yesterday, there was one swimmer and one wallower as I entered the swim area for water aerobics with two of my friends. This was the perfect time. I asked the life guard if he could open the water slide long enough for us to go down.

My friends looked at me like I had grown a second head.

“If not now, when?” I asked them. “We’re not getting any younger. Who knows, tomorrow we might not be able!”

They were game. They followed me up the stairs, then others began to follow. It occurred to me that there was no going back, and that I had put myself in this position, where I couldn’t back out.

The lifeguard turned on the gush of water that lubricates and speeds your ride through the tube. I didn’t wait to let fear claim me, I jumped into the entry and went.

It was dark. It was fast. It was terrifying. You come out twisted and disoriented, not sure which way is up. It’s a lot like being born – there is NO light in the tube, and when light appears, there is a big gush of water as you are thrown out into the pool. I cam up sputtering.

Everyone did. We all looked proudly at one another and agreed that we are glad we did it – once. And never again.

December 13, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Exercise, Experiment, Fitness / FitBit, Humor, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , | 2 Comments

Dubrovnik: The Best Day of our Trip as We Walk the Walls

You know how you build expectations? From the time I started reading about Dubrovnik, I was excited. For one thing, some scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed there, and we are great fans.  Even more, there is a great hike; Dubrovnik has restored and created a wall all around the old city which you can hike. It isn’t for the faint-hearted; it starts with about 60 stair straight up. Once up, there are more stairs, FitBit told me we did 30 sets of stairs on the wall. There were ascents and descents, some a little challenging.  A friend who had done it before told me to be sure I had shoes with a good grip because the stones could be really slick. Even on a beautiful sunny day, there were a couple slick places, so I cannot imagine what it would be like to hike it in damp or rainy conditions.

But we had perfect weather, sunny and warm, but not hot, even a little chilly in the shade. We were also the only ship in town, a rare occurrence in Dubrovnik.

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LOL, no, that is not our ship, but I loved this old looking ship. It isn’t really old, and I imagine it is an events location, a party ship, but I loved it.

 

We took the panoramic tour, but dropped off once we got to the Pile gate at the entrance to old Dubrovnik. The first entry to the walls is just inside the gate, to the left, with good signage.

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About halfway up the double sets of stairs taking people up to the wall, I stepped aside, yes, to catch my breath because there are a LOT of people struggling up these steep stairs, but also to take a documentary photo:

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When you get to the top, the views are spectacular.

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I had read that the best strategy was to head uphill, first, get the worst over with, but as we started left, we saw this sign:

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So aarrgh! We had to turn the easy way first. Never mind. Each step introduced a new and spectacular sight.

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We sighted the Dubrovnik harbor from the walls, and decided when we finished our walk that we would have lunch there, if we could find a good place.

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Once we finished our hike, we explored the back streets in Dubrovnik, zig-sagging our way to the port:

 

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November 1st is coming soon; the flower markets are doing gang-busters business as Dubrovnik citizens buy flowers to remember their dead on All Saint’s Day.

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As we enter the port, we spot a restaurant where crowds of people are sitting in the sun, the Konoba Locanda Peskarija, eating cauldrons of mussels, big huge pots of mussels steamed in a simple wine broth, just the way we love them. We find a seat; we already know what we will order. As we wait, a wedding party arrives to have their photos taken in the port.

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A beautiful Dubrovnik salad to share:

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And a heaping cauldron of mussels, so many mussels we couldn’t eat the all! It was served with a basket of wonderful crusty bread to sop up the wine broth.

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We couldn’t be happier.

As we leave, we run into our friends from the ship at the restaurant next door; they have made an art purchase they are celebrating. We always have great chats with this couple.

We wander around a little longer, avoiding, as much as possible, the beautiful wide street down the center of old Dubrovnik until the very end:

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We head to the old gate once more, and just outside the gate is a shuttle, waiting to take us back to the Viking Sea. It doesn’t get any easier.

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Tonight we have dinner in the World Cafe. We have discovered that the food is the same as in the restaurant, but here we can deal directly with the chef and servers, and have exactly what we want in the small quantities we prefer. We have found a very quiet table, no one seated in our laps, and we can have our own quiet and private conversations, dine at our own pace; this isn’t what we thought we would prefer when planning our trip, but it seems to suit us well.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Viking Sea in Zadar, Croatia

Here’s the thing about these Viking Ocean ships – they are so quiet and so stable that you barely feel a rumble. On other cruises I’ve been on, we must have been closer to the engine; on this ship, there are times I don’t even realize we are underway – or that we’ve berthed. That is pretty amazing.

We awake the next morning in Zadar, Croatia, and it is beautiful. It is also right next to the ship. We’ve already turned in our tour tickets for all the ports we figure we can see on our own; we hung onto the tours tickets that will help us go where we want to go. But Zadar – we can handle this!

The first place we go is to Mamsen’s, a tiny Scandinavian restaurant we discovered for lunch the day before, where they had soup! Soup and beautiful open face shrimp sandwiches, and other kinds of sandwiches, too, and beautiful heart shaped waffles, served with jams or berries. And herring, pickled herring! And very Scandinavian pastries, not too sweet. My husband is not of Scandinavian descent, and he does not “get” pickled herring. I adore pickled herring.

Mamsens is at the almost-top of the ship, in a two story space called the Explorer’s Lounge, and when we go there, it is sparsely occupied. It is an introvert’s kind of hang-out, people who like space and peace. (and pickled herring 🙂  )

 

The Explorer’s Lounge, with Zadar in the background:

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Wonderful oatmeal with fresh raspberries and blueberries!

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Pickled herring! Yes, for breakfast! Good protein!

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Mamsen’s, the Scandinavian specialty restaurant, open late late late.

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Just off the bow of the ship are two attractions unique to Zadar. One is the Salute to the Sun, which is more visible, the huge round solar panel that makes patterns as you walk on it. The other, less visible, is the Sea Organ along the coast walk, a series of pipes that, when the tides force water through them, make music. It is a little eerie, other world-ly, and interesting.

 

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It is Sunday morning in Zader, and AdventureMan and I end up popping in and out of a lot of churches. We listen to the music from outside, and can almost follow the liturgy. We only go in if the service is over, or not yet started. There are some amazing churches in Zadar, so many, and even a convent.

 

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Most of what we see is Roman and Venetian, but Zadar has a long and complicated history. Much of the town is being restored. There is a fabulous Museum of Archaeology, open even Sundays, and the admission is 4 Euro. They also have a very nice gift shop.

Outside the Museum, we meet two shipmates who exclaim with us what a find the museum is. As the tours go by, they don’t even mention it! We are shocked. It’s funny how you can connect in just a few minutes; of all the 900 passengers on board, this couple was one we encountered frequently. They liked the same places we liked, and while we didn’t tour or make plans together, we often found each other and enjoyed a great chat. They told us about the flexibility of the Pool Grill for lunch.

Please note this gorgeous weather. It can be a little chilly in the shade; I carry a coat which sometimes I wear, but in the sun, it isn’t necessary. We can hardly believe it is almost November, no rain, look at that sky!

November 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Travel | , | 4 Comments

Take Your Chocolate!

This article is from Forbes Magazine, and talks about the relationship between styles /content of eating and longevity. This is just a tiny excerpt from a long article because I loved the last line :-).

Results of two recently released studies, published in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN), show that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens age-related stiffening of arteries and burdens on the heart in healthy adults. The studies were part of an EU-based project called FLAVIOLA.

Marc Merx, M.D., professor of Cardiology at the Klinikum Region Hanover and FLAVIOLA’s project coordinator, reports that the studies’ main finding was cocoa flavanols’ effect on vascular aging and blood pressure. “Blood pressure and increases in blood pressure are important factors associated with age-related morbidity and with mortality from cardiovascular disease,” he says. In fact, he was personally surprised that the findings showed flavanols to be capable of lowering blood pressure as effectively as exercise.

You can read the entire article for yourself, New Studies Confirm Role of Diet in Healthy Aging, here.

August 28, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Diet / Weight Loss, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit | Leave a comment

Campbell River and Elk Falls Park

Campbell River has a park going South out of Campbell River on 19A, done by the Rotary Club. It is a small park, a sweet park, full of wooden statues with a totem-like feel. It is easily walked, and even easily walked pushing a wheelchair.

The statues – an owl, an angel, a fierce looking eagle – those are just the ones I can think of easily – and the path is lovingly maintained and open to the public.It is utterly free. People can walk, take their children.

In downtown Campbell River, there are totems everywhere, reflecting the First Nation traditions, and a population of Haida.

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Near Campbell River is a huge public-private-bureaucratic project for a new hydroelectric generation complex. The old one is being replaced by one less vulnerable to seismic variations, and the government is working with private industry to set it up quickly. A Rotary club built another wheelchair accesible trail to Elk Falls, crossing over the old wooden water pipes being replaced. The trail was beautiful, and efficient. They really did a lot of work to clear the path thoroughly, no roots straggling across, no slick spots.

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You really could wheel a wheelchair to the overview of Elk Falls. From that viewpoint onward, there are 11 flights of stairs and a chain link drawbridge that make further progress in a wheelchair unlikely. Actually, getting to the viewpoint would not be that hard. Getting back – pushing a wheelchair bound person weighing more than 50 lbs. or so – would require a team of four to six strong eighteen to twenty year old men trading off often. It is uphill all the way.

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The falls are spectacular. The stairs are really well built, very sturdy. The chain link bridge was daunting for someone like me, not with fears of heights, but someone who finds being in high places brings on a fear of falling. I made my way across to the other viewpoint, and then back again, mostly by not looking down and not thinking about it, just walking, one step after another. The sturdiness of the stairs, that attention to detail, gave me the confidence I needed to trust that the bridge would not fail with me on it.

 

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I always enjoy a hike a lot better after I’ve finished it 🙂

 

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Community, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Technical Issue, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

On Our Own in the Souks of Marrakesh and the Jemaa el-Fna

Free at last!

We are as giddy as children let out of school as the groups head left and we head right, going deeper into our favorite territory, the souks (small shops) in the great city of Marrakesh.

Before we ever went to Marrakesh, many years ago, we read a book by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, author of Guests of the Sheikh, called A Street in Marrakesh, talking about how her family lived in the center of Marrakesh, among Moroccans, and the adjustments they made as they grew to learn more about their environment. You know how you can read a book and feel like you had lived it? We felt we had lived in Marrakesh.

When we visited with our son, we had a car and were driving all through Morocco. We had left Ouazazarte and driven over the Atlas Mountains, stopping here and there to buy fossils and “thunderballs” which are also called geodes. It was late, and dark when we got to Marrakesh, and we had to stop and ask directions at a gas station how to find our hotel. We knew we were near, and we didn’t know how to close the distance. This was before smart phones and Google Maps.

Our son and I watched AdventureMan from the car, and as we watched him ask the two men working there, one pointed left and one pointed right. We were dying laughing. And, actually, both were right, there was an obstacle between us and the hotel and you could go right – or you could go left. At that moment, a motorcycle drove up, listened to the question and offered to guide us to our hotel. This is the essence of Morocco to us; the kindness and the hospitality of the Moroccans.

I wish I could remember the name of the hotel, but our room was huge, and full of tile work. Our son had his own area, on a separate level in the same room, and his own TV. It was a far cry from a sterile, modern hotel; this was full of color and detail, tile and wood work.

The next day, we hired a private guide for a tour of Marrakesh, and had a wonderful time exploring all kinds of wonderful places.

So now, off we go, and the smells and the feel of the souks almost make us giddy; we are back in our element.

As we wander, we can hear roosters crowing, and, in the middle of the souks, we find a souk devoted to roosters. It is the middle of the afternoon, a quiet time of day, perfect for wandering.

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Me and my attraction to light fixtures 🙂

 

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A mural of the Koutoubia mosque; one of the reasons we felt so secure in this souk is that if you get lost, you just look for the highest tower around, and that is the Koutoubia mosque, which takes you to Jemaa el-Fna.

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We walked to our content, and then settled in at late afternoon to a cafe with a terrace high over the Jemaa el-Fna, where we had our choice of tables and could watch the market come to life. As we sipped our mint tea, the other tables filled; Moroccan families, tourist couples, assorted characters. The day is gorgeous, we have a shaded location, life is sweet. We’ve soaked in the sights and the smells. We’ve done more than our 10,000 steps. We enjoyed this afternoon immensely.

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December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Cultural, Entertainment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Hot drinks, Morocco, NonFiction, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Boarding the Agean Odyssey

Most people come back from cruises groaning about weight gain. We had no such problem I wore my FitBit and every day, we did over 10,000 steps without even trying. All these guided tours take you up, down and around; one day somehow I climbed 23 sets of stairs!

When we reached the dock in Seville to board our ship, we were delighted at how easy the process was. We showed some paper, they gave us a card, and as you enter, you are asked to use an antibacterial hand lotion. You are shown to your cabin; your luggage is already inside. Oh, we like this!

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We have closets, cupboards and shelves, we have a refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and a big bottle of champagne to welcome us (we never did drink it.) As we entered, there was a notice that the spa had a special on foot massages, and I quickly called down and reserved for two foot massages in half an hour. We unpacked, and went to the spa to have our feet soaked and rubbed – sheer heaven!

 

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Our steward, Sam, came by to introduce himself and ask if he could do anything. I asked if he could have the trash bin removed. I was joking, but by the time we came back from our foot massages, the bin was gone. I think that’s just a co-incidence 🙂

 

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We had a large walk-in shower, which we loved, and here is another feature I always love – a pull out drying cord! You can rinse out a spill, wash socks, you can do a million things with a drying cord, and best of all, it hung high above the actual shower area, so you didn’t have to worry about competing with things that were drying. I know, I know, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

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Within hours of boarding, we had a big evacuation drill. It was truly hilarious, and I am glad they mandate these things. It is kind of annoying, but I like knowing my escape route.

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Here is our view as the sun sets over Seville:

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This is the Terrace restaurant, where we ate our first night on board:

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And here is Seville, on a beautiful October night. I think that is the Golden Tower, where the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus stops. We are scheduled to leave on the high tide, early tomorrow morning, for Cadiz.

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December 25, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Quality of Life Issues | , , , | 2 Comments

FitBit Sleep

One of the reasons I wanted to try the FitBit when I started, over a year ago, was to be able to keep a record of my sleep. What is startling to me is that I sleep a lot better than I think I do – most nights. I thought I slept great last night, woke up feeling rested, only to discover that FitBit tells me that I was restless and awake several times last night. I don’t remember that at all:

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There is a part of me that tells myself FitBit is only a machine and can be wrong, and another part of myself that tells me we don’t always perceive ourselves and our actions impartially.

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues | 2 Comments

Navarro Point Park

At Navarro Point, I make my ten thousand steps without even trying. It is so beautiful, you can hike and it doesn’t even feel like you are hiking, there is so much to look at, so much to enjoy. There is a brisk Pacific wind blowing, great for hiking, so you don’t even get too hot.

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You can see this stone in front of the bench overlooking the crashing waves:

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I am careful not to go too close to the edge; I love crashing waves but I don’t want to be smashed against the rocks by crashing waves after tumbling down a rocky bluff!

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For me, this was the best hike of the trip. I love the smell of salt sea air, I love the feel of the wind on my face and the sound of crashing waves.

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Southwest Inn in Sedona

When you look for a hotel in Sedona, there is a confusing profusion.

“Sedona has been discovered,” my best friend from college tells me. She named her daughter Sedona, and she is one of the reasons Sedona is high on my list of places I want to experience. She had described Sedona in glowing terms, some forty years ago.

It took forever to figure out where we wanted to stay. We don’t like bedbug motels, and neither do we like resorts. We don’t like paying for services we don’t want, and we don’t mind paying for services we do want. We like relatively small, and we like our privacy. We are introverts. We want to experience Sedona.

After a lot of research, we chose the Southwest Inn in Sedona, and it worked for us. We had a lovely spacious room with a balcony, very quiet, in a part of town where we were only about five minutes from any where we wanted to go.

As we drove in, we loved it. There were hummingbirds dive-bombing the tree where we parked, and we watched the as we unpacked the car. We had an upper level in a two level building, so we had to haul our goods up stairs, but I had my FitBit and I needed the credit for stairs; we didn’t mind the stairs. We loved the brown adobe finish, and the private balconies with the views of the red rocks.

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Breakfast was in this cheery, sunny breakfast room at the top of the entry building. They had home-made breakfast burritos, frozen, and two microwaves in which to heat them up, as well as pastries, cereals, fruits, juices, coffee, tea, water – one step up from continental breakfast, and it is included in your room. Many people take their breakfast back to their room to eat out on the balcony.

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The hotel had a hot tub and a nice swimming pool and lounging deck, which we never used our entire time in Sedona. We kept intending to, but there was always too much to see and to do!

Our room was fine, spacious enough, good sized bathroom, but I didn’t take a photo and it wasn’t special enough that I can remember a single detail, other than the lovely balcony and the view, and oh, yes, it had one of those Southwest corner fireplaces, very fun. It was fine; it housed us well, and you can spend a lot more in Sedona and get a lot less. We wanted Sedona style, and we felt this fit the bill; it fit in well with local aesthetics, and it was quiet and modest with little luxuries, but without excessive showiness.

We also liked the management, very laid back, and very thoughtful. The room had nice things in it – bathrobes to wear to the pool, a nice coffee maker, the fireplace for cooler evenings. When I needed more shampoo, the man at the desk gave me a big container and asked if I wanted conditioner, too. They had a large, elegant dispenser of cool lemon water in the lobby, as well as coffee and tea all day long. There was a graciousness to it all that I liked, a generosity of spirit. They were very helpful telling us about things we needed to do (join the crowd at the airport vortex to watch the sun go down, for one) and the roads we needed to take. We followed all their advice, and it paid.

Our hotel was full of European hikers, families and people who, like us, look for a good value for the money.

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Customer Service, Fitness / FitBit, Hotels, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 2 Comments