Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Grown-Up Holiday Interlude

Mostly when we go to New Orleans, we have our grandchildren with us. We go to a family friendly hotel, we go to the Zoo, the Aquarium, maybe the Insectarium, we ride the cable cars, we eat food the kids like – pizza, sushi, crepes. Fortunately for us, they have developed a taste for French food, so we can take them to some places with decent food that we like, too.

But this time, we took a Grown-ups Getaway!

We had so many agendas, and we accomplished the most important – we had a wonderful time.

Our first stop was the Cafe Abyssinia, (3511 Magazine Street) for a combination of several vegetable dishes and lamb tips with injera, the fermented pancake-bread you use to eat the food with your fingers. It was so delicious, and so satisfying, and on the day after Christmas in New Orleans, it was easy to find a parking place.

After lunch, we needed a good walk, and what better place to walk – and shop – than Magazine Street, full of quirky shops with unique items. The funniest part was my husband wanting to visit a shop, Mayan Imports, which turned out to be a cigar shop (not his thing at all.) As we left, we noticed all the signs that said “Cigars” and it’s like we didn’t even see them as we were walking in. They were hard to miss.

Late in the afternoon we checked in to our hotel, and as soon as darkness fell, we went out to City Park to see the lights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could have caught all the dinosaurs at the front entrance for you. They were magnificent. We had no idea that City Park lights was such a big deal. There was a huge crowd, and for $28 you could buy tickets to ride all the rides all night. (Just admission was $10.) We had learned about City Park Lights as we waited to pick up our Christmas Eve dinner in a crowded restaurant, talking with another person who had preordered and was also waiting. Some pieces of information are pure gold!

An article I found online about the hottest restaurants to open in New Orleans in 2019 led us to Costera, a Spanish restaurant in the same space where we had once had Thai food, (4938 Prytania) near our favorite ice-cream place.

 

We got there early. It filled up fast, and no wonder. The food was fabulous. We had rapini, a broccoli-like vegetable, a beet salad, bread with a tomato smear and aioli lashings (out of this world good), duck in a rosemary sauce with mushrooms, and scallops on fideo, fideo being thin noodles with a tangy flavor. Each dish was mind-blowingly delicious. I loved the rapini, and I loved my scallops, but we shared everything and my husband’s duck was also as good as any duck we have ever eaten in France (sort of our standard for measuring) or anywhere else.

 

 

 

The food was light enough – we loved having tasty vegetables – that when we finished we walked over to Creole Creamery, just a couple doors down, where I had a small ball of bittersweet chocolate (intense and lovely) and my husband had a bittersweet chocolate fudge sundae.

 

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of our hotel as we returned; it is beautiful and elegant, The Park View.

Once inside, my husband had a glass of port before we went up to our room. The downstairs rooms are gorgeous; lavishly decorated for Christmas.

 

I shouldn’t show you this photo of our room; I should only let you see it all made up, but something about the morning light in this room compelled me to take the photo of the room in dishevelment, It’s beautiful anyway!

 

On! On! To our friend Henri, and Zito’s Plating and Polishing Works, where we have a nice visit and leave some treasures to his excellent magic.

 

We hit the mall in Metairie, a mall I really like because there are so many great seating areas. We often split up to shop, and when one finishes before the other, there are a lot of good, comfy places to sit and watch people while you are waiting.

And then, to finish our visit in a grand way, a visit to Drago’s, the original Drago’s, for their incomparable grilled oysters. Yes!

 

We are happy! We head home, content, satisfied, making conversation, falling silent, making more conversation. We have our best conversations when we are on long road trips together.

And one final photo, looking out over Mobile Bay before entering Florida:

I promise I will return to the trip, just getting ready to leave Bordeaux for the Dordogne and Auvergne. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this short interlude.

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Christmas, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Pensacola, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Interlude

Starting to post my trip through the Bordeaux and Dordogne was ambitious, overly ambitious. Usually, I say I’m going to do something, and I do it. This time, no matter how well intentioned I was, life just got in the way. I knew I could continue to blog the trip, and do a half-good job, or I could devote the time and attention my real life needed.

We had a truly lovely Christmas, and for that, it takes care and attention. There are things that are not so necessary, but help to set the stage – decorating the house, preparing special meals, buying presents and wrapping packages, and then, best of all, spending time with the family you love.

 

The angels – I think they are Rosenthal – are from an earlier life in Germany. I don’t bring them out every year, I sort of rotate things so they don’t get stale.

The Christmas plates came from the old East Germany. Good friends took us to “the other side” in Berlin, as Christmas neared and I found these in a market. We only use them for Christmas breakfast, and we hand wash them, as I don’t know for sure how sturdy or dishwasher proof they might be.

 

This Christmas tree made of cinnamon rolls is always a big hit, and so easy. I use the little cans that make croissants, just use the dough, put in candied cherries and cinnamon sugar and melted butter and roll it up, cut into slices, and bake as you see above. More candied cherries for decoration, icing made of powdered sugar, milk and food coloring. It looks complicated, but it is easy.

 

I used to use thousands of lights in my house at Christmas, and now I use none, thanks to two wire-chewing cats who have turned my rational life upside down.

 

Thanks be to God for the great gift of caffein, in the form of coffee, which powers me through it all.

 

 

And the highlight of our Christmas – the Christmas pageant at Christ Church, Pensacola, as the children tell, and act out the story of Christmas, and we sing songs to punctuate the different movements – Away in a Manger, We Three Kings, Hark the Heralds – and more. It is both light, often funny, and enormously moving.

Happy Christmas to all!

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Blogging, Christmas, Community, Cooking, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Not Normal

We’ve been in the nineties almost every day of August and September. September is always the hardest month for me, because I am so ready for Fall, and temperatures continue hot – like normally, in the eighties. Not cool, but not ninety, either.

 

Even the heat lovers are ready for the break. I know that usually around October 4th, a short cool spell Normally comes. The morning air is cool and welcoming. It usually only lasts one day, maybe only one morning before the heat comes back in, but oh, I wait for that day. That day, I do my major Christmas shopping. Army wife, old habits die hard. We used to have to have our gifts bought, wrapped and sent from Germany early enough to guarantee they would arrive before Christmas. The feel of the early morning cool air gives me energy; I feel I can accomplish anything!

Living in Germany so many years on a military income, we spread out the Christmas shopping all year long, and finished up at the annual Christmas Bazaar in Rammstein – no matter where we were stationed, the Ramstein Bazaar was not to be missed. Two – sometimes three – full hangers of vendors selling the specialities and luxuries of Europe . . . Italian gloves, Middle Eastern marquetry boxes, crystal chandeliers, Nuremberg angels, paintings, exquisite Christmas ornaments and decorations, furniture, Loden coats, hand carved wooden plaques and toys, French and English china, French and German crystal, luxuries of all kinds.

 

Christmas is a lot simpler now, we have all moved toward greater simplicity and sharing more of what we have with those who are in need. We have what we need, and we are so thankful.

 

Right now, I would be very thankful for a break in the temperatures.

September 28, 2019 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather | Leave a comment

“Do You Have a Heartbeat?”

This morning in Pensacola the temperature was a cool 71 degrees F. and the humidity was low. It makes all the difference in the world.

“How’s your day?” I asked my friend in the pool at the YMCA, and she grimaced. “I’m off to a bad start,” she said, “I hung my suit and towel and shoes on the line outside, and after the rain last night, everything was soaked this morning.

(We really needed the rain, and we got a soaker of a storm. Today, everything is blossoming in our yard and happy, moonflowers, African Irises, Ginger, plumbago, roses – they respond to a good soaking by blooming in delight.)

I grinned at her. “Did you wake up this morning? Do you have a heartbeat? Are you breathing? Are you here at the YMCA?” I was heartless, and persistent. She laughed.

I talked about the countries I’ve lived in; how in my first African country, Tunisia, back in the day, people competed for our garbage. My cleaning lady asked permission to take glass jars with lids, to take tuna cans. She asked that I give her any clothes I didn’t want. In the Middle East, there were restaurants where people waited near parked cars to beg for the leftovers we carried. Anything. Anything would do.

Some people didn’t have a towel, much less a swim suit, or shoes to hang on a line.

We live in the midst of plenty. Even Tunisia, when we went back twenty five years later, didn’t have the poverty we saw when we lived there. We didn’t see clubbed feet, we didn’t see hunched backs, we didn’t see crossed eyes. The little villa we had lived in had a second floor. There were signs everywhere of prosperity. We didn’t see any beggars, not one.

When I get all wrapped around the axel about the state of civility in my country, about our abuses at the border, about our increasing bureaucratic hardness-of-heart toward the least of these, I need to stop and take a deep breath and spend time acknowledging how very blessed we are. It gives me strength to go on fighting.

July 24, 2019 Posted by | Africa, Aging, Beauty, Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Cultural, Exercise, Gardens, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Middle East, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Tunisia | Leave a comment

“How Do We Cope With the Ignorance of the American Citizen?”

 

 

I had a group in town this last week, a group I loved, and the head of the GCCDC did a fabulous itinerary for them, matching their needs for information with the best resources available in Pensacola. I am proud to say that Pensacola did herself proud taking care of these visitors, giving them meetings with people who understand their particular needs and facing similar challenges. The focus of this group was governance and fiscal responsibility; I always love these subjects and learn a lot with every visit I facilitate.

The group was friendly, and made friends everywhere they went. They were superb ambassadors for their country.

I thought the group coffee was going particularly well; important topics were being discussed openly. Then one of our local participants asked one of my favorite questions:

“What about your visit to our country has surprised you the most?”

There were several answers about the kindness of the people, the beauty of the area, and then one very experienced and thoughtful delegate said “Please, tell me, how do we cope with the ignorance of the American citizen?”

By this, he was referring to the fact that although his country and our country have long been close allies, most Americans have no clue where the country is on the map, much less the serious issues and challenges which have faced this country for decades. A few might know the name of their leader.

It’s not as if we don’t have resources. We can Google anything. We can find enormous amounts of information of world geography and events. We don’t. Our schools teach a very limited amount of world geography, world history, world civilization, with little emphasis on any importance of understanding how our nation intersects with others.

His question echoes in my mind.

I once thought as more Americans lived overseas, as they travelled, as a nation our policies would broaden, become more sophisticated, more global, more oriented to the greater good.

While there are many people still working toward the goal of the greater good, I am feeling like moving forward has mostly halted; that the concept of “the greater good” has lost its compelling motivation to the reversion to a narrow focus on national interest.

I fear for the lack of international studies and understanding of global geography being taught our children, that the ignorance of today might be compounded in the citizens of tomorrow.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Jordan, Pensacola, Political Issues, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

Umbrella Installation in Pensacola

This happened last year, maybe even close to a year ago. The photo makes me smile every time I see it. I admire so much those with creativity and vision, who can make an every day object into something so beautiful.

 

March 17, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Who Knew? Intlxpatr Turns 12 Years Old

Welcome! Grab a flute, come on in and mingle.

 

Who knew, when I held my breath and posted my first post in September of 2006, that I would still be blogging – with the same blog (!) – twelve years later.

I miss my life. It’s hard to remember that it wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t. When I started blogging in Kuwait, I was once again going up against the steep learning curve of starting over in a new place, discovering where to buy groceries (milk and dairy at the local Co-op, fresh vegetables at a huge vegetable market to the south of Fintas, western staples – a luxury – at the Sultan Center. I bought what I needed, most of the time, but occasionally, a price would be so shockingly out of line that I couldn’t bring myself to do it – like a package of chocolate chip cookies that you just cut and bake for something like $15 when I could make them from scratch by myself. But I digress.

Blogging was new and fresh, and I loved reading the thoughts of other bloggers. I learned so much, and I learned to think differently. Their thoughts were not my thoughts, and I got a very clear view of my own cultural blinders.

I also met some wonderful Kuwaitis. It was a world I loved, a world of ideas and discussions. It was fun. I quickly felt at home in Kuwait; I felt I was gaining perspective from many minds, and it helped me form a more complex picture. I laugh to think it will never be a complete picture; you know how even people you’ve known for a long time can surprise you?

AventureMan told me today I had surprised him. He was talking about how good we are at doing our homework for trips, and how we “roll with the punches.” In my very direct way, I said “No we don’t! We gripe with the punches.”

First I got a stunned silence, then the guffaw of laughter, and then we were both laughing. I love it that I can still catch him by surprise.

So welcome to the celebration of 12 years sharing lives, sharing ideas, sharing our common humanity. This year, in addition to the beautiful cakes I have so much fun enjoying in virtual world, I have added cupcakes, in honor of a five year old granddaughter who has a great eye.

 

 

 

Please stay as long as you’d like . . .

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Blogging, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Kuwait, Pensacola, Shopping | 10 Comments

From Ecclesiastes 9

From a reading in the Old Testament in today’s Lectionary readings:

 

17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good.

 

In a bright red spot in our country, I have found a sea of purple, we meet together and console one another in the current culture of madness and malevolence. Black and white and brown, rich and poor, we gather and laugh, so that we don’t cry, and we encourage one another to keep the faith. We share our small ways of resisting and our hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Exercise, Faith, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Lodges, Sea and Mountains

You may remember, I am an Alaska girl. It goes deep. When we moved to Pensacola, my husband and I looked for a house on the water, which we found, and did not buy for a lot of really good reasons. One is that it showed signs of having been underwater at some time(s) and another was that the water here doesn’t do much. In Alaska, on the West coast, there are waves, and sometimes they are lovely huge crashing waves.

So one of the things I need to do to feed my soul is to get back to where I can be near mountains, and sea, and nights without a lot of ambient light, and scenes of sheer grandeur. We are all wired differently; I NEED this connection to restore my perspective on what matters, and what does not.

We started our journey out of Edmonds on the Edmonds ferry to Kingston, a ferry I have taken a lot in my life. Here is a map of our first day:

We stopped by the Edmonds bakery to get my Mom a maple bar. If you ever go to Edmonds, WA, the Edmonds Bakery is on Main Street, close to the roundabout, and has been making the best pies and pastries around for many years.

We said our goodbyes, and by the grace of God, made it to the ferry line just as it was boarding, no wait. It’s raining lightly but in Edmonds, teams are out playing soccer, couples are hiking around the hills of Edmonds, and the rain doesn’t stop normal activity, it is a part of normal.

The Edmonds Ferry

A rainy foggy day in Edmonds

I hate it when we are parking on a slant! They put blocks behind the wheels, but I have visions of the car just rolling right off.

That’s the Edmonds Ferry going from Kingston to Edmonds seen through the ferry car-carry area.

Someones fanciful house in Kingston

The dock in Kingston approaches

The Ferry system in Washington state is a part of the highway system. It’s how people living and working on the islands get gas and groceries and household goods. The ferries can hold a full sized moving van, and daily there are construction vans, electrical maintenance and highway maintenance vehicles traveling via ferry to remote destinations. It’s a part of life. Many people commute to the “mainland” from the islands for work, keeping a car on each side to reduce ferry costs (it’s a lot cheaper to walk on than to take a car on board).

When we planned this trip, I told AdventureMan “I don’t have any control over the weather. It might be rainy and cold the entire time.”

And AdventureMan grinned at me and said “I’ll bring books.”

He’s game.

I tried to take him to a wonderful restaurant on the Dungeness spit called The Three Crabs. We found Three Crabs Boulevard, but . . . no Three Crabs. It no longer exists.

We ended up at a small restaurant just outside of Port Angeles. We would have eaten in Port Angeles, but every restaurant we saw was a chain restaurant, and we were on a detour and had concerns about staying close enough to the road we needed to be on. As we left Port Angeles, we found the Fairmount, the kind of place we love to try, a local place, full of people still eating breakfast, or drinking coffee, or eating pie, but mostly checking on the latest local news.

 

 

 

AdventureMan wanted a hamburger. He said it was pretty good.

I had thought “Port Angeles! Fish!” and ordered halibut. This is frozen halibut; I could get this is Pensacola.

By this time, though, the skies have lifted and we are seeing some blue sky, which is really amazing, because we are in the Olympic Rain Forest. During the next couple of hours, on our way to Kalaloch Lodge, it must have alternated sun and rain, sometimes even heavy rain, fifteen or twenty times. We were just thankful it was not a steady dreary rain.

Along the way, we marveled at the trees. There were some very ferny kind of trees, and also some trees with lots and lots of moss on them.

 

 

We took a stretch break at Storm King Ranger Station, on Lake Crescent, where one of the funniest incidents on our trip happened. We were walking out on the dock and a group with two dogs were out there, and the dogs jumped in (they didn’t mind the cold water) and swam and swam, the happiest dogs you ever did see. As one was exiting the water, he stopped and pooped. His owner, a young woman, yelled “Oh no! Oh no!” She is waving her plastic poop bag (people are SO conscientious in the PNW) and goes on to wail “How am I going to scoop that poop out of the WATER??”

Well, I think sometimes you just have to leave well enough alone. Her earnest concern, her utter shame at not being able to recover that poop just totally cracked me up, even as I felt sympathy for her. “You can’t do anything about an act of God,” I laughed, “that’s just what dogs do.”

 

 

Mostly, I really wanted you to see the color of the Lake Crescent water. Isn’t it gorgeous?

 

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Geography / Maps, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Some Things You Can’t Make Up

In Pensacola, as in other places I have lived, I have met some very fine people. It isn’t unlike my other adventures, I have had to learn to observe and to adapt. Sometimes I may disagree, but most of the folk I deal with are civil people, reasonable people, and if they don’t agree with me, most of them have the generosity of spirit to just shake their head and chalk it up to my eccentricity.

And some people, you just don’t even bother to disagree. You don’t comment. You look the other way. I was lucky this time, to have my camera with me because if I didn’t have the picture, I’m not sure I would believe me telling the story. Here is what I see:

 

 

I see this and I am a stranger in a strange land.

April 11, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Cultural, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment