Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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.

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

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo – Bristol Hotel and Surroundings

A quick ride from the airport to downtown Oslo, where we find The Bristol Hotel, and inside a table with Viking local guides, armed with key sets with each passengers name. So easy, so well thought through – no waiting, just pick up your keys and an information sheet (like what time to meet up with your guide the next morning – critical information) and up to our room. Smooth. Efficient. Well done.

 

The room is charming and welcoming. You would think we would drop all our bags and hit the town, but you would be wrong. We dropped all our bags and hit the sack; slept like the dead for two hours and forced ourselves to wake up and get morning. It works for us.

 

I loved the spaciousness of this room, and oh, YES, wooden floors. I am such a sucker for wooden floors.

 

The bathroom was nice enough; I took a photo to show you the teeny tiny shower. I estimated it was about two feet by maybe two and a half feet at the longest, but a door cut across at a 45 degree angle, slicing space out of the shower. The controls were interesting; you control hot and cold with the right lever, and volume with the left. Well, it got the job done, it just felt cramped.

A storage rack and a pay bar in the entry hall.

 

We ate dinner in the Bristol Library Bar; the most fun was watching the locals gather in groups to have a drink on the way home. It was a busy, happy place, and we decided to eat dinner there and then go for a walk.

 

 

Our dinner was a bowl of Norwegian fish soup and an Autumn salad. The fish soup was delicious; we don’t put peas in fish soup in the Pacific Northwest, nor in the South, so it was a lovely addition that surprised me and delighted me. The Herbstsalad had roast duck pieces, and roasted beet, on a bed of mixed greens. The whole meal was lovely.

 

After dinner, we walked around the shopping area near our hotel, it was a beautiful night and the streets were crowded with a festive crowd. I thought the below was a church, and perhaps it was at one time, but I was told it is no longer a functioning church.

 

Some public art – Oslo is full of lovely statuary, and beautiful parks.

Oslo is also peopled by these trolls, in infinite variety. I sort of like them, I think of Father Richard Rohr and his message that our dark side is sometimes the way we find our path to God, in our brokenness.

 

As we walked, more and more people were gathering along the pedestrian way. We would ask, but no one we asked seemed to know what was happening, but all suggested it was probably a political rally with elections coming up soon. It was a very festive rally, not hostile or threatening in any way. Ah, to have such civil politics . . . .

 

Near our hotel was a store which sold what we called in Germany, “trachten” which means traditional folk-clothing. This traditional folk clothing is still made and is increasingly worn on high social occasions – weddings, important political occasions, National day, etc and is very expensive. One guide told us an outfit might start at $2,000. and then for special occasions, your husband might buy you the traditional jewelry which goes with the clothing.

 

 

This is actually my favorite, below. The Norwegian traditional clothing seems to me to have some Middle Eastern influence in the trims and buttons and modesty. No, I am not the least bit tempted; it would not work in Pensacola. It would be too hot and too heavy, and the heat and humidity would harm the valuable wool fabrics.

We slept wonderfully at the Bristol Hotel, and were up bright and shiny the next morning for our tour of Oslo and train trip over the mountains to Bergen.

 

 

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Public Art, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nina George: Little French Bistro (aka Little Breton Bistro)

 

I haven’t been reviewing books so much recently. I run a local book club, we meet once a month, and this year, we chose some really HARD books. This book, The Little French Bistro, is not one of the books my book club read. It is not a hard book.

It is a great, quick airplane read, or a beach read. It is a book you can read and pass along to the person sitting next to you, because you won’t need to go back and re-read any of it.

I am pre-disposed to like any book that has France, French, or Paris in the title, or bistro, or book shop. I read another book by this author called The Little French Bookshop, in which the main character ends up taking his bookshop – on a barge – down a series of rivers, through locks and small French towns, to the south of France. I really enjoyed that book, and have thought of it often.

This book I just found annoying. I wanted to tell the main character, Marianna, to “man up,”, grow-a-pair, take responsibility for your own life! She lived in misery for forty something years with a man who treated her like an accessory, like a domestic, like a convenience, without respect, without . . . . respect.

Marianne gets sadder and sadder, goes to Paris on a trip with her churlish husband, and decides to commit suicide, but fails in her attempt.

She escapes the hospital in which she is about to be evaluated for mental stability, and heads to Brittany.

I’m not liking her very much so far, but I am hesitant to blame a victim. And I am annoyed; how did this sad sack get the gumption to go, and how did she happen to have cash on her, when her purse went into the river with her when she jumped off the Pont Neuf?

Her motivation? She wants to die in Brittany, and things the sea will do the job. She ends up in the sea several times.

Long story short, she finds work she enjoys and is good at. She learns a little French, she makes friends. She gets a make-over and buys some new clothes. She finds a lover, a French artist, who loves and adores her, and she blooms under his loving attention.

Sigh.

It’s a very romantic idea, and it makes me tired. I’ve met so many divorced people, men and women, who are still looking for that partner who will love and adore them. Some of them wish they had stayed with their marriage; some were smart to leave. Relationships are hard work. It may be all magical, as George implies, at the beginning, but as the relationship grows and enriches, deepens, you have to learn to accept another, warts and all. You can’t do that unless you can accept yourself . . . warts and all.

I object to the premise that you find a wonderful new lover and a new life begins. My experience tells me that you really need to be happy with yourself, first, and that wonderful love will follow . . . or not. If you are happy with yourself, and you are creating a life you love living, that may be as good as life can be. If you don’t find a way to be happy with yourself, if you don’t know who you are, every relationship ends the same way. God willing, we grow, we change, we learn more about ourselves, who we are, our relationship to the universe, and our purpose, and how to fulfill it.

There are some interesting characters, interesting situations and a lovely community life in The Little French Bistro. My frustration with the book is that it had more potential than it demonstrated.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Books, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

The Saint Hotel, New Orleans

What you see is the trips we take.

What you don’t see is the planning and the occasional agony of trying to find just the right place to stay, which restaurant to try. We live in an age of information, sometimes too much information, sometimes false information. You can read reviews, and you have to filter through what they like to glean nuggets pertaining to what you like.

I was looking for a hotel in New Orleans. There are a lot of hotels in New Orleans. We stay frequently at the Westin, at the foot of Canal, for one reason. It is perfect with the grandchildren – the room is spacious, there is parking close by, the kids LOVE the elevator on the outside of the hotel, we can walk to restaurants in the French Quarter, it is close to Magazine street, and a short drive to the Zoo, and it is right next to the Aquarium. (It is also right next to the Algiers Point Ferry I just told you about.)

We have another hotel, the French Market Inn, which we love, but it is noisy, and the rooms we love are actually the noisiest. Others are dark, and smaller.

I found a special offer on a new hotel in the Marriott chain, which is a chain I love because of their customer service training. It looked . . . intriguing. Not like any place we have stayed before. So I booked at The Saint. I liked the location; I liked the novelty.

 

And, as it turned out, I totally loved the hotel.

The entry to the hotel is at least two floors high, with long flowing panels breaking up the space. The lines are clean, the colors soothing – and bold.

For some reason, I think of the room as cobalt blue, when in reality, as I see the photo, the walls were white, with just a small portion of cobalt, and the rug was cobalt. There where long flowing white sheers, and the combination of the cobalt and the white was serene.

The receptionist was welcoming, and efficient, and gave us a couple good ideas for dinner. Meanwhile, it had started raining, and we loved the room so much we took a nap. Even overlooking Canal Street, the room was quiet and . . . serene. The bed was lovely, the bathroom was spacious and sparkling clean with a clear bowl sink – we just loved the room.

 

This was the door to our room – every door was different:

The hallway had blue lights.

It was pouring rain when we went out to eat, and it didn’t matter. We were near so many good restaurants, and we had this lovely room to come back to.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Customer Service, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

Santa Fe, Here We Come

We spent one night in Santa Fe two years ago, and knew we had to come back. We put a three day stay at the end of our parks visit to give ourselves some play time, we really love Santa Fe.

This was not a bad day, but I will not tell you it was another best day of the trip. Some days, you just have to drive to get where you are going. This was mostly that kind of day.

We came south back to Kayenta, turned left, and stayed on the same highway until Farmington, where we had lunch at the crossroad where we turned south. On the way, we saw flashing lights ahead, and were afraid it was an accident but it was a marching group. We didn’t know why they were marching. Then about ten miles later, we saw a similar group marching towards us. We gave them a big thumbs up; YAY! Marching for a healthier lifestyle! They all looked about our age ๐Ÿ™‚

We were about to turn south when we saw this sign: Serious Texas Bar-B-Q. ย Who could resist that sign? Not us!

We each ordered a sandwich. When they came, we discovered that SERIOUS meant huge. We couldn’t begin to eat the whole sandwiches, we had to leave about half behind. The restaurant was full of big burly cowboy types who seemed to have no trouble packing away that kind of serious sandwich.

All the following photos seem to be about food, but we did other things, too!

Checking in at the Hotel Santa Fe and Hacienda, AdventureMan reminded me we had one of the best meals of our lives at their Amaya restaurant. We reserved for that night, and AdventureMan had their duck, and I had the salmon.

 

As we were eating, we overheard another table talking about the Farmer’s Market the next day. We love Farmer’s Markets! We asked the waitress if she knew where it might be, and she didn’t know, but very soon, another waiter came over and told us how to get there – it was right across the street. After dinner, we took a walk, found where the market would be, and came back to the hotel, had coffee and dessert while we listened to the hotel musician, who plays Spanish guitar and Indian flute, then headed upstairs for some much needed sleep.

Although we were near the elevators, the rooms are so quiet, we never heard another guest. I love that the hotel has coffee service for guests on each floor; early the next morning while AdventueMan slept, I could creep out and fill my cup without him even missing me.

He was awake soon, and we headed for the Farmer’s Market, only to learn that there was also a Crafts and Artists Market in a separate row. Oh, what heaven! I found some wonderful gifts and AdventureMan and I found wonderful quiche and croissants at the Farmer’s Market, which also has baked goods and crafted goods, plants, all kinds of things. We loved the Santa Fe market.

I asked one of the vendors I was buying from where he and his wife eat when they come to Santa Fe, and without hesitation he said “The Pantry” so we put it on our list of places to take a look at. Meanwhile, we headed out Canyon Road, which we loved, with all the art shops and cute restaurants, then went to explore San Miguel’s, billing itself as the oldest church in the United States, with an altar that dates from the days of the Spanish exploration.

 

 

AdventureMan had heard of Jambo, an African fusion restaurant he thought we should try. It was wonderful. We ordered too much. We ordered a hummus appetizer, salads and a peanut chicken stew to share. The hummus was huge, and beautiful, with hummus, and also lots of veggies and olives, and pita bread, and then the salads came, huge and delicious . . . when the stew came with the rice, it was also delicious, but we were so full! We ate a few bites, then packed it up to take it back to the hotel for dinner. We love that our room has a fridge and a microwave, and we have plates and utensils and napkins, so we will feast again tonight in the glory of our own little suite.

xxx

(Forgot to take a photo of the peanut chicken stew, which when we first had it many many years ago was called Ground Nut Stew. This was a little different, but equally delicious.)

 

We were lazy on Sunday and didn’t get up until seven thirty or so, to get to the Pantry while there still might be tables left on a lazy Sunday morning. Oops, my bad, Santa Fe must get up early, all the tables are taken and there is a line to get in. The waitress says it will only be ten minutes or so, we decide to wait. In almost no time, we are in, and have a great table.

This looks like a picture, but it is actually a quilt someone did of the Pantry.

AdventureMan ordered biscuits and gravy – and beans!

 

I ordered blue-corn pancakes. Sigh. They were good, but they tasted like . . . pancakes!

 

At a nearby table was a friendly man who told us we might want to try Maria’s for dinner, that it was another good place where people from Santa Fe eat. He also told us he was a musician and an Elvis impersonator. Almost everyone we met in Santa Fe was very welcoming and glad to give out information. It was a lot of fun, being in that kind of atmosphere.

We visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum, walk around a little, but AdventureMan’s banged up leg make it hard for him to walk easily. That’s OK, we are in Santa Fe to kick back and rest up, so we spend the afternoon reading and snoozing. Later in the day, we hit Maria’s. Most of the people coming in were heading to the bar, evidently Maria’s has like 99 different kinds of Margaritas. We just wanted dinner – and our server was efficient, and sort of brusque. The restaurant wasn’t that busy, but getting busier. Maybe he had though he would get a break between lunch and dinner, and was just tired. He did the job. He did not make us feel welcome.

 

As much as we like Santa Fe, we are ready to start heading home. First step: get to Denver, where we will be staying with my sister and her husband, mother and father to Little Diamond, grandparents to the little little diamonds. From Maria’s, we head back to the hotel and organize our suitcases, take out the big ones and just keep the small overnighters. Sorting through now helps us plan for our time in Denver and for the trip back to Pensacola.

 

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Faith, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: AZ or UT?

“Look! Look! Grab your camera! Grab your camera!”

“It’s just turkeys,” I grumble to myself, I’m not even settled in the car, I don’t even have my seat belt on and AdventureMan wants me to take photos of turkeys? I take a couple shots, then we head to the lodge and check out.

This time, the camera is in my hands. This time, when we see three turkeys, and two of them are male, trying desperately to get the turkey chick to give them the time of day, so to speak.

 

This was actually a great way to start a day which will have a lot of driving before we reach our goal, Monument Valley, which is sort of in Utah and Sort of in Arizona, or at least the hotel where we are staying is in Arizona, but the road to get to it starts in Utah. Because it is Navaho Nation, they have gone on Daylight Savings Time, in spite of the technicality that they are in Arizona, a peculiar state who does not go on Daylight Savings Time.

Farewell, beautiful Zion.

 

This is the route we will be taking today. Our maps tell us it has some scenic routes. Remember, cell phone coverage is spotty in this area, and physical maps are a really, really good idea.

 

We know where we will stop for breakfast – The Thunderbird, In Mt. Carmel Junction, where we had lunch the day before. It is right on our way. Actually, I had a healthy breakfast, but I had to order this cinnamon roll, which AdventureMan and I nibbled on, and then took the rest with us in case we were stuck somewhere in a remote place and needed some sugar-energy. This roll had a lot of sugar-energy.

 

On the road, after the glory or Arches, and Bryce Canyon, and Zion, we are spoiled. It is harder to appreciate normal beautiful vistas. As we drove through a forest, however, AdventureMan spotted a deer running, not a pronghorn, not a mule deer, we don’t know what it was. I am sorry it is fuzzy; he was running!

Maybe it was a mule deer, now that I see the ears. I am not sure.

We stopped to look at this vast overlook, and I was sort of thinking “ho-hum” when an Asian family drove up, a dad and his three daughters, and the daughters all had iPads and were taking photos and one of them said to me “Just look! This is right out of the old West! Can’t you just see an enormous herd of buffalo stretching all the way to the horizon, and what if they get spooked and stampede??”

And then, I saw them, thousands of buffalo in the valley below, nibbling on the new green grass, stretching to the horizon. I owe that girl. She gave me a great gift, a major shift in perspective.


AdventureMan said “Why are there so many contrails?” and he was right, there were contrail everywhere. We were close to the Northern side of Grand Canyon, which is still closed at this time of year, so maybe they were planes coming and going out of Phoenix? Maybe the air is so cold that the contrails form more easily? I don’t know, but he is right, the sky is streaked with them.

I think these are the Vermillion Cliffs, fabulous, but . . . we are jaded after the glories we have seen. We drive on.

 

 

We stop for gas in Kayenta, and we go into the Basha Market to buy water. Two things, one is that we have this totally deja vu feeling, like we have been in this shopping area before. AdventureMan says we had lunch at that Subway store, and I kind of remember.ย Second, all the people in the market, mostly local Navaho, have carts full of sugary foods, sodas, sugary cereals, snacks and candy. It’s like the don’t know that sugar is the new poison, that it leads to obesity, that it rots your teeth and inflames your gums. Or they know, and they don’t care.

But we are starving. We see Amigos on the side of the road as we are heading to Monument Valley, and decide to give it a try. As soon as we get inside, we know we are in the right place. There are local people. There is a lunch special up on the blackboard. The smells are wonderful.

AdventureMan had Tostada and Enchilada. See that salsa? That salsa is one of the best salsas we have ever eaten. In the photo it looks red, but it actually was very green.

I had two tacos. The tacos were enough, I didn’t need the rice and beans and I left them, but I did ask for another salsa, it was so good.

We liked Amigos so much that we came back here again for dinner the night after we had been out all day in Monument Valley.

 

The name of our hotel is The View. It is a Navaho owned and operated hotel in Monument Valley proper, where all the tours start. We chose it for so many reasons, for one, because every room has a view, for another, that it is Navaho owned and operated, and last but not least, they advertise that they have some of the best star-gazing because there is no light from nearby cities; there are no nearby cities (Kayenta is about 30 miles away.)

At check-in, we are delighted; the lobby is lovely! It is light and bright and full of art works. We are also chagrined, the receptionist is rude to the people in front of us, and not at all welcoming to us. She wasn’t rude to us, just very businesslike and unsmiling. Maybe she was just having a bad day.

 

This is the area where people met up with their tour guides for the morning, afternoon and evening tours.

 

This is our room. It was lovely. We loved the art work, we loved the very spacious bathroom, and oh my, we loved the view.

 

 

The view, straight out:

 

The view to the right

The view to the left

 

As the late-afternoon sun begins to mellow, the colors morph and darken

 

 

Staying in this hotel is SO worth it.

 

The hotel has a fabulous gift shop, full of lovely jewelry, art items, artifacts. AdventureMan looked at a beautiful knife for our son; the cost was over $500. Oops! They also had more affordable things, one of our grand children’s favorite gifts was a bag of colored rocks, LOL. They had some good books, with Indian legends, written for children, and of course, T-shirts.

 

We ate dinner in The View restaurant, it was packed, full, with lots of families with young children and lots of tourists, some in groups. The servers did their best, but it was chaotic. AdventureMan had the “famous” green chili stew, which he said was not very interesting, and I had a taco salad, which was equally not very interesting. Our breakfast there, the next morning, was equally not very interesting. It was a breakfast buffet with a very limited selection.

There is another downside. During the day, the hotel facilities are dominated by the day-trippers. The hotel area is sort-of separated from the more public areas, but the feeling is chaotic. It all calms down dramatically when the last bus leaves. Wait to visit the gift shop after the teeming hoards have departed.

The upside of The View is the view. The upside is that the view at sunset is gorgeous. The upside is that it truly is magnificent star gazing. The upside is that the sunrise is beyond magnificent.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bryce Canyon Pines and Dinosaur Tracks en Route to Zion National Park

We hate to leave Bryce Canyon Inn, we really love staying in this cabin, but the road beckons, so we get up early and find Bryce Canyon Pines on our route. Bryce Canyon Pines is a motel and restaurant, with a cowboy theme. As soon as we walked in, we knew we had come to the right place.

I wish you could hear the country music radio playing old old classic country and western tunes. I wish you could smell the buttery smell of pancakes and waffles in the pans, and the bacon frying. This is about as down-home as you can get.

 

I ask if I can have my veggie omelette made with 2 eggs, not 3 and the waitress says “of course!”

AdventureMan says these are the BEST biscuits and gravy!

I take photos quickly, before the restaurant starts to fill up.

 

This is a really cute place, and we heard they are also good for lunch and dinner.

We can actually get to Zion very quickly, maybe an hour and a half, but we decide we want more adventure. AdventureMan finds a road through the mountains, to another interstate, which we are hoping will take us to some other dinosaur tracks, more accessible, south of Zion. We have the time, and it sounds like fun.

First out, AdventureMan spots a Pronghorn Deer. “Take a picture! Take a picture!” he shouts, knowing I keep my camera in my lap, available for just such an emergency. The Pronghorn ignores us, so we shoot, quickly, and leave him in peace.

 

This is one of those photos that doesn’t work. High in the hills (once again, we have snow flurries at the higher altitudes) there are small groves of shining white birch trees among the pines. The white against the green is so beautiful, but it doesn’t translate in photos.

Did I mention it was cold? This lake, at a resort along the small Utah road, is still partially frozen. It is beautiful.

We hit the interstate, and quickly get to Hurricane, don’t you love the name? AdventureMan is looking for a particular site with dinosaur tracks, so we stop at the local historical museum for information. They told us just where to go and how to get there.

We follow the directions, and end up on a very rural road. It is so rural, it is open range and cows are on the road. The pavement ends, and it is sandy and rough. It is also hot, really hot, thank goodness we have water with us. There are no signs.

Finally, we pass Fort Morgan, which was part of the instructions, so we keep going, making a right where the track splits here, and then a sharp left a half mile later. We go up a steep hill, and finally, we find a sign. We are out in the middle of effing nowhere.

 

Looking back down the road we came in on. Of course, to get to the tracks is an uphill hike. Did I mention it is really, really hot? We are like in the desert!

 

This time, I am the one who spots the tracks. They are set aside, sort of protected, except that you can see people have chiseled out parts of the tracks and taken them for their own use. That just breaks my heart.

The signs tell us who made which track, and once you know what the tracks look like, they are easier to find.

Yep, this is it. These are the tracks. Maybe three good ones, and it was a long, hot drive followed by a long hot hike. Actually, it was a lot of fun, as adventures go, we survived, but I still get to tease AdventureMan about it.

 

We are starving. We head back into Saint George, UT, where we find this really fun restaurant with a bear theme, and pretty good salmon. I’m a happy woman.

Our reservation packet from Zion National Park included a red tag to hang from our rear view mirror. It allows us to drive to the lodge in our own car, since we are staying there. It also allows us in and out of the park, which comes in handy for us restless types. Check in is perfunctory; some lodges have chirpy, friendly receptionists, Zion has slow, surly receptionists. We like our spacious room and balcony, but we miss the privacy of our cabin.

 

We have dinner later on the terrace in the Lodge, salmon cakes and a salad for me, the salad bar and soup for AdventureMan. There are still tourist buses loading up in front of the lodge around 7; guess they are the last ones out.

 

Once the last bus leaves, you would think it would grow more quiet, but the lodge is full of hiking groups, many with wine, and they are having a fine time, everyone out on the balconies, hopping from room to room. Fortunately, they are early risers, and so also go to bed rather quickly. By nine, all is silent. We check for stars, and we can see a few, but it is hazy, so the stars are not so bright.

 

I know I have mentioned before the National Parks special card for seniors. My friends, this card is such a deal. You buy it once, I thin it costs 10 or 20 dollars. It covers you and the whole car every time you enter a National Park. It is such a deal that both AdventureMan and I each have one – we have Fort Pickens nearby, which is a national seashore park, and we often take visitors out to see the fort. These passes are good for life. It is a way the United States Park Systems honors aging US citizens. How cool is that, especially when the major parks charge $25 entry per car?

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Beauty, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spectacular Beauty in Bryce Canyon, UT

We wanted to see the sun rise in Bryce Canyon, so we chose to have an early breakfast at the rustically beautiful Bryce Canyon Lodge.

“Why didn’t we stay here?” asks AdventureMan, although we really love the cabins where we are.

“I can’t remember,” I reply, miserably, because I really can’t remember. When I was originally making plans it was for earlier in April, and I discovered all the best places were already booked! It was Easter, and Spring Break, and although I thought I was booking way early, no, I wasn’t.

AdventureMan also reminded me about the snow-in-the-pass issue, so I moved the trip almost four weeks later, and we are still running into snow-in-the-pass as well as snow almost every place else, too. It’s just little patches of snow, and occasional flurries of snow, which quickly pass and leave no trace.

Plus, I’m an Alaska girl, remember? I have a wardrobe of hooded sweatshirts and jeans, beautiful German boiled wool coats, which I considered investment clothing, knowing we had a house waiting our return to the Pacific Northwest in Edmonds, WA. While I may be a sartorial fish-out-of-water in Pensacola, FL, I KNOW how to dress in the chill mountain temperatures, and I am happy!

But I will let you decide for yourself. Temperatures are, indeed, chill, but just look at this light! Look at the sunlight, the blue skies, the way the patches of snow make the greens look greener and the gives the reds more depth. This day is one of the happiest days in my life; there is beauty on this earth which no human hand can create nor capture.

Breakfast at the Bryce Canyon Lodge was a lot of fun. I had the Bryce Canyon Breakfast, two eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast. I asked the waitress just not to even bother with the potatoes, and she listened. She also kept my coffee cup filled, and was efficient without making us feel in the least bit rushed.

Bryce Canyon Lodge exterior

Bryce Canyon Lodge entrance from parking lot

Bryce Canyon Lodge lobby

Bryce Canyon Lodge display of local arts

 

As soon as we had finished breakfast, we walked straight out from the lodge to a place about half way between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. This early in the morning, before too many of the tour buses arrived, we were able to take advantage of the light and have a great walk, from Sunrise to Sunset ๐Ÿ™‚

I can’t help it. If you were in Bryce Canyon with me, you would also be taking photos like crazy. You know capturing such beauty and such grandeur is just not possible, but something within begs you to try; you want to take a little bit of it all back with you. I am sorry for you, you are going to have to put up with all my photos, my babies, my pieces of grandeur, which one would you have me sacrifice?

 

There is beauty to the left and grandeur to the right, everywhere you look. This is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I have ever been.

Rainbow bridge

 

This reminds me of the Heidelberg Castle, like a huge long castle defense

There were a surprising number of children in this park. I say surprising, because it truly is dangerous, on the same scale as Grand Canyon, this is nature, not Disneyland. Not everything is roped off or gated, you are expected to use good judgement and not get too close to the edge. In my opinion, unless you keep your child on a leash, you are taking a chance taking a young child to Bryce Canyon. Wait until they are 10 or so, and understand the dangers.

At Yovimpa Point, I was taking a photo, near the edge, and was steadying myself against a tree. When I stood up, fast, I whacked my forehead on a tree limb. First it swelled, then it showed a long cut and gorgeous bruise. I felt like a true wild woman, or a pirate, with my colorful head wound.

Bryce Canyon is a wonderful place to walk, with great walkways. Yes, this one has rails. Not all the trails do.

All these viewpoints have cute names. This one might be Balzac? Or Queen Victoria? I took it because I loved the contrasting greens, and snow, with the rusts and oranges, and the mountains dim in the background.

These eroded sandstone pillars are called Hoodoos. You can buy all kinds of sweatshirts and T-shirts (we didn’t) that say “I hiked the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon”

 

I’m pretty sure this is Thor’s Hammer.

 

This narrow canyon reminds me so much of our camel trips in Wadi Rum, near Petra, in Jordan.

 

After another best morning of the trip ๐Ÿ™‚ we have lunch at the Bryce Canyon Lodge; I have a particular reason, they have an elk stew. We used to eat elk when I was a kid and I didn’t remember what it tasted like. There wasn’t a lot of meat in the stew, mostly carrots and potatoes. The elk seemed a lot like ground beef.

 

There is no such thing as “enough” when you are taking photos at Bryce Canyon. We loved all the places we travelled on this trip, but in retrospect, Bryce Canyon was the most stunningly beautiful place we visited. We were glad, really glad, we did it in May, before schools get out and there are even more people in the park. Many many were from other countries, and we were happy to see them. Astounded, really, at how many Chinese there were.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Exercise, Hotels, Jordan, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Moab to Tropic, Bryce Canyon And a Wonder-Filled Detour through Capitol Reefs

We are still on Pensacola time, so early rising is a piece-of-cake. Quick breakfast, quick departure. We had looked at the options the night before, we could go directly to Zion via fast roads, or take a southern route which would take considerably longer. AdventureMan had looked at the map and suggested a third route, which took longer, but not so long as the southern route, and took us through a place I have never even heard of, Capitol Reefs.

We’ve lived in so many wonderful places, and, because AdventureMan’s job was always so demanding, I took care of trip-planning, finding places to stay, creating routes to travel and choosing sights to see. This way is so much better, AdventureMan has the leisure to look at the maps, and he has good instincts. This day was another best day of the trip. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

(Yes, I know, technically, they can’t all be best days. Toward the end we had some more boring days, but each day brought wonders and joys, and this is one of those best days, honest.)

One thing we never want is to find ourselves miles from a gas station in a remote location. As we are filling our tank, leaving Moab, I see one of our contemporaries loading up for his own adventure. This is what I love about Moab, you are free to pursue your own adventure.

If you are thinking about taking this trip, or a trip like it, you need to know that our phones had no service much of the time. Fortunately, we had maps and are good at reading them, mostly. It is really important to have some kind of back up when you are in remote locations. If you rely on your phone, and there is no service, you will have a harder time.

The scenery, even along the major highways, can be distractingly spectacular. This is, I believe, along I-70, which we take for a short time to get to the scenic road we want to be on to get to Capitol Reefs.

What we didn’t realize was that the greenery near the cliffs in Capitol Reefs indicated a river. I discovered it as I was making a pit-stop. I was headed to a private spot when all of a sudden, I realized I was not alone. By a stroke of luck, I had my camera in my hand. I whispered to the Mule Deer that I meant them no harm, and they calmly grazed as I took a couple photos.

Can you see why I am considering this another of the best days? I love happy surprises, and this day is full of happy surprises, even a few flakes of short-lived snow.

Good thing we stopped where we did. Just another quarter of a mile down the road is a major stop, with a beautiful walkway, so people can view Petroglyphs!

So, can you see the petroglyphs? I bet your eyes are getting better at it. You learn to look a little higher than you would think.

There are so many places where petroglyphs have been lost to natural breaking off and erosion.

 

This is a piece that has broken off, but remnants of the original petroglyphs remain.

This is the beautiful walkway they built.

This is the sign. It is a little obscured, but we are always thankful for good signage.

I want you to know how very brave I was. I was about to lean on the railing to steady a shot when AdventureMan said “You’ll want to look before you do that,” and when I did, I saw a thousand creeping caterpillars. They were falling out of the trees, and covered the walkway. I made AdventureMan check my hair, and my hoodie, then I covered my hair completely; I looked like a total dork. Back in the car, I made him check me again, to make sure I wasn’t carrying an unwelcome guest with me. But no matter how much I was creeped out, it didn’t stop me from taking these photos ๐Ÿ™‚

“This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be thankful in it!”

Shortly after finding a gas station, and looking for a restaurant that was open and might serve more than hamburgers and beer, we found the Capitol Reefs Cafe and Restaurant, which suited us perfectly. It had a unique gift store – I found the only petroglyph soap, black with etched petroglyphs – of the entire trip, perfect for a three year old, or even in the tip of AdventureMan’s Christmas stocking. Alas, there was only one, and I gave it to the three year old.

Look at that! Cloth napkins, and in a beautiful local textile.

AdventureMan had a fabulous corn chowder, and these Shrimp Tostadas.

I had a smoked trout salad, the only one I have ever had in my life. It was unique, and wonderful.

At Larb Hollow overlook, you could see for miles, maybe hundreds of miles. We could see Lake Powell. In the highlands, it was still very cold, and we had occasional flakes of snow.

This stop was hilarious. We thought it was some kind of big deal but it was a very little deal. It reminded us very much of Germany, with a rural forest feel, a walk around a large lake, people with those walking picks that give me the shivers – “No! Don’t point that pick at me!”

We stopped at a rock shop, where I bought a T-shirt I loved. He said it was last year’s color, and gave me a great discount, but it was a much more subtle color, a desert deep rose color, and it has a 70’s peace sign in gold, so elaborate that you don’t necessarily even see what it is. I love it. Then I went to take a photo of these cows, which AdventureMan thought was hilarious. “You’d be surprised how many people stop to take photos of those cows,” the owner of The Rock Shop told him.

Arriving in Tropic, we are assigned to this cabin. Of all the places we stayed on the trip, we loved this cabin the best. It was a lot of fun, spacious, clean, very private, great beds, and the least expensive place we stayed. This was the Bryce Canyon Inn, in Tropic, which also has a coffee shop and a pizza restaurant in the same complex.

We took a short rest, then headed out to do a reconnaissance of Bryce Canyon, finding one of the major sights on our way. I think it was called Mossy Grotto, or something like that. Honestly, they give names to all these hikes, and while the hikes are great, I can’t remember the exact names. These are all late in the day, some times the sunlight is perfect and some times it has already disappeared due to landscape features. We needed a good hike after spending so much of the day with our only exercise getting in and out of the car.


This is one of the features, and I couldn’t really figure out why. I think in winter it has huge icicles hanging from it. It is moist and water weeps from it. I think it is the mossy grotto.

It looks like these rocks are kissing ๐Ÿ™‚

 

We headed back to Tropic around dinner time, ate at the pizza restaurant. AdventureMan did the smart thing, he ordered a pizza. I saw halibut and chips on the menu and the Alaska-girl instincts kicked in, oh, halibut and chips! I got two small heavily breaded pre-frozen little lumps of fish, tasteless, what a waste of halibut. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ย Learned – re-learned a lesson: if you’re in a pizza restaurant, order pizza.

We slept wonderfully in this cabin ๐Ÿ™‚ Every day so far exceeds 10,000 steps ๐Ÿ™‚

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Exercise, Faith, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Road Trip Ever

“So when are you going to write up our trip,” AdventureMan asks, lolling on my office day-bed on a lazy Friday morning. He’s heading out to do a thankless, endless job – weeding. Meanwhile, we are catching up and making plans.

“I read your trip reviews and I think ‘what a fun woman! I’d love to travel with her!’ and then I realize I was on the trip, too! I was with you!”

We’ve been back a couple weeks now, but this is Ending Time, you know, the end of the school year, a semi-closing down of the church year, lots of events and goings-on. On the day of my last class, a class in religious history, I came home and did what I have done ever since I hit university. Before I took exams, I cleaned my space. I need order and structure and clean to focus on my exams. Old habits die hard; now I can do a little quilting, but first . . . clean my office space! Out with the old! Space for the books! Organize those scraps! It all takes time, but I am seeing the end of the tunnel, and I need to write up this trip.

It was the best trip ever. Oh, did I already say that?

Shorter Days, Longer Stays

After all these years of trip planning, we’ve had to come to some compromises. AdventureMan wasn’t raised getting up at “the crap of dawn” as he calls it, hitting the road, stopping for a quick breakfast, hitting the road, bat-out-of-hell on the road until we reach the destination. No, that is not for him. Nor (sigh) is it for me. Ageing has caused me some real re-evaluation on travel style. We decided on “Shorter days, longer stays.”

The first day of our trip was sheer joy. Our flight didn’t leave until nine in the morning, not like six in the morning when we are headed for Seattle. We boarded a local hop to Atlanta, transferred to a bigger flight to Denver, where Little Diamond lives with her two little diamond sparklers, her twins, whom I have hungered to cuddle. Our flight attendant asked all the DaVita travelers to raise their hands – it was almost everyone on the flight, headed to a big conference, party atmosphere.

On landing, I got a message that our car was waiting; we went straight there, got a Denver map, headed for our hotel, a very odd Fairfield Inn in a great location, just off a major highway, where we checked in and called Little Diamond, who was there in about fifteen minutes. Oh, what joy! We’ve missed Little Diamond! All those years she would come stay with us, in Doha, in Kuwait, in Germany. There were times she would come and we would leave her in charge, and now, here she is, a professor, an expert, a grown woman with delightful little children of her own.

We did what we always do – we hit the Target. It’s what we always did when she came into town, too, we are a peculiar family with particular tastes. AdventureMan and I needed to stock up on water and car snacks for our upcoming road trip, and some sunscreen, which came in handy later on. Well, when she would come into town, we hit the Sultan Center, or the Lulu, depending on where we were living, but same idea – to be comfortable traveling, it helps to have some of your favorite things around.

We had so much catching up to do, and then – where to go for dinner? It’s always good to know a local, Little Diamond had some great suggestions, and we had one of the best meals on our trip at True Food, in the Cherry Park area.

True Food was really interesting, fabulous menu with unique and tasty offerings, very good wines, and uniformly beautiful wait staff. I know, it’s an odd thing to say, but it’s as if there were a template that included looking clean and well-groomed kind of beautiful, natural beauty. The food was the same, natural ingredients, put together with imagination and flair. And maybe seasoned by our joyfulness at all being together, we “killed the fatted fig.”

 

Actually, while all our appetizers were a variety of vegetables, I had salmon, and it was marvelous, served on quinoa on a bed of . . . parsnips? It was perfect.

We had time after dinner with the kids; in the interest of protecting their privacy I will forego posting their photos, in addition to the fact that, at three, they are moving so fast it is hard to capture them clearly in the evening light. ย ๐Ÿ™‚ We left Little Diamond and the little little diamonds with big smiles on our faces, knowing we would see them again at the end of our trip.

The night at the Fairfield Inn was quiet and peaceful, even though we were near a busy highway. The cooler temperatures helped us sleep, in spite of the noisy plastic covers they are using to cover their mattress. The mattresses are really good, but the plastic covers makes them “sleep hot” and they also crackle. It’s a small thing, but it affects our sleep. We are up at an early hour and hit the road after a quick breakfast.

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Hotels, Kuwait, Photos, Privacy, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | 2 Comments