Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pensacola: Back to Reality

 

When we arrive back in Pensacola, we realize that things will not be so easy as usual. It is usual that we can go right in through the garage, wheeling our bags right into the house. But AdventureMan spent the last hours of our last day in Pensacola before the trip installing three huge steel custom-made beams into our garage door to protect from hurricane damage. We can’t go in through the garage.

We had also called our son and our contractor, who as Hurricane Irma at one point looked like it was wobbling west, decided to put the ballistic fabric covers over all our doors and windows. The front door is covered, and we can’t get in. There is a way to get in, it is complicated, but we manage.

It is dark inside, very dark; the ballistic covers also keep out light and air.

Early the next morning, while it is still cool, we get up and take down all the covers on the bottom floor of the house, letting in light and air. It isn’t so easy, over the years some of the posts have rusted. Our contractor texts that he has ordered some new things which will help, and a spray, and will have his crew take down the upper floor when the supplies come in.

We didn’t even go to church. We were so tired from traveling, and from our early morning exertions taking down all the ballistic covers, that we just collapsed for the rest of the day. I felt like I might be coming down with something.

This morning, we felt like new people. We hit the grocery store, and wow, there were all the things I look for and can’t always find, like Italian prune plums, only available for a week or so every fall, and you never know which week. The fruit cake supplies are in, candied red and green cherries, candied pineapple, and candied citron. When AdventureMan sees the grocery bill, he almost pales. The cashier laughs and asks me “Why did you bring him?” It’s an on-going joke; AdventureMan worked as a bag-boy in a grocery store when he was in high school and he remembers the prices of the groceries then – like 50 something years ago. He gets sticker-shock in grocery stores.

After we get all the groceries home, sorted and put away, he takes me to lunch in one of my favorite Pensacola restaurants, Five Sisters. I have the Ceasar Salad with Andouille Crusted Shrimp and he has Fried Catfish. It’s good to be back.

And, later in the afternoon, it is GREAT to be back. Our grandson comes over to our house after school and it is wonderful to see him. AdventureMan introduces him to this blog, so he can see all the photos and read the descriptions. He asks what I call him. AdventureMan asks who he wants to be, and he says ReadingMan. He is an amazing reader, and I am honored he wants to be included in HT&E. I also can’t wait to see my little grand-daughter, four years old and smart and spirited. I asked her what she wants to be when she grows up and she gives me a sharp look and says “a wild animal.” I may call her that . . . my little wild animal 🙂

Advertisements

September 25, 2017 Posted by | Blogging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Food, Home Improvements, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Travel | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: “We Call it ‘Geiser’

We are on our way, from Thingviller to our next location, through an area dramatic with waterfalls, lava flows and fascinating sights, when our guide explains how things are named in Iceland.

“We are simple folk,” she said, “straightforward, and plain spoken. We have wonderful Icelandic words, and we can add them together to give a name to a place.” She gave us an example, which I cannot repeat here, which means something like when the rural postman comes to a structure something something. This is to explain that the next place we are going is called “Geiser.” It is pretty much the same in English – Geyser.

There are actually hot springs everywhere in Iceland, because of that tectonic plate thing, because of all the volcanic activity, because the surface is lava, and permeable, and erupting geysers and hot springs and volcano eruptions are just an accepted part of Icelandic life. These clever, hardy people have harnessed the geothermal energy to heat their houses, provide their electricity and even, in some places to heat the roads and keep them clear of ice and snow.

It took me a while to get a good shot. Fortunately this geyser called ‘geyser’ goes off frequently. The first time, I was too close, the second, not prepared, so just got the steam, and then at the end, finally, success.

One of those glaciers I was telling you about:

From Geyser, we went to waterfall, and then to lunch. Lunch was in Gulffoss, and before you could get to lunch, you went through room after room of highly priced souvenirs. Some of them were a really nice quality; the prices were beyond high.

What do you expect when you are sitting down to lunch for 250 and everyone is getting the same lunch?

We keep our expectations low. We were in group number one, and our table was seated first. At each table of six, a huge cauldron of soup was brought, to be shared, family style. One man in the middle assumed the serving chore and – our eyes opened in surprise! This tomato soup was delicious. There are tomato soups and tomato soups, this soup had taste! If nothing else, we had a good soup for lunch!

Then came the salmon, again, on a large platter, with six huge slices of salmon, beautifully cooked. It was served with long grain white rice (I don’t really care about rice so I can’t tell you how it tasted) and lemon slices. The salmon was moist, and juicy, and perfectly cooked. We were all round eyed with surprise. Even people who don’t eat fish said they had enjoyed their meal. It was a great success.

 

 

 

 

 

We saw a lot of horses in Iceland, and sheep, oh sheep of so many varieties, all covered with thick wool out in the cold.

This is a church in the first capitol of Iceland; inland. We are told that the early Icelandic settlers were primarily farmers, working the land, not fishing, so the focus was more inland where arable land was more available. The Icelandic people know this because from the very earliest Icelandic civilizations, they have written records.

Below are two volcanos, both of which have erupted and rumbled in recent times.

In this river, at this point, glacier water, at the top, meets run-off water, at the bottom and you can see the different sources from the color and clarity.

You see steam vents everywhere. Some places they are harnessed; some are just out and exposed:

I imagine how terrifying this land must have seemed to its earliest settlers, a land that rumbled and trembled, from which scalding water might erupt with little or no warning, or a volcano might spew lava and throw hot rocks and ash for miles. What courage they had to make a living there, and to learn how to turn the apparent disadvantages to their advantage.

 

Next stop, a state of the art geothermal energy plant (with a really good gift shop with great kids books and unique items.)

Back in Reykjavik, view from La Perla; a dome covering several old water storage tanks.

Statues in front of La Perla:

The Reykjavik cultural center:

We are back on the ship just before we are due to sail, and we can see the foul weather blowing in:

Today we are at sea, the waves are high, and they have closed the spa pool, my favorite place, as it may be dangerous when floors are wet and the boat is tossing passengers around. I would be disappointed, but that would be selfish. There is a lot for people to do, lot of activities, lectures, dancing lessons – today is the waltz, there are scrabble games and trivia games and bridge games, and even still those quiet places where internet reception is better and it is quiet enough to read a book. It is Italian day in the World Cafe; AdventureMan had the Tuscan Bean soup and I had the grilled vegetables to honor Italy 🙂

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Glorious Sea Day to Reykjavik

It’s party time aboard the Viking Sea, with gentle seas and blue skies and a whole load of sunshine:

 

One of the fun parts of this trip is that every other day or so, we gain another hour, so we often get to sleep in an hour “extra” in the morning. Even after sleeping our extra hour, we were up bright and shiny, had our breakfast, and I suited up and hit to pool when it opened, at 0800.

Except . . . it wasn’t opened. I was still mostly emptied, and closed. The jacuzzi was open (or as the spa manager calls it, the ya-kut-zi) and I spent about ten minutes there, but for me jacuzzis aren’t that fun, I really loved how the waves rolled and roiled as the ship tosses from side to side, and fore and aft. It did, however, give me time to update the blog.

AdventureMan and I laugh; we spend money to have a nice room and we spend time reading. We could do that at home, but at home, there are so many things demanding our attention. We are willing – even eager – to have this time with no responsibilities, no cooking, no cleaning, no yard work. There is some guilt associated with the luxury of having this kind of time, especially when the hurricanes have devastated to many to the east of us, and to the west of us. It’s almost primal; if we enjoy ourselves too much are we inviting destruction?

When we get hungry, later than usual because of the time change, we discover that with everyone on board, no tours, no lunches in a local city, everyone using the same facilities, that the facilities are more crowded than usual. The World Cafe, where we take most of our meals, is packed. We head for the Pool Cafe, which we also like, but there is a loud rock band entertaining the lunchers, and people have even found our hidden favorite places near the WinterGarden.

 

Below is the World Cafe, where we tend to eat. There are other restaurants, an Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, the Chef’s Table, where a specialty menu is paired with wines, and another called The Restaurant.

AdventureMan and I are odd. We have preferences, and our preferences are strong enough to prevent us from eating often in the other restaurants. We really like Italian food, and we have eaten at Manfredi’s, where we found the tables too close together for our comfort; we could hear every word of conversations in every directions, and we felt shy about having our own conversations which could be overheard. We also asked for small portions, and were told that the plates come as they come; they didn’t split, they couldn’t give small portions, but that we would love it so much we would want to eat it all. I hope my face didn’t show how aghast I was at that response.

We had similar problems with The Restaurant. Seats too close together, no privacy, and the service is SO SO SLOW. I can manage an hour, even an hour in a half without getting too antsy, but at some point attention deficit kicks in and all I can think is “get me out of here!” Too much eating! The Chef’s Table does a lot with foam and freezing and precious tiny portions of things I can barely taste, as well as having close seating and pretentious presentation. Actually, that is too harsh, I am a fan of presentation, it is this style that annoys me and you might like it just fine.  You might like more leisurely meals, and be fine with two to two and a half hours of sitting, but I am a restless sort, so as fine as some of the food may be, I like the World Cafe.

 

It would be awful to be married to someone whose style was different from your own. Lucky for me, AdventureMan is a lot like me. We really LIKE good food (you couldn’t guess 😉 reading this blog?) In the World Cafe, I can tell the man I would like a small portion of the risotto, and I get a small portion. Or if I want to make a dinner of mushroom soup, I can go back for more. We have found the horseradish, the tabasco sauce, the red pepper flakes, the balsamic vinegar, the things we need to enhance the blander foods. We are up and down, soup, salad, maybe a little main course – or maybe not. We like having choices, and I even like being able to get up and walk around to get what I want next. All that walking helps me justify a small bowl of ice cream, or even maybe a small fudge brownie. All the desserts are tiny, which I like a lot. They also have smaller plates and larger plates; we stick to the smaller plates.

It’s not that we are so virtuous; it must be an age group thing. The ship is full of our demographic, and most are eating healthily.

This was my lunch on the Sea-Day-En-Route-to-Reykjavik – fritto misto, green beans, and a soba noodle salad which tasted of sesame, divine combination.

 

With the glorious sunshine, there is a party atmosphere on board, a huge group playing Trivia in the Explorer’s Lounge, the bridge players all down in the Chef’s Table, lectures in the Star Theatre, movies – so much going on!

My thrill – I had just washed my hair and was dressing when I saw a spout. I know that spout! That is whale! I quickly finished dressing and went out on the balcony, where I happily spent an hour or two taking photos where the whale had just been. Finally I got the one photo showing a spout as it was just finishing. I quit taking photos and just enjoyed the sunshine and the frolicking whales; one was flicking his tail after spouting.

 

The day ends with a beautiful sunset. We are nearing Reykjavik, and can’t wait to visit this beautiful, dramatic land.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel, Wildlife | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: An Evening in Bergen

We arrive in Bergen around seven in the evening, and we don’t even bother unpacking our bags. They will be picked up the next morning to be transferred to the ship, the Viking Sky, while we are touring Bergen. Meanwhile, we are in the most wonderful location, in Bryggen, the old commercial center of Burgen, full of beautiful colored, crooked houses, and areas full of white houses, and all kinds of places which we can reach by walking, which we love to do.

 

 

 

Except that AdventureMan has a terrible cold, and my throat is sore. He is apologizing profusely, but who knows if I caught it from him, or from touching a chair somewhere? Sore throats happen, but we can treat the symptoms, and I saw just the place as we came into town.

Our hotel, the Radisson Blu, is wonderfully located. We walk a short distance and find an ATM where we can purchase Norwegian kroner, then, just past the fish market, we find the China Palace.

As we are going, we hear singing. Across the street, a group of men on bicycles are singing! They are three abreast on their bikes, holding hands, dressed in suits and ties, and singing. It is dusk and it is magical.

We have no idea what it was about. Is this a fraternity thing? Is this a gay group thing? We have no idea, we only know it was delightful.

The China Palace was nearly full, but they found a table for us. We ordered soup and egg rolls; even if the food was really good, we were too sick to enjoy it much. When it came, it was perfect for us, Pekingsuppe and large egg rolls. Exactly right, comfort food. We felt much better.

 

 

 

On our way back to the hotel, the light was that wonderful light just before dark fully falls. The streets are crowded with young people and old meeting up for an evening of visiting and drinking.

 

And here is what I really love, the Viking Sky is nearby, so near we can walk there, which we do, often, the next day. That’s the Sky in the background.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Amsterdam to Oslo

Amsterdam isn’t the same airport I transited multiple times every year while we lived in Qatar and Kuwait. I had a routine, arrive, go to the club, shower, get on next flight. Keeping it simple, keeping it real.

Arriving in Amsterdam now, you have to go through passport control, even though you are just transiting! Oh aarrgh!  But, as AdventureMan said, at least it’s not Paris/Charles de Gaulle, where chaos reigns and it is no-where near charming, it is get-me-out-of-here awful.

We board our flight for Oslo and almost immediately are served a snack. Oh, my Scandinavian blood sings for joy, it is smoked salmon, and it is packaged beautifully!

The packets on the top layer are dill sauce and mustard. Look at the beautiful box 🙂

 

The smoked salmon excited my anticipation of Oslo and Bergen:

 

The bread was also packaged – and warm!

 

 

Sometimes the little things make all the difference. I love artistic packaging. There were utensils for eating packed into the lid.

The flight was easy, and less than full;  arrival was smooth. It was a lovely introduction.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Food, Paris, Quality of Life Issues, Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Shed, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

 

It’s nearly three in the afternoon when we reach exit 57 into Gautier, Mississippi, but the odor of fresh-cooked beignets is driving us crazy, and making us hungry, so we stop at The Shed. The website says The Shed is in Ocean Springs, but I always think of it as Gautier because it is just off I-10, that major drug running and human trafficking route running across our southernmost United States.

We’ve stopped before at The Shed, with the grandchildren, but it was always so crowded and backed up that we found someplace else. This time, we are in luck.

As we order, we see on the menu that Seniors can order kids meals. We are not big hungry, and we know we have a dinner party in just a few hours, so we order kids portions. Good thing.

The ceiling inside The Shed:

The interior, and where I believe live music often plays:

My “child’s portion” of ribs:

AdventureMan’s “child portion” pulled pork sandwich:

So delighted we could get these “smaller portions.” I hate to imagine what an adult portion would look like!

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company, New Orleans

What did we do before Google?

We have finished at the World War II Museum and are about to head back to Pensacola. We have a big party to attend tonight, and I promised I would bring beignets. I need a LOT of beignets. While AdventureMan is pursuing his bliss at the museum, I see if I can find a source of beignets nearby.

I love Google. I find the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Factory close by, and in a place I am really comfortable with, on Saint Charles, and very near to the Creole Creamery, with it’s truly divine ice cream. All I have to do is plug in the address and Google Maps takes us there, follow the little blue dot.

Sometimes, when we are entering a new city, and I am navigating, things can get a little tense. You know like “Oops, we were supposed to turn left there,” that sort of thing. I have discovered I can turn on the voice, and the voice can guide AdventureMan, and if she screws up, oh well, not MY fault. We both get a good laugh at that.

Having said that, the one we are going to at 4141 Saint Charles is not exactly on Saint Charles, but AdventureMan is wise to the ways of New Orleans, and when I look in despair at where the New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company is supposed to be – and isn’t – he suggests it might be just around the corner, and I breathe with relief, there it is. Even better, there is a parking lot! Parking for a shop on Saint Charles street! There is a free parking space!

Inside, we know we are home free. I order beaucoup beignets, a lot, and it is going to take a while, so we order a small order for ourselves, with coffee, and as it drizzles outside, we are safe and warm inside, smelling wondrous smells, drinking coffee, eating beignets. You have to grab these small perfect moments and treasure them.

Moments like this, we wish we were living in New Orleans.

When the beignets are finished, they are huge, and pillow-y, about 4 inches by 6 inches, the biggest, softest beignets I have ever seen. They are boxed so perfectly that when we get to the party, they are still warm. We drive all the way from New Orleans to Pensacola with the smell of freshly cooked beignet in the car; the smell is mouth watering, even though we have just eaten fresh beignets. The New Orleans Beignet and Coffee Company gave me two huge glasses full of powdered sugar to insure that everyone had a huge splash of sugar on each beignet. They were still warm! I can hardly believe it.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, New Orleans, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Two Chicks Restaurant, New Orleans

Google “best breakfast in New Orleans” and you will come up with some delightful possibilities, one of which is Two Chicks.

First, Two Chicks is not as easy to find as you would think. The address is 901 Convention Center Boulevard, but as it turns out, there is a sort of square OFF the boulevard, with other shops and restaurants around a kind of square, and, close to the Mexican consulate, is a small mall, in which is 2 Chicks.

Life is irrational. I love this place. I had a Cafe breakfast, like eggs and sausage, with fruit, and I didn’t eat a croissant; I wish I had.  The food was delicious, fresh and well put together. From the minute I walked in I had an immediate emotional response:  Edith Piaf was belting out “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and the waitress, who knew all the words, was singing right along with her as she folded cutlery into napkins. I was beside myself with quiet joy.

The wall paper is French. The music is French, and from all eras. The coffee is really good. The food is French in that it is lovingly and thoughtfully prepared. Have I mentioned lately how much I miss France?

You have to have a key to use the restroom in the little mall, but what a surprise the ladies room is – 15 foot ceiling with marble walls, and gorgeous tiles. Who puts this kind of attention and lovely finishes in a restroom? The whole experience was irrational and lovely.

Service was attentive and efficient and we have eaten well and are out the door just in time to find a parking place at the Museum and be among the first inside.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Hot drinks, New Orleans, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Oceana Grill, New Orleans

In our casual conversations with people who work in New Orleans, we always ask them where they eat. Sometimes we specify in the French Quarter but because we always have a car with us, we aren’t limited. One of the places most frequently recommended is the Oceana Grill.

“It’s not fancy,” one waitress told us when we asked her she she liked to eat, “but the food is reliably good and everyone I know goes there.”

That’s what we want to hear.

Our concierge recommended Deannie’s, a seafood grill just a block away, and since it is raining, we give it a try. There are like fifty people waiting, and a 45 minute wait. We walk another block to the Oceana – still a wait, but only 10 minutes, and we like the atmosphere.

We are quickly shown to a table near the grill. This was an exciting place to sit. We figured out that there is another kitchen somewhere, as food would appear from another direction, but here was where the action was happening, billows of steam flying up into a huge exhaust fan as the fillets hit the grill.

 

 

I decided to go for the New Orleans special, focusing on shrimp etoufee, beans and rice, jambalaya with andouille sausage. It was good. We have a lot of the same in Pensacola.

AdventureMan choose a Po’Boy Oyster sandwich. He said it was fine.

We couldn’t resist a creme brûlée. It was the highlight of our meal 🙂

Just as we left, it rained heavily, it poured rain, and the streets flooded, and even just two blocks back to the hotel took forever – and we didn’t mind a bit. Our clothes were soaked, our shoes were soaked, and we had a wonderful time.

We slept the sleep of The Saints. We woke up late the next morning . . . well, late for us, maybe 7:30 instead of o-dark-hundred when the cats think it’s time for me to get up and feed them. What luxury! Check out was quick and easy, and off we went to grab breakfast and be early to the World War II Museum.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, New Orleans, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Herbsaint in New Orleans

One thing leads to another, and while we just finished a large adventure to the glories of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, we also need to get to New Orleans before the Nazi Propaganda exhibit at the World War II Museum finishes. Fortunately for us, there is a three day weekend, New Orleans is a close drive, and there is a new hotel we are eager to try.

Our trip is short, peaceful and GoogleMaps gets us where we need to be, and there is even a parking space. We start to pay the meter, but friendly New Orleans types passing by say “You don’t have to pay today! It’s a holiday!” We have a restaurant all picked out, Marcello’s, Italian, and the web page says it is open, but when we get there, it is closed.

Right next door to it, however, is Herbsaint, and we had just passed to to get to Marcello’s. We really like the look of Herbsaint; it looks French, it looks casual-elegant. As we go in we are greeted and seated quickly, and our waitress shows up with menus. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain, but you just like the FEEL of a place. Herbsaint was a place we liked the feel of.


 

We used to know a lot about wine, but now there is so much wine, so many labels, we don’t know anything anymore. We do know what we like – dry, red and complicated. The waitress recommends a wine, when it comes, it is exactly right, a red Zinfandel from California.

The menu has soups, salads, small plates and entrees. We grinned. We could eat at this restaurant many times; there are so many options we like!

I started with a roasted beet salad; it was marvelous.

 

AdventureMan had the spring green salad, and he said it was equally satisfying.

He then had the Homemade Spaghetti with guanciale and a deep fried farm egg, which he said was awesome. The guanciale is a thin slice of pork; you can see it at the right, and the mass in the middle is the deep fried farm egg. We tried to figure out how they did that – they must have poached the egg, then breaded and fried it. It was interesting, but my husband says the best part of this dish was the sauce, which was delicious.

I had the Sicilian beef with capers and anchovies. I know, I know, some of you are retching, but I am odd, and while I don’t care so much for beef, I adore capers and anchovies, and with that and all the dill, I even loved the beef. This is what a small plate is all about to me; you don’t need a lot of food when the flavors are so tasty and they dance together.

We can’t wait to revisit this restaurant. Every single thing about it was to our delight. The service was cordial and informed, there was a home-baked crusty French bread on the table with great butter (yes, it matters). We loved the high ceilings and the subdued decor, the artful simplicity in the presentation of the dishes, and the excellence of the wines. Stumbling across this restaurant was a highlight of this trip.

Herbsaint is near the World War II Museum. You can find it here:

Herbsaint

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment