AdventureMan and I read a series of detective novels set in Venice by author Donna Leon, who lives there. Commissario Guido Brunetti is a patient, thoughtful and smart detective, working under a lazy, corrupt and greedy boss in a country rife with corruption. Each book has a social issue in Venice as its topic, and not lightweight topics – the arrogance of dumping trash, boatloads of trash, off the coast of Somalia (had you ever heard of that before? Neither had I. But it is true, and it has ruined traditional Somali fishing), big pharma and tainted drugs, sex tourism and human trafficking, governmental bribery – Donna Leon fearlessly tackles them all.
Guido Brunetti loves Venice, and he loves his family. His solace in life is his wife, a professor of literature at the university, and his two children. His wife cooks meals that make the reader’s mouth water as they read, or Guido and one of his lieutenants will stop at a restaurant for lunch.
In one of the books, “Blood From a Stone,” American tourists give evidence to a stabbing they witness on their way to dinner. To thank them for their help, he directs them to a GOOD Venetian restaurant, and tells them to say Guido Brunetti sent them.
We don’t say that. No matter how real Guido Brunetti has become to us, we know he is not real, and we don’t say he sent us. But we do take the tiny winding back lanes to find Rosa Rossa, and while we order familiar salads, we also order Venetian specialities for our main courses.
Rosa Rossa on a tiny but busy street:
AdventureMan’s favorite salad; he loves Caprese:
I had a garden salad:
I love black spaghetti, or Pasta Nero. It is made with squid, and squid ink, and I first had it at a lovely dinner a long time ago in Damascus, Syria, served by a beautiful Italian who swore t me that this dish is Southern Italian. If so, I ordered it anyway, in honor of Beatrice, and it was delicious.
AdventureMan ordered Pasta with Squid and pepperoncini, and he said it was very piquant, and that he has never eaten so much squid in his life at one time.
We passed on dessert, knowing we still had miles to walk, and possibly a gelato toward the end. We had such a short time to enjoy Venice, searching for and finding Rosa Rossa was a lot of fun, and a great adventure. They took good care of us, and the food was delicious.
I’ve added a new category; I’ve written so many posts in this vein, and it looks like I will continue so to do. Might as well add it as a staple: Stranger in a Strange Land.
Probably the first mention of that phrase in literature is in Genesis; Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert where he meets a nice girl and marries her. He refers to himself as an alien, a stranger in a strange land. Both Jewish culture and Islamic culture put a high value on taking care of the stranger. Our bible is full of references to taking care of the alien.
Here is one of my favorite stories about what my friend Donald Rumsfeld calls those “unknown unknowns. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
I was at a party, and in a conversation with two women who are widows. We were talking about some of the difficulties, and what has caught them by surprise.
I said I didn’t know how they got through it, that I had a feeling if AdventureMan goes before I go, I’m going to be really really angry, tearing my hair out and shrieking angry, shredding my clothes angry, not wanting to be around other people angry, so so so so angry because if I let myself feel sad I don’t know if I can ever pull myself out of that abyss.
The newest widow just looked at me like I had said something culturally inappropriate, which, it turns out, I had. There was one of those brief silences, you know, it may only be seconds but it feels like it goes on forever because you don’t know what you said.
“If you were from around here,” she said, “You’d know what to do. You go into Southern Belle mode. We’ve all seen it all our lives, so we know how to do it. You pick out your clothes. You smile and shake hands. You put your guests first. You stand and smile until the last guest has gone.”
I was stunned. “You hold yourself together through all that?” I asked.
“Well,” she said with a smile, “You have a plan. You know where you can go with a friend or cousin after the funeral, a place where you are safe and where you can get knee-walking drunk and do your wailing where you need to and no one will ever know.”
She didn’t even have to say “You must not be from around here” but I heard it, loud and clear. There are standards. No weeping and wailing, no public display of emotion, no lack of self-control, oh-my-goodness, I think I must be back in the Middle East. I am in my own country, and still, very much a stranger in a strange land.
Edmonds is wonderful for walking, and I love walking. It has a long waterfront walk, full of walkers, joggers, tourists, and people just enjoying the scenery and the salt sea air. There are cool breezes that keep it livable even when the temperatures rise.
Edmonds is known for public art, and hosts an annual Arts Fest every June to fund acquire and install public art. There are some wonderful pieces here and there, and some small, joy-giving surprises, like a seal family in bronze, and little bronze sea shells. This does not look like one of the funded pieces, but a piece of driftwood someone in which someone recognized a seal and painted it to help the rest of us see it.
These forts are built next to the sign that says “please do not build forts with he driftwood” LOL
The waterfront is noisy with big front loaders bringing boats to place on the elevator which takes the boats down and launches them on the water.
This is kind of like a Little Free Library for children’s life vests. To make it easy to insure that no child goes out unprotected, they stock them here for people to borrow, and hopefully return.
When the Vietnamese first came to Edmonds, they relied on this beach to gather whelks and other shell fish to use in their cooking from this beach. I imagine it kept some of them from starving. I guess now it is forbidden.
These condominiums overlook the marina and have a 180 degree view of the Sound. I would love to have a condo there, overlooking all the waterfront activity.
We’ve heard it so many times since we’ve arrived:
“You’ve arrived just in time for the best weather of the year!”
And it is true. Flying into Seattle, we saw every mountain, the air is crystal clear, the sun is out, and there are calming breezes and near 80 Degree (F) temperatures. The major secondary highway, Highway 99, is closed because there is a huge highway building program (YAYYY! Invest in infrastructure!) going on, and everyone warns us the traffic on I-5 going north will be hell. Because there are two of us, we can use the HOV (high occupancy) lanes, and we zoom straight north. The traffic isn’t the worst I have ever seen and we hit Edmonds in record time.
We are starving. We stop for a bite at Ivar’s, check in, and pick up my Mom to get her a new phone.
This is Edmonds. People are different here. Mom (in her wheelchair) and I have to wait, but not for long, and the specialist who deals with us is so kind. He talks to MOM, not me. Have you ever noticed when people are in a wheelchair some people treat them like they are invisible? I didn’t notice until Mom started using a wheelchair, and I had to remind people to talk to HER, not to me. Tyler, the telephone guy, talked to her, and walked her through her options. By the time we left – not with a phone, because the one she needs wasn’t in – she had a new friend. She has his card. She can call him to ask when the new phones are in, and she can call him with questions. He was genuinely kind, and treated her like a queen. This is Edmonds.
Of course, we are still on Central time, so wide awake at 0630. We hit breakfast around seven, thinking that since this is Saturday, we will have it mostly to ourselves, only to find that the breakfast room is full of athletically garbed people filling canteens, heading for mountains, boats, ferries, Saturday markets – when the weather is this fine, people take advantage of it! I’d forgotten – this is Edmonds.
We hit the Fred Meyers and Trader Joes, stocking up for our road trip into Vancouver Island, then hit one our our favorite treats – The Edmonds Market. I thought it opened at nine, but at none, the place is packed.
I am a great fan of Dale Chihuly, the Seattle artist who specializes in spectacular pieces in glass. His vision is unbounded; once he filled the canals in Venice with his art pieces. Seattle has a huge Chihuly museum, and houses his studios. These are not Chihuly, but Seattle gives birth to a lot of people unafraid to try their hand at artistic pursuits. If I weren’t traveling, I would buy this piece in a heartbeat. It’s cool laciness reminds me of seafoam as the waves hit the shore:
I wouldn’t buy this, but I appreciate its spirit!
Metalworks for sale, including Edmonds Salmons 🙂
Rhubarb is in season! Rhubarb was one of the few plants I can remember flourishing in the cool growing seasons in Alaska, and it is a unique taste I love.
This is Edmonds version of a bread line. This artisanal baker has the most delicious looking full grain loaves, and people get there early to line up to buy his wares.
The Museum volunteers always have a central tent where they can sell their wares to support the Edmonds museum. Up the street is another volunteer, signing up volunteers for the annual Edmonds Arts Fest, almost always on Father’s Day weekend, in June.
The normally usual good prices for flowers are hiked, as everyone is buying bouquets for their Mothers!
It’s an Edmonds kind of day 🙂
It was our house guests’ last night in our area, and we wanted to do something special and memorable with them, so we booked on Olin Marler’s Sunset Cruise out of Destin. We found this trip several years ago, and while our guests enjoy it, we do, too!
It is mid-season in Destin. The Spring Break craziness has just ended, and the Summer Madness has not yet begun. A boat for forty holds ten of us tonight, plus the crew, and the crew knock themselves out to show us a good time.
We had a gorgeous sunset, with dolphins
We had a whole bunch of dolphins, grown ones and little ones, and they were having a great time. They stuck around, and we watched for about half an hour, no other boats in sight.
As we were leaving, the full moon rose and gave us a glorious ride home:
We can’t promise future house guests this experience. We’ve never had it this good. Maybe our guests brought this good luck?
Our first day in Seville, and we are so excited. We are READY. This trip is rated as having a lot of walking, so in addition to my prettier shoes, I packed my Alaska shoes, a pair of black leather New Balance shoes, and a bunch of brand new socks. I am wearing a dress and tennis shoes, and feeling a little ridiculous, but I don’t care. We are given these “whisper” things, receivers you wear around your neck and earbuds you keep in your ears. Your guide can talk to you without causing a commotion, and you are supposed to always stay within hearing of your guide.
As we head outdoors, the heavens open and the rain pours down. No problem, in my purse I have a brand new sort of mini umbrella I found, so I open it up, and something is not quite right. It doesn’t stay open, as I am walking along it will pop close all by itself now and then, and besides, everyone else is popping out umbrellas and it is congested, and umbrellas are dripping on me. I am miserable.
For a few minutes, I actually contemplate skipping this tour altogether, but when else will I get a chance to tour the Alcazar? The Seville Cathedral? With someone who knows and can tell us what we are seeing? I decide to have a good time, and, for the most part, I do.
Who could not love the Alcazar, the Royal Palace, even in the gloom and the rain? The Alcazar is full of groups, but far fewer than if it were not pouring down rain, sheets of rain.
The amount thought and precision that went into the process of creating the Alcazar boggles my mind. What does a little rain matter when contemplating such beauty? So many media; tiles, wood, plaster, stone, and all used with precision and an eye for the overall effect. It is stunning.
And in the middle of all this artistry, one woman works to capture – herself.
I’ve given up totally on the worthless umbrella and decided to just avoid rain if I can, and if I can’t, oh well. Visiting the gardens, it’s worth getting wet. These gardens, even in the rain, are gorgeous, lush, and I can imagine summer concerts and strolling.
We spend a good long time in the Alcazar, and it is time to head to the Cathedral, but not quite our group’s scheduled time, so we head to a cafe for churros and chocolate, a local specialty. The cafe is so cozy we almost rebel when it comes time to leave. The guide tells us that leading seniors is as bad as leading teen-agers; we argue and think we know what we want to do. We are a small group, twenty people, but similar in goals and values.
It is warm and dry in the cathedral, but my dress is soaked. My shoes, however, are great, my feet aren’t tired, my socks are dry and I have already walked 10,000 steps! The hard floors of the cathedral tire me, though, so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I meant to. It was beautiful. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella . . .. something. Beautiful altarpiece by . . . someone. A big gold thing called a montrance which is close enough to French for me to think it was for showing something, probably sacred relics, bones or pieces of the cross? I am ready to be warm and dry and my attention is definately wandering.
As we leave the Cathedral to head back to our hotel, just a short walk, the sun breaks through. The rain is gone. It’s a whole different day. We walk back in good cheer, change our clothes, and head out for lunch.
Today is the first day we have heard two dates: 711, when the Moslem Tariq invaded near Gibraltar (Jebal Tariq) and burned his ships, telling his men they had to fight because there was no way back. The second date is 1492, which every American associates with “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two” but we learned is the date when the Moslems were forced out of Al-Andalus. We saw paintings of people weeping as they left, and who wouldn’t weep, leaving such beauty and luxury? The same year, the Jews were also forced out, forced into North Africa, Italy, Eastern Europe, forced to seek safety elsewhere. Some converted and were allowed to stay, and are there to this day.
“But where is the herd of sheep?” you ask. This is an experiment for us, to see how well we can handle group travel. We are finding we like our fellow Smithsonian travelers very well, but because we are like cats (more than sheep) we do not herd well. We like to take our time where we wish to stay longer, and to hurry past that which doesn’t much interest us. We were trained, long ago, not to be in large groups of Americans, and here we are, a herd of sheep. It becomes a continuing theme; there are so many things we like, but walking in a group we don’t like.
On the road by six to make our appointment, every now and then things go just right and you can’t forget to be thankful. The process worked, and I should have my new passport . . . tomorrow! It is such good news I can hardly believe that things could go so smoothly.
And we have time for a really fun stroll through the nearby French Quarter, a drive through the Garden District and lunch at the Abyssinian Cafe; New Orleans has the nearest Ethiopian food to Pensacola.
The Cafe Abyssinia at 3511 Magazine, tucked back behind a shoe repair shop. It has a parking lot for outdoor parking, and outdoor seating for this most comfortable time of the year . . .
And back in Pensacola in time to make my late afternoon meeting! Life is sweet!
We wanted our house guests to experience a truly Southern experience, so we took them to Sonny’s BBQ. It doesn’t get much more down-home than Sonny’s. We saw one of my friends from water aerobics, we saw another friend from church and our son’s boss, all sitting nearby.
We all ordered barbecued smoked chicken, and the 10 year old ordered french fries and french fries for his two “sides.” He got frustrated with the knife and fork – it does slow down eating chicken – so he pretty much stuck to the french fries. As my friend from water aerobics left, she came over and hugged AdventureMan, and kept her hand on his shoulder as she met our guests.
To make it all even more bizarre (I am trying to imagine this from the Saudi point of view), we have the car seats for our grandchildren in AdventureMan’s car, so we used my car to drive to the restaurant. I drove.
It was a lot for them to absorb.
As we were leaving, our favorite waitress caught my arm and said “Come back soon! I have so many questions!”
Marina Beach Park has a wonderful rocky beach, tidewater flats and a few sandy places. There is a great playground with equipment for children (in addition to all the huge logs and driftwood and adventures you can have on the beach, upturning rocks and seeing what is crawling there!) There are walking paths, paved, so you can push a wheelchair. There are benches where you can sit and watch the ferries, or have a little lunch. There are picnic tables and a large grassy area for running and playing.
We finish our walk, and there is a wonderful kite flyer, using two controls, and he has a kite that spins and twirls and reminds us of The Kite Runner. A man in a nearby car tells us he wins kite competitions with his maneuvers:
School groups are on field trips, examining the beach and its aquatic inhabitants, having a wonderful time. Lunch on the beach is a special treat.
Can you see all the loops the kite tail has made?
Edmonds is very strict about dogs being on leashes. Who wants to be walking on a beach and step in dog poop? Not me! But what I love about Edmonds is that they have created a very large space just for the dogs, and the dogs can play together, run together and have a great time. Everyone is happy.
There is more than one Edmonds, in fact there are several layers of Edmonds experience, but the biggest distinction is between the day-trippers and the locals.
There is a great Starbucks, and it is usually packed. There is another cafe, on Walnut, and it has wonderful pastries and a loyal clientele. And then, there is the Edmonds Bakery, where the locals go.
We go the first time because we are killing time before my Mom’s hair appointment is over and we can take her to lunch. We are also two hours past our normal lunch time, so we tell ourselves we can have some tea and a cookie just to tide us over until lunch.
The Edmonds Bakery has the best pies, wonderful pies with a home-made taste, especially when berry season comes in. They also have maple bars, which we stop and buy for my Mom the next day, as she has always loved maple bars.
The Edmonds bakery also has a notable collection of cookie jars. Everywhere you look, a different cookie jar. I imagine a few of them are probably very valuable on the collectables market, but most of them are just so much fun.
Of course, I wouldn’t want to be the one to dust them all!
The Edmonds Bakery has a limited number of booths and tables where you can sit and enjoy your pastry 🙂 This is where the locals gather, and find out what’s going on in Edmonds.