We are working on a Little Free Library for our church, so I have become very aware of the Little Free Libraries wherever I go. As I was photographing this (utterly gorgeous) Little Free Library, an Edmonds resident passing by said “You know we have hundreds of the Little Free Libraries in Edmonds, but this is the most beautiful.”
Hundreds. Edmonds is a civil place, and a bookish place. Edmonds people share. Every year there is a huge tour of gardens, and it includes many many many gardens. People work hard on their gardens, to give joy to passers-by. It thrills my heart to think of so many Little Free Libraries.
But this is the most beautiful:
Bricks. A stained glass window. A copper roof. A window box – so much loving attention to detail, for something to give away to the public. I love this town.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think of Little Free Libraries popping up in Kuwait? Qatar? Saudi Arabia? Tunisia?
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 🙂
Did you know the Spanish word for pomegranate is “grenade?” I didn’t know that either, but pomegranate is one of my favorite fruits. When I was a little girl, my mother would buy me a pomegranate now and again (these were not common where I grew up) because of the legend of Persephone. I was heavy into Greek and Roman mythology and she encouraged my explorations.
Grenada in named for the pomegranates. They grow everywhere in Grenada, and were in full fruit when we visited. After some of the rainy touring days we had, Grenada shone forth in warm sunshine and blue skies with perfect clouds for photo-taking. We toured the town, and then (dramatic pause) (hushed voice) we visited the Alhambra.
What I have loved about this journey is the intermingling of Arabic in the Spanish; Guadalquivir River “wadi al kebir”, Alhambra “al hamra”, and it really is very red. And it really is very beautiful, so very beautiful in glorious detail. I’m going to bore you with more photos than you ever wished to see because . . . well, I hate to be rude, but . . . it’s my blog. I love each and every photo.
This is our group, gathering around our guide to enter the Alhambra.
If this were a fabric, I would have a dress made of it. I loved the intricate intersection, and the blending of the blue and cream and brown.
This is my favorite photo, for any number of reasons, cats, light and shadow, intricate tracery on columns, etc. but it is also a reminder of a very strange occurrence. I had just finished taking this shot, hunched down for a low angle, when a young woman in a group of four came along and shoved others, and then me, out of the way. Literally, she took my arm and started to move me and said “we’re taking a group photo now.”
Normally, I tend to defer, but her arrogance, and her disregard for the feeling of others prickled me, and so I pulled my arm away and looked at her cooly, and said “as soon as I am done with my photo, I will move and you can take your shot. Or you can shoot it from another angle.” I don’t know why I did that, I am surprised at myself. I don’t like to cause trouble. But who has the right to shove others out of the way???
That is the memory this photo brings back.
Please look at this photo, not that it is anything special but because there are people in it. I want you to appreciate how really, really, very hard it was to take some of these photos without people in them. I had to wait and wait, sometimes, (gasp!) I even got separated from my group for a short time, in the interest of getting an unimpeded shot. We were there at a lovely time of the year, perfect weather, and we thought there would not be too many tourists. We were astonished, in Seville, in Cordoba, in Grenada just how many tourists there were.
And here is where AHI Travel did something really right. This is the last day of the tour, tomorrow we all disembark and head for the Malaga airport and from there, to places scattered around the world. Just a short walk from the Alhambra is a beautiful hotel, beautifully situated, the Alhambra Palace. We’ve made note of it because we intend to come back to Grenada, and we want to stay in this hotel. This is where we ate lunch.
Our group had a closed in verandah with a beautiful view. Lunch was served in courses, and each was carefully prepared, and delicious. Very very clever way to end the tours on a high note 🙂
The room was beautiful. The table service was beautiful.
The view was beautiful.
After the meal, we got back on the bus to head back for the ship. Once on board, we had a Smithsonian meeting and then another lecture and then dinner, and something happened that has not happened to me for a long time, I had to pack at the last minute. Our suitcases had to be outside our door before we went to bed so they could be loaded to go, very early the next morning, to the airport.
I was coming down with something. I felt hot and feverish, and my nose was running. All my life, I have had nightmares about last minute packing. I hate doing last-minute anything, I am a planner, I like having a certain amount of control over my life, even though it is an illusion, it is an illusion I work hard to maintain. How did this happen to me? How is it that I am packing at the last minute, feverish and anxious?
It all got done. Fortunately, there are a limited number of places you can put things. For some reason, I am not able to download all our boarding passes, so we have only the first ones and will have to get the rest at the airport. I know where my passport is (I never have found the one I lost somewhere in my office) and my tickets and somehow we are finished and all is well by bedtime. I just hate that feeling of being rushed; when I am rushed, I make mistakes.
Every now and then something good happens. There is a huge line in Malaga, but our new friends also have tickets that put us in another line, and we get through quickly, with no problems. We say goodbye, we’ve exchanged e-mail addresses, and we go our separate ways. We have time to relax.
We arrive in Paris barely on time, and it is a Sunday morning with long lines at security, and there is no way out, we have to stand in line. We watch one very elderly man, unsteady, but with a great sense of humor, cope as he has to go through the full-body scan. Even though it is a few days before the bombing, security is tight. The airport is a nightmare. We have no idea where our next gate is, and we are almost running, as it is already our boarding time and we are not there. We have to go down this hall and that, then down to some gate where we catch a bus, then from that bus to somewhere else where we get to our plane with five or ten minutes to spare. That is cutting it way to close for me, but I know by now that I am coming down with one of the world’s worst colds and I sleep all the way from Paris to Atlanta, waking up now and ten to drink some Pomegranate Pizazz with honey to make the cold go away.
Not only does the cold not go away – I very generously shared it with AdventureMan. We both felt so bad we were sleeping all the time and didn’t even notice the jet lag 🙂 so by the time we were well again, we were also sleeping on Pensacola time. As soon as we were well, we got the super-strong flu shots to protect ourselves from anything worse than we’ve just had. 🙂
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.
We’re on our way to lunch at Portobello, the restaurant in the old jail, when AdventureMan says “Look at that Pelican!” and I had just spotted it at the same time. It is fabulous. It is on the corner at the Wentworth Museum and is a tribute to our First Nation inhabitants. It reminds me of Alaska, where the Haida art was mostly black and white, with just a tiny accent of red here and there, or occasionally a tiny bit of blue. I love this Pelican 🙂
Different businesses and organizations in Pensacola sponsor Pelicans, and each one is different. At the main intersection at Garden and Palafox, the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines have Pelicans stationed. Local artists make the pelicans vibrant and unique. Love the pelicans, but I love this one at the Wentworth most of all.
These are so cool, on every corner south of Garden on Palafox. They are not only handy for our urban riders, they LOOK great, very svelte, minimal. Very cool. Woooo HOOOO on you, Pensacola!
I am getting questions about the clans and tribes. I can’t answer your questions. I know there are the Ravens, and the Eagles, and I know they are not hostile but two halves of a whole. I know the raven legend; raven steals the sun – knowledge – and shares it with everyone. He is often shown with a long beak and/or curled around a ball. Eagles have short curved sharp beaks. But, with dispensation, an Eagle may marry a Raven. There are also subgroups, so you can be at once a Raven and a Bear, or a Killer Whale, or maybe a Wolf.
I try to understand, but it is a lot to absorb, and sort of complicated and flexible. As I look at my photos, I can see I was most interested in focusing on the costumes / textiles and less interested in the story. I wish I could tell you more, but you will have to read it for yourselves!
Here is a mural in downtown Juneau that demonstrates some of the artistic traditions of some of the various clans:
It’s important to remember – this is about them. It’s about holding on to traditional values and core beliefs, and transmitting knowledge of the culture to children and grandchildren. It’s not about us. As I said, we are there to witness and observe and celebrate, but they are there to celebrate who they are. Meanwhile, you can share the experience with these photos:
The front and center rows were reserved for the elders, and once the dancers started, every seat was filled. There were wet eyes, and open weeping. There were joyful moments, too, when the dancers would invite ‘all the Eagles’ or (something I didn’t understand) to rise and join them in their dance. My own heart swelled to witness their joy.
Getting close to Juneau, we spot these very strange cloud formations:
As we dock, we call the hotel shuttle from Country Lane and they are there within minutes. They drop us off at the hotel so we can unload our bags, then take us over to the airport so we can pick up our car.
You know me and public art. I love these sculptures in the Juneau airport, and especially that they have the traditional Haida forms as part of their form:
It is a gorgeous day in Juneau, 70°, hey, the sun is shining, it is very warm, this is a great day. We head immediately in to town for lunch at Tracy’s Crab Shack.
This is for my Mom; she likes to see the prices 🙂
Tracy’s Crab Shack is one smart operation. First – location location location. They are right on the cruise ship docks. First thing you step off one of those giant ships, you see Traceys. Second, they don’t rely on location. They have a first quality product. They don’t compromise. They cook the crab legs right out in the open, fresh, while you wait. They have crowds standing in line to get these crab legs, and you eat outside at butcher paper covered tables; the crab meals are served in paper containers and you SHARE tables. It works.
We share a table with two rough young men and have a fascinating conversation. They drove up, have had fabulous adventures and we shared information. I said that the thing that surprised me was that I expected Alaska to be more wired than it is; one of them said that his big surprise was to find Alaska as wired as it is, and that wifi is available at a large number of cafes and restaurants. That was fascinating to me, to opposite perspectives. Part of it, I think, was being on the ferry system – all the ferries in Seattle are wired, so it was a shock to me that the Alaska ferries were not.
One of our tablemates had now visited all 50 states, and the other had visited
We saw people from all over the world lined up and eating King Crab at Tracy’s. AdventureMan had the crab bisque over rice and I had the crab cakes. Eating King Crab legs is messy, and I didn’t want to smell like crab for the rest of the day.
Tracey’s is the number one rated restaurant in Juneau on TripAdvisor and UrbanSpoon. I think it must be the combination of the crowd they attract and the product. Juneau people eat there, too.
As we started planning this Alaska trip in 2014, we discovered we had more ideas than we have time. The Qatari Cat is ten years old now; we don’t like to leave him at the Wee Tuck ‘Em Inn longer than a couple weeks at most. The more we decided what to include in the two weeks, the more we came to the realization that we needed to do a reconnaissance trip :-). I found the Alaska Marine Highway System, and we realized we could cover a lot of ground and see a variety of terrain by taking this cross Gulf ferry, the M/V Kennicott.
Homer is almost the end of the line. The ferry continues to Seldovia, which is picturesque and beautiful, but we wanted to explore Homer, and to figure out where we will go next year after the Celebration.
Homer is so much fun. It’s been voted one of the hippest cities in America, for it’s 70’s counter culture and community values. It is a very fun place to be, and full of breathtaking scenery.
Even a Homer quilt shop!
Landed in Kodiak early, so early I don’t know how early. We rise, dress and WOW, it is not raining, you can even see some sun, so we decide to walk into Kodiak. As we debark, we ask which way and the Terminal Manager Steve catches up with us and offers us a ride. It warmed my heart, this is exactly what I wanted AdventureMan to see, this is what I grew up with, the Spirit of Alaska 🙂 taking care of one another. Alaska is like one big community.
On the way, he gives us an overview of Kodiak and we talk about the big problem with the lack of ferry transportation this year with the Tustemena out of service. Tustemena is the M/V ferry that runs down the Aleutian Islands all the way to Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, another trip we want to make. It’s been a big loss for all tour related businesses on the peninsula and for Kodiak. The Kennicott will make a run down in late September to help get people, goods and vehicles out who are waiting for transportation.
We told him we wanted some breakfast, and he dropped us off at the Shelikof Lodge, full of locals. I actually asked where he eats breakfast, and he said “at home” and we learned why – this is a very busy man. He runs back and forth between all the terminals, solving problems, making sure everything is going smoothly. In Kodiak, people work hard.
At the Shelikov, AdventureMan has biscuits and gravy, and I have reindeer sausage for the first time, with a hot, spicy aftertaste I love. Even though it is very lean meat, I only eat half.
We hike to the Russian Orthodox Church, passing a tidal wave marker on the way. It is scary – it seems rather high on the island. That tidal wave came a long way up.
We walk through Kodiak, past all the processing plants, to ship. It’s not a very big place, but you can see a lot of pride in what they do.
LOL, loading the cars and trucks and containers and R/Vs takes hours and there is a long long line of walk ons, first the Kodiak football team, all in their jerseys, and then the Kodiak high school cross country team in bright lemon yellow wind breakers. Maybe 150 students, good kids, full of energy, whooping it up.
We leave Kodiak late, but these late departures seem to be built into the ferry schedule – they never know where they will need more time.
There is a whole new dynamic on board with the high-schoolers. They are hilarious! All that teenage energy! We hit rough water just after going through the Barrens, and the kids are standing on the forward deck waiting for huge waves to break over the bow. When the huge waves break, it is like in a movies, a sheet of water, and the kids hang on and come up laughing.
We go through rough waters about an hour, then things calm down and . . . the sun comes out! Gorgeous scenery, all the way to Homer.
Docked almost exactly at 9, as scheduled. We waited for the kids to all get off, then walked to the terminal, where there are NO taxis waiting. When I made reservations, I had asked the hotel if they send a shuttle to the ferry terminal and they said no, they didn’t have a shuttle, but there are always taxis waiting. No. No, that is just not true. There are not always taxis waiting.
We see a couple we had met onboard, they ask where we are going and we tell them the Driftwood Inn and he says “that’s where we’re going!” and offers to split the cab they have already called with us. Perfect! Except when we get to the hotel he discovers that he is NOT staying at the Driftwood Inn, and he has to call the taxi driver back again to take him to the Heritage Inn.
It’s sad, I think this is a generational thing, he kept calling himself a dummy. We are raised in a different generation, to call someone a dummy is just so negative and so degrading that we would never do it, not to anyone else, not to ourselves. We might say “How could I be such an idiot!?” but we were horrified – and a little heartbroken – to hear this really nice man berate himself like that.
What was cool is that we ran into them again – twice – before twenty-four hours had passed, once at the car rental agency, and once again at the Homer Farmer’s Market. They had settled in quickly, only a couple blocks from where we were staying and were having a wonderful time, heading out that afternoon in route to Prudhoe Bay. (I’m impressed.)
Our room is lovely, spacious and welcoming, with gorgeous shared spaces and a view to die for, maybe 230 degrees of glaciers, mountains, Kachemak Bay and driftwoody beach. The sun is setting, the air smells clean; sea, salt and pine, the skies are clear, and oh, life is sweet.