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Expat wanderer

Three Trips Out

I must be feeling better. This morning I got an important quilt sandwiched – yes, even in these humid 90°F + temperatures, I was down on my hands and knees, pinning the three layers together. The colors are so beautiful it was truly a labor of love.

And – AdventureMan has been asking me about our next road trip. Oh, he is so subtle! He talks longingly of road trips we’ve taken, places we’ve stayed and loved, and how much he loves to be on the road. I understand; I get restless, too! So last night I began sketching out a two week road trip through the “four-corner” states.

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I have a sister who loves this part of the United States, and I have heard from her for years about some wonderful places I have never seen. Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park. Arches National Park. There is some Native American territory I want to cross and a couple places we’ve stayed before, and loved. Best of all, there are two adorable little toddlers I haven’t seen for over a year, and my arms hunger to hug them – Little Diamond’s children, no longer babies, growing growing so fast.

 

I just did a first draft – haven’t made any reservations yet. I’ve been getting advisories from Trip Advisor about flight prices from here to Denver; it’s one of the changes we are going to make, not making ourselves drive hell-bent-for-leather for three days just to get to where our vacation will start. We are also driving fewer miles and staying more nights at each stop. We discovered on our Vancouver Island trip how much we enjoy that style.

We’ve been thinking about this trip for quite a while. We are eager to visit Montana, and we are eager to do more exploring in Alberta and British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and we are also realizing, after all these years, that it is more rewarding for us to focus on a smaller area and explore it at greater leisure. We’ll spend three nights in Santa Fe – a place we fell in love with last time we visited.

We already have two other trips planned and finalized, but we really needed a good road trip together 🙂

 

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Where is Coimbatore, India?

Today the church prays for the district of Coimbatore, in Southern India, which I learned, when trying to find it, that it is also referred to as “the Manchester of India” for it’s industrialization and textiles.

 

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The map is from Google Maps.

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Faith, Geography / Maps, India | 2 Comments

The French Market Inn, French Quarter, New Orleans

I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a room that could be anywhere, Seattle, Pensacola, Missoula, El Paso. I wanted it to feel like New Orleans, and I wanted tall ceilings and I didn’t want it to cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t want it to be stuffy. I looked and looked, and then I found it, The French Market Inn, on Decatur, in the middle of everything.

Some reviews said it could be a little noisy, but hey, it’s after Christmas, low season, not yet Mardi Gras. There was a great online special. We took a chance.

Immediately, there is one negative; there is no parking. You can pay extra for valet parking, which we did. There may be some places where you don’t pay extra to park in New Orleans, but I don’t know them.

We loved it the minute we walked in. We had talked with the receptionist earlier, and she remembered us. Check in was a breeze. We had to walk through a winding courtyard to get to our room, then up an elevator, but oh WOW.

I kept telling AdventureMan “I love this room! I love this room!” It is not often a room exceeds my expectations, but this room delighted my heart:

 

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Up those two stairs and out the door, we have this huge terrace which we share with the room next door. We each have our own table and chairs, and a view of the river and Decatur street in each direction. We also look directly over some kind of party central, where the New Year’s Eve Parade will pass, and the big pre-Sugar Bowl party will be held. They are setting up now; bands are practicing, it is ear-splitting, but we are assured all the noise will stop at eight p.m.

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As dusk fall, the Steamboat Natchez gives us a calliope concert. We sit out on our deck and listen, and watch the crews for the bands setting up and playing with the sound and light displays:

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Promptly at eight, the bands all stop. Our room is quiet . . .most of the time. About once an hour, a very very loud car comes by with its booming bass beat and some wanna-be rapper going on down the road. A couple times during the night, emergency vehicles come by. At 3:30 I see odd lights on our wall, and as I peer out the curtains, I see the crews still at work on the stage lights, and they are pulsing colors and bright lights. We have great black out curtains, I close them tightly and snooze away 🙂

The room is gorgeous. The hotel has a fabulous location, close to everywhere. It wasn’t very noisy, but next time, same hotel, and a courtyard room. We had a lot of fun with our balcony, but once was enough and next time we will opt for one of the interior rooms, hoping it is a little more quiet.

 

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January 2, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Living Conditions, Mardi Gras, Music, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Dining in the Dar Es Salaam, Marrakech

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We have driven a couple hours to get from Casablanca to Marrakech, and the bus lets us off just a short walk from the restaurant, the Dar Es Salaam. I don’t believe this restaurant is open to the public; I believe this restaurant is a dedicated group-tours service restaurant.

I admire what they do. They have a lovely venue, it looks like it might have been one of the grand old homes in the city, or even an old mosque. It has elaborate decorations, and lovely spaces. Whatever it was at one time, it has been gutted, and turned into a restaurant that can seat and feed many many people in a very short amount of time.

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Those are not leftover bread crumbs on the table, they are rose petals to welcome groups.

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Tables were marked with signs indicating Smithsonian and/or Purple, and as soon as eight people were seated around a table, service began, first hot towels, then water and small appetizers/mezze. They were pretty good. Most were not heavily spiced.

Dar Es Salaam filling

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Appetizers were some kind of lentils, a beet salad, a mashed potato and pea combination, something maybe with a little lamb, and olives. The olives were delicious.

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They served a huge tajine with some kind of beef dish. It was well cooked, like beef and carrots, with little or no spices that I could detect. Nourishing. Filling.

The venue is spectacular. It is truly a fabulous environment in which to take a meal. The catering service has paid attention to detail, with rose petals on the table, good settings, enough water, good sweets at the end of the meal and hot mint tea poured with a flourish. The restrooms were clean and there were several. I admire the way they can serve so many people so quickly, get-them-in, get-them-out and give them a meal in which there is little to object to . . . unless you’ve had Moroccan cooking before, and like a little taste in your food. We like taste in our food.

We’ve been married and traveling together for so long now that we know we aren’t going to be able to stay with the group. We love Marrakech; we’ve been here before. The last time was with our son, about fifteen years ago, but not a lot has changed. Our group leader looks a little worried, until we explain that we know the city, we speak Arabic and French, we know the customs, and we can find our way to the hotel on our own when we are finished. We walk – we almost run – away before anyone else knows we are gone.

 

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Food, Geography / Maps, Hot drinks, Morocco, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Praying for Ruaha

Today in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, we pray for the Diocese of Ruaha, in Tanzania.

We have such happy memories of exploring the Ruaha, and Selous. Many people visit the more famous sites in northern Tanzania, but fewer go to the more remote south. Wonderful people, we learned so much there.

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July 27, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Tanzania, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Crossing California on CA 20

This was going to be one of those days we dreaded; we don’t have any happy destination today, it’s just one of three days driving to get where we want to get next. We’re going to see Little Diamond, and to meet her babies!

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But first, we have to leave the California northern coast, where we have had so much fun, and get to Sparks, just past Reno. It’s one of those drives where we could drive an hour more, but an hour more just puts us no-where, on I-80 where there are not a lot of great stops.

GoogleMaps tells us what routes to take, and to our great surprise, we are on CA 20 most of the day, crossing California west to east, and we encounter very little traffic, and some gorgeous views and nice driving.

AdventureMan is feeling awful. He caught some kind of respiratory virus, so he drove the first hour, and then I drove most of the rest of the day to get to Sparks. Our hotel is right off the interstate, a piece of cake.

En route, as AdventureMan wakes up, we realize we had better find a place to eat as we have a long stretch ahead of us with no great prospects, so we decide barbecue, and he says “There is a Mongolian BBQ in Yuba City” and I say “Yes! I LOVE Mongolian BBQ” and he grumps because he is not feeling well and Mongolian BBQ does not count, in his book, as BBQ. But, he loves me, and the Mongolian BBQ is right on the road we are taking, and turns out to be a great stop.

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After choosing your ingredients, you hand them to one of two cooks, and the cooks dance around a large barbecue drum, cooking your selections. I’ve never seen Mongolian BBQ done that way before, but it was fun, and the result was delicious.

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I had never seen this before, either, but we saw it all along CA-20, different prices listed depending on whether you used cash, credit card or debit card.

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I had thought this route would be hot, but it was cool, and we saw snow close up.

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We also didn’t know this route would take us over the infamous Donner pass, where a group of pioneers got stopped crossing the mountains and ended up cannibalizing one or two of their party in order to survive.

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Welcome to Nevada!

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Old mining train

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We found a small Mexican place to eat dinner in Sparks, Betos II, and we were the only non-Mexicans eating there. The food was all pictured on the wall, quickly prepared, and delicious:

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May 2, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Eating Out, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment

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

“From the Redwood Forests . . .”

When I was little, this is the song that everyone was belting out. So many people sang it, Woody Guthrie, Peter Paul and Mary – and I believe it was based on an old American folk song:

As we hit the North California Coast, I could hear this song.

“From California . . . to the New York Island . . . this land is made for you and me.”

We live in a beautiful country. No matter where we turn, we have found beauty. Even parts of the country others find desertified and grim are beautiful in the spring, unbelievably green, but California has to be one of the most beautiful states of all, so much variety, so much beauty.

We love coastal areas, but driving through the redwood forests is also a thrill. The redwoods are just so beautiful, especially on a spring day with sunlight filtering through. It’s cool-warm. Too warm for a sweatshirt, too cool without it. Fortunately, we have time on our schedule to just stop and enjoy whatever we wish, because we are making a lot of stops along these forested roads.

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Even a California Poppy! Today is a blessed day!

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Of all the vineyards we saw, I liked this one the best. It’s that Art Nouveau thing they have going on 🙂

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April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Family Interlude in Los Gatos

I have a favorite nephew, an amazing young man who is, like AdventureMan and myself, a total nerd about maps and all things geographical. From the time he was young, he showed wisdom, and understanding, and a quirky way of thinking outside the box. His license plate said “Earthling.” He cracked me up.

We watched together in horror as the planes hit the World Trade towers.

Now, these years later, he has a delightful wife, who is both intellectual equal and a playful heart who makes him happy and helps him not to take himself too seriously, nor to underestimate his talents. He has a job he loves, at GoogleEarth. They have two children, children around the same age as my own grand children, and I have never met them, so we ask if we can get together and they are eager to see us.

This was one of the best days of our journey.

One of the best moments, and you have to know four year old boys to know how serious and wonderful this is, is when my nephew’s son invited me to come up to his room so he could show me some things. When we got there, he pulled out his pajamas and underpants, and I totally got it, being a person who buys Avenger underwear for my own grandson 🙂 I was so honored, so delighted to be shown his treasures 🙂 It was one of life’s special moments.

AdventureMan had his own conquest; we had brought games and puzzles and things for children, and the two-and-a-half year old took a real shine to AdventureMan. Together, they stacked up pieces to the puzzle, and knocked them over. She had a Viewmaster that she considered her camera, and she snapped “photos” of me. We had a glorious time.

They took us to a wonderful restaurant in Los Gatos, Oak and Rye, where I followed my nephew’s wife’s lead and had a fabulous tomato soup and a shaved brussle sprout salad. This was one of the tastiest and most satisfying meals of the trip.

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We were a large and noisy group, two children and five adults who had a lot of catching up to do (we had asked that our nephew’s wife’s mother also join us) and the restaurant found a large table for us outside (it was a gorgeous day) with a shade over us to keep us cool. The kids could move around and we could talk and we weren’t disturbing anyone. Friends of the family saw us dining there, and came over to chat, so it got even noisier – just more to catch up with 🙂 It was a grand reunion.

All too soon, we were saying goodbye, wishing we could stay longer but the road is calling, and we are on our way to another stop on the California coast. We hit San Francisco in the late afternoon, and get to go across the Golden Gate Bridge in perfect weather, accompanied by hundreds of people taking advantage of the perfect day to march across the bridge on foot.

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April 28, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Driving by Faith from Yosemite to Monterey

I only discovered by accident that my GoogleMaps app talks. Leaving San Antonio, we discovered she would tell us which lane to be in, when to exit, etc. I liked it because most of the time, we had plenty of warning and when we missed something, there was no judgement in her tone, just new instructions, helpful instructions, with none of that annoying righteousness navigators can assume. (I can say that, being the navigator.)

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I like it that AdventureMan and I listen together, and so I am not sounding like a nag. She repeats. Occasionally, AdventureMan told her to please shut up, that he had this, but she just wanted to be sure.

Leaving Yosemite was easy driving. I drove the leg to Merced so AdventureMan could look, and as we approached Merced, there were signs for stops with fruits and nuts and garlics and oils – all the bounty of the California Valley.

One thing I saw a lot of on this trip was a move towards multi-use restrooms; they were marked for male or female, and to me, this just makes sense. It especially makes sense if you are female, there are always huge lines in female restrooms and never lines in male restrooms. Now, we just all share. Of course, there is always the question of cleanliness, but I found, generally speaking, most of these unisex toilets were maintained with high degrees of cleanliness.

Behind this Merced shop, they are setting up for a large lunch crowd, and they have a petting zoo, as well as parrots

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They had such marvelous food-stuffs, I found wonderful dates, and an avocado oil, and all kinds of almonds and walnuts, pickled garlics, and AdventureMan found peanut brittle.

Leaving Merced, however, the GoogleMap voice told us to take a route that did not seem right. AdventureMan did not want to do it, but as it turned out, it helped us avoid traffic in Merced, took us on these very fast country roads to an intersection where we quickly found ourselves en route to Monterey.

Later, stopped in inexplicable traffic, she kept telling us she could save us six minutes, but it meant getting off the route, going through town and getting on again at the next light. We saw others doing it, but it kind of seemed like cheating to do that, and for what, you’re still stopped in traffic, just a little farther down the road? Most of the time, however, we learned to listen to her voice 🙂

The saddest thing we found, in this paradise where fruits and vegetables grow happily, were all the signs saying “Pray for Water.” California is one of the great food-baskets of the world, and the food supply is reliant on water. In the midst of a drought, with signs it may go on for many more years, they ask for our prayers.

Pray for Water.

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Environment, Food, Gardens, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment