Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Breakfast at Domaine de la Vitrolle

It would have been a false economy to skip breakfast at the Domaine de la Vitrolle. Yes, you can grab a cup of coffee at a local supermarket, and a croissant, and go your way for very little, but you miss the whole joy of a really good petit dejeuner.

If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I like people, I get along with people, but oh, I am such an introvert. I crave quiet time, and I love privacy. I treasure privacy.

For me, this hotel stay was restorative. All that socializing on the Viking Forseti! All that chatting and cordiality! Yes, I can do it. It takes its toll.

We have the dining room all to ourselves, and the table is beautiful and the food is beautiful. Look at this beautiful bread.  It tastes good, too!

 

See the apple juice at our plates? Pressed from apples grown on the domaine, where you can smell apples from the minute you drive in. They also have fields of grapes, and their own vintner, I understand. You can buy their juice and cider at the little store at the Domaine de la Vitrolle.

See the little plate of meats, and the separate little plate of cheeses? Lovely! Little pots of jam. Little pats of unsalted butter. Fruits. Over on a side table you can choose from cereals, and make some toast.

 

Croissants and pain au chocolat arrive in their own basket, still warm.

For me, this is what I love the most. Coffee and warm milk, served in separate pitchers. I love it that I can pour in a lot of milk and it doesn’t damage the heat of the coffee. I hate tepid coffee; but who serves warm milk anymore? Domaine de la Vitrolle won my heart with their coffee service.

We also got a bit of solid gold information before we headed out for the day. The manager tells us “there are three supermarkets in LeBugue, just turn right when you get to the bridge and they will be on your right.”

We are on the road for several days, and we like to have snacks with us, and to be able to eat local treats from the area. The supermarket format is also easy for us – mostly, a supermarket is a supermarket wherever you go, and you find what you want, go to a counter and pay for it.  This Intermarche turned out to be one of our favorite places. We went first thing in the morning, and then we went back late in the afternoon and picked up food for dinner, so we wouldn’t have to go out.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? You go all the way to France and you don’t want to go out for dinner? This is why I love traveling with my husband; we share some of the same oddities. We love travel, we love seeing what is available for people to buy, we love eating lunch out, but by the end of the day – we’re ready to settle in. We don’t want to wait until seven for restaurants to open, and then spend almost two hours eating a meal that is heavier than we want to eat.

We can pick up salads, pate, sandwiches, pastries, pieces of pie, macaroons with chocolate, tangerines . . . little napkins, forks, knives – it’s all so easy. We get to pick our own meals and amounts, and then, we have time to make notes at night, or read, or look at the map for the next day’s adventures, or even take a lovely hot relaxed bath in a huge bathtub. The making notes is critical; there is so much detail we forget, and when I can write some of it down, it makes for fun later on, reliving moments we had forgotten.

At the Intermarche, we also found something really fun – a Lego advent calendar for our grandchildren. It took a little doing, as there was no price on it and we had to track it down, but we are so delighted to have found it. My husband found some amazing macaroons with dark chocolate bottoms; we had one a day and they lasted the entire trip, oh how we enjoyed them! I found Prunes from Agen, famous prunes, fat and juicy, and I brought them back and used them in my Christmas fruit cakes. People were so kind and so helpful. It would not surprise me if we go back for another visit.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Advent, Blogging, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, France, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bordeaux and The Aquitaine Museum

 

Leaving the market, we walk back to the Place de la Victoire and catch the B line back a couple stops to the Aquitaine Museum. Our first priority was a museum of the French Resistance, called the Jean Moulin Museum, but it has been closed for renovation, and that collection is now at the Aquitaine Museum.

As we are waiting for the tram, some young men are chastising an older woman sitting near us for smoking. They are not being disrespectful, one, although a little rough, meaning hair a little long and beard gone curly, was wearing scrubs, and spoke as an educated person, encouraging the older woman to not smoke, for her own sake.

He was wearing athletic shoes. All the men were.

When we were living in Europe, and in the Middle East, we had guidelines to follow, so as to not look like Americans. No ball caps. No athletic shoes for street use. No track suits, or athletic wear with recognizable names, unless you were on a track or field actually doing athletic things. No shorts. Dress a little more formally, men wear a jacket, women try to look polished. These were the rules we lived by to stay safe.

In France, I am delighted to say, I am often taken for French. French people come up to me and ask directions. They are surprised when I tell them I am a tourist, an American.

Now I realize they probably think I am a French woman “of a certain age,” still wearing dresses and scarves while everyone else is wearing . . . track suits. Athletic wear. The French now look American. The French are heavier than they used to be, even the women. The younger women are heavier than the older women, some very few of whom are very thin. The world is getting fatter. Even (astonished gasp) the French.

The woman ignores the young men and continues smoking until the tram comes. We all board, she has had to leave her cigarette behind, and the men continue to talk to her encouragingly about quitting, while she continues to ignore them.

At the Museum of the Aquitaine, we show our City Pass and are allowed to enter. No, they tell us, there is no section for the Jean Moulin Museum. We are seriously disappointed, but the museum offers so many spectacular options that we could spend a week here and still need more time.

 

 

This takes my breath away. Imagine the delicacy of the hand that drew this, the vision, and this is a “primitive” person.

 

 

 

I photographed all of these because they are so wonderfully graphic, and I can use them for quilt blocks 🙂

 

Remember the Citadel at Bleye? There is a model of the citadel, and a gate that falls across the moat so people can enter? When I saw this photo, I think of the Hundred Years War, as the English sought to maintain control over the Aquitaine, while the French fought to oust them. I look at the faces in this photo, and wonder if the lives of those surrendering were spared – people then, as now, didn’t always play by the rules. And whether the men were spared or not, how were the women treated. If women are treated disrespectfully now, how much worse was it to be conquered, to be a part of the spoils, perhaps raped, never knowing if you would live or die, or whether, if you live, you would live a life worth living? This small picture below haunts me.

I suppose this is probably a remnant of the French revolution, and the desecration and de-consecration of so many churches.

 

 

The cenotaph of Michel de Montaine in its finished splendor – the photo below this one below is a shot of the video record of the restoration process, the cleaning, the filling in, the incredible detailed work it took to restore a dingy, broken old burial crypt.

The Museum of the Aquitaine has done a remarkable thing. Along with a truly wonderful section on maritime trade, with complete lists of what was shipped where, in which quantities, the museum has edited the displays to insert a factual commentary on slavery, and the ;rice which was paid in human lives for the trade in slave labor. There is an small but very good display of various African cultures, and displays of what happened to the lives of those taken in slavery. The callousness of the traders, buyers, slave holders of all kinds is portrayed factually. It is an apology, as opposed to a denial or a cover up. The effect is both shocking – and inspiring admiration for the kind of courage it takes to admit such a ghastly historical misdeed.

 

 

 

 

There are relatively contemporary displays with some posters I love

 

 

 

While graceful, imagine actually bathing in such attire.

I love this poster, so graphic.

The marche’ and the museum, and that’s only half a day. We need to go eat!

 

December 18, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Biography, Cultural, France, Health Issues, Local Lore, Public Art, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Viking Forseti: Dawn Cruise to Cadillac

(The map above shows the land time to Cadillac; I couldn’t make it show boat time. We were not on land, we were on the river 🙂  )

 

It’s Sunday morning, and a whole new world for us. We gave in to jet lag the night before, so at four a.m. when we can no longer sleep, we have the whole ship to ourselves. The ship will sail at 6:30 a.m., en route down the Garonne River to Cadillac, home of the famous Sauternes. We feel like a great adventure has begun.

Above is a view of the lounge (LOL around 5 a.m., not a creature is stirring) from the wrap around bar.

 

More lounge, and where the night time entertainment takes place. The entertainment is wasted on us; after a long day, and a dinner that stretches a couple hours, we are in our cabin making notes, reading, or crashing 🙂

 

The dining room, above, with a variety of tables for six or more people at each meal.

 

Breakfast is semi-buffet style. The wait staff are there to bring us coffee, tea, hot chocolate or anything we want off the extensive special order menu, which includes French Toast and Eggs Benedict, as well as eggs to order, etc. The buffet is enough for us, and more than enough. There are many kinds of rolls, and at least two home made jams, in addition to butter, and other spreads.

 

 

The chef will do omelets to order, scrambled eggs, whatever you wish.

 

For me, I am delighted every day to find smoked salmon or herring, just thrills my little Scandinavian heart. People always ask “Don’t you gain weight on these cruises?” and I say “No” because there is a secret. Many of the portions are tiny, just a taste, to prevent waste. Usually the small taste is enough for me. With all the walking we do, I actually lose weight on these trips, in spite of some truly fine eating.

 

The tables are beautifully set, even at breakfast. Our attendant this morning, Roxana told us that one of her favorite stops on this ship is Bordeaux. “Better than Paris?” we asked her, and she just laughed and said “Paris is full of rats! Have you ever seen rats bigger than cats? Paris has rats the size of DOGS!”

 

As we finish breakfast, the Forseti moves away from the dock, headed in the direction of downtown Bordeaux.

 

 

Sunrise from our bedroom window.

 

Along the route are fishing camps, and these nets when lower down right into the river to catch fish. The Gironde flows into the Atlantic Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean sends tides up the rivers, a tide called the Mascaret. The Mascaret can cause a huge lift, enough to make going under bridges difficult for ships, and, alternatively, can cause very low water, making it possible for ships to go aground, so the ship captains have to be very aware of the tidal forecasts on these associated rivers.

 

We are told that this is the first ship in months able to go as far as Cadillac.

 

We have a fire drill, put on our life vests, show up at our emergency posts, then go back to the cabins to stow the life vest and get ready to go ashore in Cadillac.

This is the interior of one of the Viking buses. It is roomy and comfortable, and has it’s own toilet  aboard. We aren’t on the buses long, but they take us to the various vineyards and wineries for educating us on wine production and tasting the wares. And selling the wines, of course. We are warned that this is a very good time to buy French wines before the new Trump French wine tariffs go into effect, pushing up the prices and limiting the availabilities of the finest wines.

 

Today is Sauternes.

 

 

 

We arrive shortly at Domaine de Rayne, where we tour the wine storage area, and sip dry, semi-sweet and sweet Sauternes. I am not a fan of sweet wines, but I could understand how these could enhance the right pate’ or dessert. They were good, just not my favorite.

 

 

The late harvest is still continuing, and I loved that there were still grapes on this vine and at its foot.

 

 

 

 

 

The tasting began. It is sad to see civilized people elbowing others aside.

 

 

We headed back outside where a rainbow appeared and brightened the day.

 

We are told that roses are planted with the vines so that if a fungus or disease shows up, it hits the roses first and most visibly, sort of like a canary in a mine can indicate when air flow is low.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the bus, on the way back into Cadillac, our guide, whom we really liked, told us a cross cultural story we could really relate to. She and her husband had a good French friend, and they were invited to their house for dinner. The non-French couple wanted to make a really good impression; they really liked these people They didn’t know much about wine, so they bought a bottle with a beautiful picture on it and hoped it was a good one. She baked her famous chocolate cake to take with them and give to her, and they bought chrysanthemums from the florist. When they arrived for the dinner, and presented their gifts, they could see that the gifts did not have the intended results.

They later learned that the gifts were all wrong – the home made chocolate cake implied that the hostess wouldn’t have a dessert of that quality, the chrysanthemums are a flower used on graves in that part of France, and the wine implied their hosts did not know how to choose a wine. Fortunately, the hosts were not insulted, and over time, explained the local customs. They looked at the gifts with their hearts, and perceived that the intentions were for good. The two couples are fast friends to this day.

How often we’ve been in that position, and how easy it is to offend, when you don’t know what the customs and traditions are! We are so thankful for all the tolerance we have received, being welcomed as ignorant strangers into strange lands, welcomed into homes where we might unwittingly insult our hosts and hostesses. Thank God for their kind, forgiving hearts, and for their willingness to patiently educate us into the ways of their countries.

 


 

 

Back in Cadillac, we look for a good restaurant. Part of the reason we are on this trip is because we miss French food.

 

 

L’Entree Jardin is recommended by Viking, which says “Owner and chef Didier Bergey and his wife Helene Bergey welcome you to their little haven foreign of Cadillac’s finest gastronomic experiences. Centrally located in the heart of town, this quaint restaurant offers traditional regional cuisine with a modern flair – all made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The delicious, tastefully plated dishes are served in a cozy setting. . . . Address 27 Avenue du Pont, 34410 Cadillac. ”

 

We did not have reservations, but they had one table left. They were very kind, very patient with my French. There was one other small group from the ship also eating there; we had to ask them about tipping as we knew the US practice of 20%+ is not the practice in France, but we didn’t know what a proper tip would be. They gave us their opinion, which seemed low. We opted for somewhere in-between.

Our guide to the Domaine de Rayne had eaten there on the previous Sunday, and told us about the scallops and little pumpkins, which we ordered for the first course. This was my favorite part of the meal. I love scallops. I love pumpkin. What a fabulous combination.

 

We both ordered fish; I had tuna and my husband had Maigre, which we looked up and it came back a fish called Croaker (U.S.) We found it later in the markets of Liborne and Bordeaux. I believe this is my husband’s main course; I think I ate mine without remembering to take a picture.

 

The desserts were all about the presentation. They were wrapped in caccoons of caramelized sugar strands. My husband had a Tarte Tatin (an apple pie that is cooked upside down)

I had a chocolate ganache with a raspberry coulis – delicious. We were both very happy with our first totally French meal in France. I saw that because although we are in France, all the people working on the Forseti are from somewhere else, not France. The cruise director, Jorge, is from Portugal, others are from Romania, Spain, Bulgaria, Austria – from anywhere but France. No one speaks French on board!

 

After lunch, we take a walk around Cadillac. Here, in the old tower, is a chart of where the river has risen during winter and spring storms. We have the same kinds of charts in Pensacola, thanks to hurricanes and water surges, so we understand, but this one measures over centuries. We are greatly impressed.

 

 

I am a total sucker for old walls and watch towers. You will see a lot of different walls and towers from this trip 🙂

 

 

This is the Chateau de Cadillac, home to the Dukes of Epernon:

We were just strolling along feeling pretty good when we saw a Viking tour group doing a walking tour, but sort of hurrying. One of the group said to another “we have to be back by 3:45 because the ship is leaving to go back to Bordeaux” and we noticed a lot of different people sort of scurrying in the direction of the ship. So we scurried, too, and made it back. What we do not want is the walk of shame, the whole ship waiting and watching for the last ones to board.

 

From our balcony, we enjoy the sunny skies on the way back.

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Museum of Wine in Bordeaux, just northwest of where the ship is docked.

 

We had a lovely experience at dinner. We preferred to eat at the Aquavit Terrace, where they have TWO tables for two people, the only two person tables on the ship (there may be more when the outside terrace is open, but it is not warm enough in November). The tables were all taken. It is a more casual restaurant, few tables, very popular.

 

The head waiter, Anton, put us at a nearby table in the lounge, and made sure we had a good dinner. After the fabulous lunch we had, all I wanted was soup and the appetizer crab cakes. Anton made sure I got a huge bowl of soup and two crab cakes, so it was more like a full dinner. They were all so caring, and didn’t want to see us under eat. My husband had salad and scallops, which were also supposed to be an appetizer, but the portion was very generous. Anton was chastised for allowing us to eat in the lounge, but he stood his ground and we were very grateful to him for his kindness, wanting to make sure we had a good dinner and were happy.

 

We go on cruises, but we are introverts. We pay more for a cabin because we know we will spend a lot of time in the cabin, so it is good if it has a balcony and some space. It makes us happy. We usually prefer to eat by ourselves; we’ve been married for 46 years and we have good conversations. The Forseti is not equipped for room service.

We DO like other people, but until we’ve met someone we choose to eat with, we eat alone. On this cruise, we actually found people we liked eating with, and one group we actually adored, but that will come.

After our quiet dinner, we left the Forseti and walked into Bordeaux, just a short distance. We had a lot of fun just walking around, and then it started sprinkling, so we walked back. We were able to stay up until 10 this night, our second night in Bordeaux, so we feel pretty good.

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, France, Geography / Maps, Local Lore, Restaurant, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bozeman, Montana and the Museum of the Rockies

The Museum of the Rockies not only has fabulous exhibits, they also have a wonderful gift store with unique and reasonably priced things to take back for grandchildren. Many locally made items are available.

 

How many places have to space to recreate an entire dinosaur skeleton outside?

Don’t you love this sign? During our two visits, we saw buses of school children arriving to tour the museum.

I was fascinated by the sheer number of relatively complete dinosaur fossils they have, and especially the teeth. There is something about these teeth that gets into my head. I can’t let myself think about them too much.

 

 

 

These teeth in particular creep me out.

The problem I have with the Museum of the Rockies is that there are diverse exhibits, and it is a lot to take in. There is an entire pre-history section, with great documentation and contextualization to help you understand what you are seeing. There is also a local history section of settlement and pioneering.

 

This is a horrible photo exhibit. It talks about the Indians and what they thought of the invaders and that pile on the right is buffalo skulls. One of the dominant ideas was that if the pioneers could kill off the buffalo, the First Nation peoples living there would move on; their major form of protein was the buffalo. To that pile on the right is thousands of buffalo skulls. The bodies were just left to rot.

This is a photo of the early Hamilton Camp Store in Yellowstone NP at Old Faithful. This building is still standing and is used now as a General Store and gift shop. I love preservation of well constructed old buildings.

The Museum of the Rockies had a knockout visiting exhibition on Genghis Khan. It was very thorough, and lush with fabrics, and textiles, and objects we have inherited from the time of the rule of the Khans. Things like passports, playing cards, charcoal. We found this exhibit fascinating.

 

The items of daily life

 

Mongolian warriors

Ritual dancing masks. No, the masks don’t dance, people wearing the masks dance.

 

 

Dinner our first night in Bozeman is at the South 9th Bistro, one of the few restaurants I have ever found on Trip Advisor with a full 5 stars. Every contributor had happy, wonderful things to say about the food there. We have heard the food in the park is poor, so we are willing to spend a little more for a memorable meal our last night outside the park for a while. For us, eating well is part of our travels.

We were welcomed warmly, and seated. We had reservations. There are other people in the restaurant, and they all seem to be having a great time, but subdued, rumbling conversations, not boisterous or loud. We get recommendations on wines, and love the wine we get. We order the seafood ravioli, the heirloom beet salad, the steak au poivre, and “The Beast,” a very chocolate-y dessert. I forget to take photos, we are so into the food, except for the beet salad.

At the risk of sounding effusive, everything was wonderful. It was a great evening. The steak was divine; the sauce creamy and peppery and the meat so tender I didn’t even need the steak knife. At the end of the trip, we went back and ordered almost exactly the same dinner, it was so good.

 

Our hotel is the Best Western Plus Gran Tree Inn. When you enter to check in, it seems all woods and stone floors and beautiful finishes. When you go to your rooms, it is like there is this beautiful entry but the rooms are all kind of tired, not at all what would go with the nice entry. I don’t think we would stay there again.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Food, France, Local Lore, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Gojo Ethiopian Food on Alberta Street in Portland

As if the easy access and the great hotel weren’t enough, within four minutes of our hotel is a delightful little Ethiopian restaurant, and we can’t get Ethiopian food in Pensacola. There were two or three groups already eating, and the smells drove us wild.

We ordered quickly, a vegetable combination plate and Doro Wat, a spicy chicken that always comes with a thick, hot sauce and a hard boiled egg. Actually, I don’t care that much about the chicken or the egg, it’s that thick hot spicy sauce I love. We also loved the smokey green beans and the vinegary greens, the pickled cabbage, the beet colored potatoes and the red and green lentils – it was all good, and not dumbed down.

Our meal:

 

Extra injera:

 

There are so many good possibilities for good food in Portland, but we are so stuffed we think we will never eat again!

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Local Lore, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

End of 2017 Wrap Up Photos

Thanksgiving Sunset at Panama City Beach:

The weather was mild and beautiful. It was a sad and happy Thanksgiving; sad for those not with us any longer, happy to be with those who love the departed.

Pelicans at PCB:

Finally, a year when both grandchildren could make it through the entire Nutcracker Ballet in Pensacola, and were utterly rapt. We want them to have this joyous experience!

For the first time, they were checking bags, and almost didn’t let me take my camera in. One person said “no photos” but the other said “you can take photos but no video and no flash” which is fine by me; my little Lumix does great in low light.

 

 

Maybe I’m not a kid anymore, but I have always loved the arrival of the pirate ship!

My favorite dance:

Hmmm  .  . . . well, maybe Nutcracker isn’t just for the grandchildren 🙂

We had the most wonderful Christmas day, family in the morning and afternoon, friends in the evening. We also decided not to go to New Orleans during the week between Christmas and New Years as we often do, and to go in February, after Lent starts on February 14 (what a dismal day for Lent to start! Valentine’s Day for Ash Wednesday!)  I have some more items for our friends at Zito’s to clean and polish for me. The work they do gives us so much pleasure.

Christmas was also a little odd, because I was energetic and got the first step up – lights and greenery going up the staircase, and a thousand or so little silver stars – only to discover that our two new rescue cats, well, new since February, thought this was all for their delight. Ragnar, especially, loved untying the strings that tied up the greenery, and then – horrors! – chewed through the wires on the lights, in several places! I completely re-did the lights, twice, and just as quickly, he chewed through the strings and the lights. I finally figured out that green ribbon worked to keep the greenery up, but we had to forego the lights. We didn’t want a fire hazard, and we didn’t want the cats to be electrocuted. Uhtred pulled a star or two off every day, but they were easily replaced.

We have been hitting our favorite restaurants, and one new one we weren’t crazy about. At our absolute favorite restaurant, a Cajun/beach style restaurant, when we went to pay the bill, they told us as “frequent and highly valued customers,” our meal was on them. Wow. What is so funny is that we had just been talking about our Christmas experiences in Germany, where those restaurants you frequented would give you some small gift, like an Italian restaurant had gift Pannetones, and a German restaurant might gift you with a small schnapps. The Chinese restaurants would give you a small Plum wine. We were missing that, and then, we were stunned when they told us thank you for being such good customers and that it was their treat this time. It totally made my day, another small kindness, but even the smallest kindness packs a punch.

This morning, the last day of 2017, we hit the early service at Christ Church, visited with our friends and neighbors, then had breakfast at C.J.’s, as I needed to make a trip to the commissary and CJ’s is on the way. I like the one-egg breakfast, but today I also ordered a side of one beignet, and the waitress said that the order of 3 was a better deal; you pay $2 for one, and you get 3 for $3. Makes sense to me; I ordered the 3 and AdventureMan helped me out by eating one and we have one to warm up and split tomorrow on New Year’s morning. These beignets were so fresh and so good! We’ve had a little bit of New Orleans without going to New Orleans.

Mardi Gras starts here on January 5 with an all-Krewe party and parade downtown, big party. When all the partying is over, we’ll head back to New Orleans.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Lent, Local Lore, Lumix, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Random Trains

I’m on my way home from the Y, and the gates go down and a train goes by. Car after car go by, and each segment has an armored personnel carrier, a sturdy military truck, or a desert jeep.

 

The train keeps coming, so I take another shot. When I am looking at photos, the second one is odd; I can’t figure out how this little picture of a man got into the far left of the photo. Then I look closely; it is a billboard ad for a local personal injury attorney in Pensacola.

October 5, 2017 Posted by | Local Lore, Pensacola | 1 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: Vikings in the Faroe Islands

We can’t say enough good things about the Viking business model, and we are critical travelers. We headed out on a tour this morning, we who are not good at touring in groups, and had to give our admiration to the facility with which Viking gets large numbers of people on the ground and going out and learning something. When you book a cruise, there are always “included” tours, included means you don’t pay extra. The included tours are usually overviews, often panoramic, i.e. you get in a bus and drive and stop now and then for a photo. Everyone who wants a tour gets a tour.

Having lived overseas most of our married life, we know that it is so much easier to stay comfortable than to go out and see something and learn something. About 10% of people will make it happen for themselves, another 80% will go if it is made easy enough, and 10% will never go. In the Embassies, that 10% will hang out at the American Club or the Marine Bar, and if military, shop almost exclusively at the PX (BX, Navy Exchange) and commissary.

Viking makes it easy. The night before we reach a port, there is a Port Talk, where the local currency is explained, a few good phrases (usually like “good morning” and “thank you”) taught, and photos and videos (all very full of sunshine) are shown to give you an idea what to expect. The daily newsletter always tells you how to say “Please take me back to my ship” in the appropriate language. Buses show up on time. There are enough guides for all the passengers. The guides have the patience of Job.

Our guide for Vistas, Vikings, and Village Woodturner was very very good. I don’t really know that I learned a lot about Vikings. Really, Vikings raided a little, intermarried a little, and are just a part of the history of the Faroes, the way Angles and Picts and the Norse are a part of the English. We had a very good guide, a funny man who often broke into song, and who has probably attended to more tourists than is good for him.

 

There were sheep everywhere, including sleeping alongside the road. Drivers are all very careful, because if you hurt a sheep, you pay the owner like $500. for his loss. The sheep were every color from white to brown, and black, and spotted white and brown and black. If I lived in the Faeroe Islands I would learn to sheer and card sheep wool, and spend evenings spinning the raw wool into threads for weaving into cloth and yarns. I’ve always wanted to learn to spin. LOL, too late to be a spinster 😉


What do I think is a good guide? This man told us a lot about life on the Faroes, about choices people make. Do they want to be a part of Denmark or not? It would require an election, and people can figure about half want one thing and half want another, and no matter who won, it would be narrow and cause turmoil, so why spend all that money on an election, just leave things as they are.

 

We head to the village of Kvivik to see the Viking longboat remains, or where they once were, and then to Leynar to visit the Village Woodman.

Below are stone built salmon jumps, old technology, but with devices which keep count of each salmon who climbed the steps, new technology. Can you see how green and lovely everything is, evan as fall approaches?


Drama Drama Drama! Who could be bored when the weather changes every minute with such verve and gusto?

We are always interested in how people choose to live. Our guide explains that houses often contain three generations, the grandmother, the mother, and the daughter. Isn’t that an interesting way to describe it? We tend to think in male-ownership terms, but these houses are communal based on matrilineal lines.

I wonder where daughters-in-law fit in?

 

Look closely here, a man is up on his turf roof, trimming things down for the winter.

Viking longboat site

They teach their children three important rules. 1. Be kind. 2. Be kind. 3. When one and two fail, be kind.

He told us how houses are built, and how people help one another get their houses built. They are taught “better that many are not poor than that a few are rich.” We did not see a single dump any where in our journey took us; everything was clean and well-kept. People are fined heavily for dropping trash. There are only two policemen in the Faroes, and there is no prison, there is so little crime. “Where would you run? Where would you hide?” he asks. “Everyone would know you, so you don’t do it.”

He told us that many of the families of the Faroes were started by Norsemen who found local girls and were afraid to go home and face their wives, who were waiting for them with big sticks. He made us laugh, and laughter always helps us understand.

He took us into a beautiful little church, beautiful finished wood on the inside (see below) and he sang to us a familiar hymn, in Faraoese, Nearer My God to Thee. It was so sweet, and so beautiful, my eyes teared. He told us he waited 30 years to get married, and was the first one to wed once the Danish stopped insisting on state churches. (The church is now Lutheran.)

The Faero Islands reminds me of where I grew up, in Alaska, where neighbors held that same kind of concern for one another and for the communal life. We lived on an island full of Scandinavian immigrant families, along with the native Haida, Aleut, Tlingket, and occasional Inuit. It never mattered that we differed, when someone needed help, we helped. A neighbor didn’t go hungry, their children didn’t go unclothed. I remember the delight when our neighbor passed along her daughter’s lightly used clothing they had outgrown, and we could wear it. I remember one skirt in particular, a grey and yellow plaid Pendleton skirt which I wore for years, and maybe fifteen years later my old neighbor saw me wear it and said “I used to have a skirt just like that!” and I laughed and said “This is your skirt!” When you have a Pendleton skirt, you can wear it for the rest of your life; they wear so well. We were frugal people, and we never wanted for anything. We shared what we had.

 

I got the impression that actually the guide doesn’t much like Americans. It didn’t matter, he was kind, he was professional, and I believe he gave a great value for the money. He shared the truth of his culture as he lives it and was fair to us. That’s good enough.

I can’t give you a lot of information about the photos, only that I took what I thought would give you an idea of what life on the Faroe Islands might look like. For me, this was a great day, very little rain, even some sunshine, and I learned about a culture I really like. I like that they teach their children: Be Kind. Be Kind. Be Kind.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Travel, Values | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour

If this is your first time visiting this blog, there are things you don’t know yet. One important thing would be that AdventureMan and I love to travel, and the other is that we are very independent. We are pretty awful about tours. We aren’t very good at following with a crowd, we sort of break off, and often disappear altogether. I have pity for the tour guides who get us; they have a job to do and we are not compliant. We ARE good at keeping the guide informed, like when we are dropping off, and assuring them that we will be able to meet up with them elsewhere.

Having said that, this tour of Oslo was very thorough. Much of it was “panoramic” which is travel industry code for drive-them-around-in-a-bus-and-show-them-things, stop-a-couple-times-to-let-them-take-photos. It did that. What I liked was that the guide really knew her stuff, and gave us a lot of cultural information, a lot of local lore along with the “this is the parliament building” kind of information. We got a lot of information, buildings, institutions, and we also got a lot of information about how the locals live and how the locals view things.

As we drove through posh neighborhoods, the guide told us about how the housing costs in Oslo have forced most Norwegians out of the city; that old buildings and new have spaces rented by foreigners and corporations. For the same price as a small apartment, Norwegians can buy a house out of town. The commute is horrible, but many get up at five and are at their desks by seven to avoid the traffic.

She took us to see a famous ski-jump. Now this is one of those things I would have said “I don’t care,” but when I got there, I could see that it was like a DESIGNER ski-jump, curvy and futuristic looking. I also loved it that there were kids roller-skiing (roller-skiing ? ! ?) and adults doing all kinds of fitness running, jumping – it has become a space where people go for exercise and experiencing the outdoors.

 

I have to stop a minute here – look at the design of this ski-jump. Is that not thrilling, so perfectly functional and so simply beautiful?

 

 

 

At the foot of the ski jump is a forest troll – can you spot him?

People living in the vicinity of the ski jump have a wonderful view of the city and bay:

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Social Issues, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment