Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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.  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

“From the Redwood Forests . . .”

When I was little, this is the song that everyone was belting out. So many people sang it, Woody Guthrie, Peter Paul and Mary – and I believe it was based on an old American folk song:

As we hit the North California Coast, I could hear this song.

“From California . . . to the New York Island . . . this land is made for you and me.”

We live in a beautiful country. No matter where we turn, we have found beauty. Even parts of the country others find desertified and grim are beautiful in the spring, unbelievably green, but California has to be one of the most beautiful states of all, so much variety, so much beauty.

We love coastal areas, but driving through the redwood forests is also a thrill. The redwoods are just so beautiful, especially on a spring day with sunlight filtering through. It’s cool-warm. Too warm for a sweatshirt, too cool without it. Fortunately, we have time on our schedule to just stop and enjoy whatever we wish, because we are making a lot of stops along these forested roads.

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Even a California Poppy! Today is a blessed day!

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Of all the vineyards we saw, I liked this one the best. It’s that Art Nouveau thing they have going on 🙂

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April 29, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Swamp Tour With Annie Miller’s Son

Annie Miller was a woman ahead of her time, out trapping, hunting and doing whatever she needed to do to keep her children fed and clothed and going to school. When oil went bottoms up, the town of Houma approached Annie Miller and asked her to start up some tours of the swamp, to attract business to the area. She did, and was so knowledgeable that people came from everywhere to take her tours.

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Now her son does the tours, and we liked his approach. We call it “Under promise and over deliver” which we think is a great slogan for contractors everywhere. At one time AdventureMan worked for a giant company whose contracts were called “The Gold Standard.” His company cost a little more, but they delivered on every promise and were good at figuring out problems that cropped up mid-contract and working with the government to support the mission.

As this tour departed from the gathering spot at Bayou Delights restaurant, the guide told us that with the colder weather, he couldn’t guarantee that we would see any alligators at all, but that there were other things he would show us. I love that approach. It prevents excessive expectations.

As it turned out, we saw all kinds of wonderful things, both inside and outside of the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge.

This is a revolving bridge over the Bayou Black. You can see the round base on which it can swing sideways to allow really tall boats up the Bayou. The guide saws he has never seen it work in his lifetime.

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Almost immediately, we spy an alligator sunning on the side of the bayou.
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Entering Mandalay Wildlife Refuge:

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Shooting digital is a crap-shoot. You have that tiny delay, but a tiny delay makes shooting wildlife less predictable. I didn’t even know I had this shot until I uploaded my photos to my computer. It was absolutely glorious to see.
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I have never seen anyone call an alligator before. “C’mon Ruby! C’mon b-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-by! C’mon Ruby!” And Ruby came!

So did Little Latin Loopy Lou! She jumps for the pieces of chicken that he puts on the end of the stick:
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This is more exciting to me than alligators. These birds are gorgeous.

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These two eagles would swoop at the same time for chicken skins; unfortunately, against the dark bayou, you couldn’t see them as they swooped, but I loved catching two of them together as they chowed down on their meal.

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Back at the lovely Marriott Courtyard in Houma, I love having a balcony, especially in this weather. Gorgeous sunset, gorgeous weather.
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November 1, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Character, Cultural, Environment, Photos, Road Trips, Weather, Wildlife | , , | 1 Comment

Inequality: No Respect For Our First Nation Citizens (Blog Action Day)

I grew up in a small town, Juneau, Alaska, and not even in the main town, but on Douglas Island, across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My neighbors were fishermen, hunters, pilots, entrepreneurs and hard-working people struggling to make a living.

It was an upside down world. In most places, those who live there the longest are the leaders of society. In Southeast Alaska, those who lived there the longest were at the bottom of the heap, the Native Americans, the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. I went to school with them. Yes, the boys carried knives. No, they were not dirty, and none of my little friends in elementary school were drunks. We were kids, we played together, we were all in the same classes all through elementary school – it was a small school.

Many of them did have family problems. There were problems of alcoholism, unemployment, domestic violence and hunger. They weren’t the only ones. The big problem was no respect. Although there were a few pieces of Native Art in the city museum, Native culture and Native craft were given little value. The Native way of life, living off the land, hunting and fishing, had greatly diminished as lands were apportioned off and hunting and fishing activities regulated.

In 1971 a huge lawsuit was settled and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided some restoration for the damaged peoples. Alaska Natives now have regional corporations to administer and grow funds to support the culture, to provide education for the children, to provide health clinics and hospitals. SEALASKA began to organize a biennial Celebration, a gathering of all the Alaska natives to share their stories, to celebrate their culture, to dance and to transmit culture to their children. It’s a great opportunity for people you might see every day in their western life to remember where they come from and to be proud of who they are. This Celebration is held every two years and includes Alaska Natives from all over Alaska who want to participate. It is a very inclusive Celebration. The next Celebration will be June 8 – 11, in 2016. You can read a little more about Celebration 2014 here.

They learn the legends of their clans – the Eagles, The Ravens, the Beavers, the Bears and a number of other clans. They spend the time between celebrations stitching together elaborate costumes for their parade and dance exhibitions, hollowing out canoes from trees, making elaborate hats and masks.

We first learned of the Celebration gathering in 2012, when we already had tickets to go back to Zambia at the exact time the Celebration was taking place, but my sweet husband promised we could go back for the 2014 Celebration. As we researched, we discovered just how much of Alaska we wanted to see, and did a reconnaissance trip in 2013. We loved our time there, and we were delighted to be able to return this last year for Celebration 2014.

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life, to see the gathering, to see the old women cry as canoes came into sight full of young Alaskan natives, and say “I never thought I would see this again in my life”, to watch the exhilaration of the dancers, to feel the energy of the parade and especially – to see the children. To see the pride in marching, in dancing, to see the joy in being able to express who they are and to share that with others. I was moved beyond my ability to express in words; it was a feeling that in one small way, a train of events that had gone very off track had moved incrementally back in the right direction.

Here are some photos from the joyous Celebration of 2014:

 

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October 16, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pensacola July Sunset

It’s a sunset, yes, but it’s all about those delicate opalescent colors.

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July 26, 2014 Posted by | color, Pensacola, Photos, Sunsets | Leave a comment

The Pratt Museum: A Gem in Homer, AK

It’s our last day in Homer, and we are going to the Pratt Museum

  • . AdventureMan has wanted to go there forever, it’s one of the highlights of Homer. I have wanted to go ever since I saw the book on Pratt Museum Quilts; they are incorporated throughout the museum.

    The Pratt Museum is a WOW. It is beautiful, for one thing, all woods and stone, a beautifully crafted, cared for museum. We happened in at a relatively quiet time and had time to talk with the volunteer at the desk, who sold me several raffle tickets for this year’s quilts. I really want to win it; it has blueberries all over it. I suppose I could do a blueberry quilt, but this one is already done!

    They also have a super gift shop, with lots of gift ideas, many locally produced by local artists. You know how it is with tourists, there are a lot of places that sell schlock. When you want a step up, go to a museum gift shop. I used to buy my blank cards at the Tarek Rajab museum in Kuwait, beautiful cards with silver bedouin and Arabic jewelry, or doors of old Kuwait, old Oman, etc. Lovely, artistic cards.

    This is one of the permanent exhibit quilts. It may have been on the bottom floor, with the marine exhibits. Things got crazy after our quiet visit with the volunteer; a large group of students came in, maybe eighth grade, with all the chaos and laughter kids that age engender. We hurried ahead of them to the exhibits, and there are a LOT of exhibits.
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    This was a map of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, from which Alaska is still recovering. We learned something interesting, and that is that as horrible as the spill has been for the environment, it put Alaska on the map, raised awareness, and that is when the tourists really started pouring in, maybe like to see the splendors of Alaska before they are destroyed by oil spills or climate change.

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    These are some of the Alaska birds you can see on the Kenai peninsula, including, I think, a puffin 🙂

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    The Pratt has so many clever and original exhibits. I loved the film presentation on how the First Nation peoples catch, smoke and store salmon. If there is ever a zombie apocolypse and I have to survive, now I know how to prepare and keep salmon over long stretches of time by smoking it and drying it in strips. And protecting it from bears, who love salmon.

    This presentation was like a table, but the movie was on the table. There were foods, and it was like we were the people eating. Someone would pass a dish and explain a little about what it was, like whale blubber or seaweed something. As much as I like to try new things, some of what they had on the table was stuff I would cut into very tiny pieces and push around the plate so it looked like I had tried some but I didn’t. I loved the presentation; so interactive.

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    Although there were a lot of really good exhibits, we sort of hurried through once the crowd arrived. We did spend a good amount of time in the garden outside, where I laughed at myself. I learned a lot about myself this trip, why I love the colors I love (mostly greens – blues – purples and why I don’t like a lot of yellow or red in a garden. Almost everything in this garden was blue -purple – fuchsia with just a smattering of tiny yellow flowers, not a speck of red, except muted in some of the foliage, which was mostly shades of green. AdventureMan laughed, too, as it is the bane of his gardening existence that I want the bright red Turk’s Heads and the big yellow Cassia where I can’t see them.

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  • July 11, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Community, Cultural, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

    The Windsong Lodge in Seward, Alaska

    The Windsong Lodge home page shows happy happy people having lunch on a sunny outdoor terrace overlooking a sparkling river. I looked at a lot of different Seward Hotels, but oh, the thought of a balcony overlooking the river just drew me in.

    This is what the description of the Lodge says:

    Just outside the city of Seward, travel down the winding road to Exit Glacier and you’ll find your paradise away from home, Seward Windsong Lodge. The towering mountains, fragrant spruce trees and the rush of the Resurrection River awaken your senses on arrival.

    I could hardly wait to see those towering mountains and fragrant spruce trees from my balcony.

    There was nothing wrong with our room. It was spacious, and had furniture made from logs, all rustic and sparkling clean. There was a microwave, a refrigerator, a hair dryer, all the amenities.

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    This was the view from my balcony.

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    I did love the cut outs in the balcony railing.

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    The Lodge offers a coffee bar and pastries, but when we were checking out we saw huge lines waiting for coffee and pastries, and although they had about ten computers, there were lines waiting to use their computers, too. Most of these people were off the cruise ships. We thanked God to have a car, and to know where we could get good coffee and breakfast goodies. We don’t mind paying. We don’t much like standing in a long line for breakfast.

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    Nice lodge, every seat taken.

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    June 27, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Communication, Cultural, Hotels, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

    The Hanger at the Wharf in Juneau

    First, we really love eating at the Hanger at the Wharf. So does just about everyone else. Twice, we got really lucky. It is easier getting a table if you are just two people, and it is easier getting a table if you eat early. As we are still on Pensacola tummy time, we are in luck. As the Celebration 2014 parade ended, we zipped straight over and as larger groups waited, we were immediately shown to a table for two.

    No wonder The Hanger is so popular. The food is terrific and this is the view – straight down the Gastineau channel with Douglas and the cruise ships. As the sun slides behind the mountain, it is a stunning view:

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    Some hardier souls were eating outside on the deck. I used to be this hardy, but my years in the Middle East have softened me, made me not so good at eating in cool and drafty places, even in the middle of the Alaskan summer.

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    Inside The Hanger: great, courteous, friendly and efficient employees

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    Every table taken, the bar is packed, and people are waiting in the hallway to be seated:

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    My halibut tempura:
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    AdventureMan’s halibut burger and fries:
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    We liked the food and atmosphere so well that we went back a second time during the ceremonial dances and were happy to see a lot of the dancers eating there, too. I had the first mate’s plate, with salmon and halibut and a berry chutney and AdventureMan had grilled halibut. We both left happy. We would go there again in a heartbeat.

    There is only one little thing about The Hanger that makes me uneasy, and it has nothing to do with The Hanger. When I was a little girl, living across the channel, I would watch for my Dad to come home – this was the airport for the amphibious planes, Alaska Coastal Airlines (now part of Alaska Airlines) and Ellis Airlines. When his plane would land, we would all rush to the car and drive like crazy across the bridge to pick him up (no cell phones then, LOL). So I still feel a little frisson and feel the ghosts of the past when I eat there.

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    June 23, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , | 2 Comments

    A View from the Sunset Inn, Panama City Beach

    We love this place, the Sunset Inn, a little Mom and Pop kind of motel, hard to find in over-developed Panama City Beach with its huge soulless condominiums towering over the white sands.

    As we walk in the door, the view hits us and we breathe in the sea air and go “Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.” The minute we walk in the door, we start to feel relaxed.

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    We both have cooking to do, so we get busy, but busy with glances at the view, and trips to our balcony to breathe. It is COLD, with a cold wind, but so gorgeous, so breath-takingly gorgeous, and we are happy.

    Soon, there are cranberries cooking for Mom’s Cranberry Salad and hot juice brewing for the punch, redolent of cinnamon and cloves and orange peel, wonderful smells filling our room – and that view. Life is sweet.

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    And then, just when you think it can’t get any better, the sun starts to set, the light goes all golden and soft and oh, life is sweet.

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    December 1, 2013 Posted by | Beauty, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Food, Holiday, Hot drinks, Hotels, Photos, Road Trips, Sunsets, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment