Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Arches National Park

Almost every day of this trip, we would look at each other at the end of the day and say “This was the best day of our trip!” Arches National Park was one of the very best.

We got up early to grab a quick breakfast and then go to get in line to be in Arches as the sun rose. We had a map, and we had a plan – to see the famous Delicate Arch, then drive to the far end of the park and work our way back. We had our hiking shoes on. Big surprise – there is road work going on in the park and we can’t even get on the road to get in line – we have to wait until the park opens at 0700.

We watch carefully, and as soon as the guard starts letting cars in, we are there. We are car number seven.

 

There are three ways to see Delicate Arch. One is a long hike across a marsh and then up a rock mountain. We didn’t do that. Another is a short, easy walk to a viewpoint where you can see Delicate Arch way off in the distance. The third way is a hike up a steep path, mostly rock. We took the third way, and by the time we reached the top, I was gasping. I stay pretty fit, but the altitude kicked me; and I felt like a fish, gasping for air. I would love to say that it was so beautiful, it was worth it, but actually, the light was flat, we had early morning clouds and no sunlight, so it was a little disappointing.

We drove to the end of the park, and hiked to the end of the path, about a mile, to Landscape Arch. The air was crisp and cool. Everywhere we looked was another beautiful sight. Arches National Park was a thrill to the senses. And we had logged 10,000 steps before nine in the morning.

We kept meeting up with interesting people, people our own ages, people who have done a lot of traveling. One couple gave us a hint about a trip up the Irrawaddy, another man talked about the mess in Washington. These were all really fun people.

Forgive me for putting in so any photos, but this park was inspirational, so beautiful.

And, just as we started to leave, it started snowing. Just a few flakes, and then that cloud passed, but we laughed, so far – we’ve had snow every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the walking path, which ends here. The path continues, and as you can see here, it goes straight up steep rock. You can see people who are willing to tackle the rocks climbing.

 

There are a lot of port-a-potties at the entrance to the walk into the valley. This sign was in the bathroom. It cracked me up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | 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

Grieving for Damascus

“This is a place I would love to retire,” I once told AdventureMan, as we wandered the streets. “It has all the things I love. Beautiful architecture and a rich history. It’s on a river. It gets cold in the winter. You can walk to local stores.”

Today, with great sadness, I read that Damascus is now rated the #1 Most Unlivable City in the World, beating out Douala, Cameroon; Harare, Zimbabwe; Karachi, Pakistan; Algiers, Algeria; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; and Tripoli, Libya. This is what the report summarized about Damascus:

Damascus has forgotten more than your city will likely ever know-and it has been a battleground for almost its entire existence. The City of Jasmine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, the least livable city in the world-for good reason. More than 13 million Syrians require humanitarian aid, 6.5 million have been displaced, and almost half a million have been killed on all sides of the conflict there-government soldiers, opposition soldiers, and civilians. It’s scores are predictably abysmal, with a 15 (out of 100) for stability at the bottom end and a mere 43.3 for culture and environment at the top end.

This is a city which has been at the crossroads of civilization about as long as civilization has been around. This is a city which was refined, and tolerant, a city which was once full of caravans carrying spices, silks and riches to the West.

We were last there in 2007, and we are so glad we went when we did. Damascus was revitalizing, building up a tourism business with grand hotels, and lovely, intimate boutique hotels.

We stayed at the Talisman. We grieve for the fine people we met there, and for all the losses they have suffered.

AdventureMan said “why don’t you do a photo-share, like you did with Doha?” At first, I didn’t want to, but then, I looked at the photos – and once again, I was smitten. I pray for a miracle for Syria, for new, enlightened, tolerant leadership and opportunities for the good Syrian people. For renewed vigor in churches and mosques and synagogues there. (The Talisman is in the old Jewish quarter, where the Greek Orthodox also have their headquarters.)

This is the majlis – sitting area – at the Talisman.

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A restaurant nearby the Talisman:

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Breakfast at the Talisman:

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The historical nearby Bab, or gate:

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A nearby Tabak and the friendly operator:

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Streetside bakery:

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A courtyard restaurant, with lovely dishes. And note the Christmas tree; Christmas decorations and greenery everywhere!

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A Christian Shop near Bab Thoma:

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Interior at Umayyad Mosque, all are welcome and abayas provided. You leave your shoes at the door. This is the rear of the Tomb of John the Baptist:

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Naranj, our favorite restaurant. I understand branches of Naranj have opened in Gulf Countries, Qatar, Kuwait, as wealthier Syrians take their money out of Syria and wait for more peaceful times. I am betting they will return to Syria as soon as they can.

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Inside Naranj

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A merchant in the Souk al Hamidiyya

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A courtyard restaurant set up for Christmas dinners:

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I’ve never met a Syrian who wasn’t educated and working hard to make a good life for his/her family. We wonder if we will ever be able to visit Syria again in our lifetime?

For more photos of Damascus, you can visit my 2007 posts, Walking Old Damascus, by clicking here.

 

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Photos, Political Issues, Restaurant, Travel | , | 4 Comments

More Doha, Qatar in Transition

I’ve had such great feedback from all my friends for whom these photos bring back a lot of memories. So, a few more.

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January 6, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Photos, Qatar | | 2 Comments

Tofino Sunset

Not quite sunset, but approaching sunset from our cabin in Ucluelet. Sunset in May is around nine at night.

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May 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Photos, Sunsets | 4 Comments

Whaling and Bear Watching Out of Tofino

We are enjoying perfect weather, not a given when you are in the Pacific Northwest, and not a given on any coastline or any vacation. The mornings may dawn a little grey and foggy, but it all burns off – this week, anyway – and we are having wonderful afternoons.

I don’t even bother trying to shoot whale any more. I have one photo of a marvelous whale tale from our first trip back to Alaska and this time the boat was rocking and rolling and mostly all we would see were backs breaching and spouts. Do you really want to see the place where two seconds ago there was a whale? Hmmm, no, I didn’t think so ๐Ÿ™‚

In calmer waters, we also saw otter, seal, sea lions and lots of birds.

The next day, on the bear watch, we also took lots of photos, and I won’t show you all of them because again, as the boat rolls, that perfect shot of the mother bear and the baby bear walking down the beach cuts off the mother bear’s snout, and the next one, the mother shows up fine but the baby is indistinguishable from the shadow in which he is playing . . . or the bear on the beach, you know 40 photos of the bear’s backside as he sucks a clam for one good photo of the bear (without his legs cut off). Wildlife photographers make their money by spending hours, days and months to get those calendar shots, and then being in just the right place at just the right time.

And it is so much fun just to go watch, and to try to get those good shots ๐Ÿ™‚

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Do you see the little bear? He’s over to the left, in the grass; Mama Bear is looking at him.

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Now you get to see him! (And Mama’s nose is cut off, dammit!)

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He’s digging and eating clams. He is in heaven, full belly, lots of clams.

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Seeing an eagle; good luck!

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May 17, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

Seaview Resort in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

You can’t believe what you read on the internet. When I research our trips, I “vector” our choices. I take a look at them on TripAdvisor, then I take a look at them on Google, then I might look at them on Google Earth. It all matters.

The Seaview Resort is not a resort, or at least not what I think of as a resort. It is 7 cabins, and most often on TripAdvisor, they are referred to as “tiny.” By reading the description of each cabin carefully, and by reserving early, we got the cabin we felt might be right for us, and it is.

The Seaview resort is located in the midst of a residential neighborhood, and right on the beach, not across the street from the beach. We have Cabin #1, and there are Irises in bloom in back where we park, and lavender growing in the garden next to it. It has a fully stocked kitchen, and a tiny living room with a couch and a tiny dining table with two chairs. I pulled in one of the the lounge chairs from the deck when AdventureMan grabbed the sofa for his nap.

You can look out the big sliding glass doors, or sit on your deck, or sit in the outside lounge chairs, or the seats around the beach fire-pit, or in the boat. You have the run of the resort. There is a large family having a reunion here, and another family in another cabin. Honestly, I can’t imagine more than two people in a cabin, but they claim to sleep four, and I can imagine four people who really get along could squeeze in and be OK as long as it doesn’t rain.

We love this place. It is private, and we like private. We can watch the water to our hearts content. We can watch the light change on the mountains. I can write up some blog entries – the WiFi works great. We are happy.

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And here is the icing on the cake:

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May 12, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, ExPat Life, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Farewell, Edmonds

We had a big mid-day meal, celebrating my Mother, celebrating just being able to be in the same room together for a meal, my Mother and my two sisters and some of their families. As sunset neared, we weren’t big hungry, so we just picked up some takeout from a nearby grocery deli and picnicked on the Edmonds beach.

I saw a wonderful photo opportunity; I was going to capture the Edmonds Ferry as it was heading into the sunset. Just as the ferry began its departure, a man stood in the exact place I had designated for the ferry to enter the sunset, on his phone, waving madly, waving farewell. Waving and waving. And not leaving.

So. When you can’t get the photo you want, grab the photo you have.

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Farewell, Edmonds!

May 8, 2016 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Humor, Photos, Road Trips, Seattle, Sunsets, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Sunset Cruise, Dolphin Cruise and Moonlight Cruise in Destin

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

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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.

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As we were leaving, the full moon rose and gave us a glorious ride home:

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We can’t promise future house guests this experience. We’ve never had it this good. Maybe our guests brought this good luck?

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Entertainment, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Photos, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Wildlife | | 2 Comments

Kailua to Honolulu; A Day of Wonders

We are all early risers, and we are off on a great adventure today, seeing the island as our friend sees it. ย One of her favorite places is Bellows Beach, next to the Air Force Base. We loved it, too, for its beauty and for its seclusion. The parking lot was full of cars that seemed to be doing business with one another, so we made sure to take our wallets and cameras with us.

 

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And then, the brides started arriving. We had no idea that this was a “destination.” We stayed far back, not wanting to intrude, and watched them arrive, marry and depart. The limos were lined up as we left, with bridal parties waiting their turn.

 

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This was a day when we were in and out of the car constantly, each sight more beautiful than the other.

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At one of my favorite places, the waves crashed against the lava rocks, so beautiful. We would have stayed longer but we were choking from the smell of weed coming out of the surrounding cars.

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In the Kona Crater, the plumeria are beginning to bloom.

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And the bougainvillea provided a riot of color.

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Diamond Head lighthouse from Diamond Head road.

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Foster Botanical Garden was a pool of serenity in the middle of the chaos of Honolulu:

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I loved that they had an Alaskan totem; the Alaskans and the Hawaiians are related.

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March 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Gardens, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment