Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Denver, Damascus and Pensacola

We are leaving Santa Fe, but we have time for one more Santa Fe experience: Harry’s Roadhouse. It’s on the road out of Santa Fe, and hey, we have to have breakfast anyway. We are so glad we stopped here. This is a very cool place.

 

There are lots of rooms. This is the room we ate in, below. They have all kinds of wonderful breakfast foods, and the furnishings are all different colors. It is a colorful restaurant, sort of like it breaks the rules of taste and it doesn’t care. It’s kind of freeing 🙂

We are making really good time on the way to Denver when all of a sudden, on a not so busy freeway to this point, everything stops. “What on earth???” AdventureMan asks, and I have no clue. “Probably rockfall,” I say. It’s happened to me before on Colorado roads. Sometimes a huge boulder will just dislodge and fall on the highway. It can really hurt somebody if it hits them – of if they don’t expect a big boulder in the middle of the road and they hit it.

We are stuck for around 30 minutes. When we drive by the bottleneck, one lane, the rockfall has been mostly cleared. It takes massive equipment to get the rock off the road.

 

We pass Trinidad, a town we’ve stopped in before, but we aren’t hungry yet. An hour later, we need gas and we need to eat, but there is a whole lot of nothing near the road. As soon as we see anything, we head for it.

 

First gas. Then – another Barbecue. LOL, it’s not as if we don’t get BBQ in Pensacola, but as it turns out, this is pretty good barbecue.

 

We hit Denver just about prime traffic time, and worse, Denver has just been hit by a heavy rain and sleet storm. We recognize a street name we know, exit the interstate and in very short time find my sister and her husband and happily settle in. Tonight we are all having dinner together over at Little Diamonds, with the kids; AdventureMan and I still have the remains of our BBQ, and we split a salad. Dinner is great, the conversation is even better, and the children are delightful.

The next day is so much fun, my sister has tickets for the Viking exhibit AdventureMan has wanted to see at the beautiful Denver Museum of Natural Sciences. This is a great exhibit, full of treasures and wonders, beautifully exhibited. We have such a great time.

This is my very favorite part of the entire exhibit, and I am sorry my photos are blurry but we can only take photos with no flash, and the light is very low in the exhibit to protect the artifacts.

There are people associated with the exhibit who are character actors. This is Tova, an older, still beautiful, much married woman, who tells us about her three marriages, her husbands, her life, her wealth and property, all the while holding a spindle with which she spins thread while she talks to us. She interacts with her audience, asking questions, but never straying from her character. She was enchanting, and even better, she was convincing. We learned so much from her.

I wish you could see how beautifully made so many of these articles are, and read all the descriptions. This was well curated.

Another of my favorite exhibit, and almost impossible to photograph. These are nails, exactly in the positions they were found. An entire Viking ship had been found, buried in dirt and mud. The wood all rotted away, and disappeared, but the nails stayed exactly where they had been, and in the exhibit, thin, nearly invisible lines hold each nail in its place. Together, the nails form the shape of a ship, but you have to find the right perspective to see it. I tried, this was the best I could get.

A tombstone put up by a wife to honor her dead husband – and to determine, also, her property lines 🙂

 

Another character actor helping the students find the answers to their worksheets.

 

 

 

The exhibit was full of school groups, with booklets to find the answers to. These kids were having so much fun, and learning so much. This group donned Viking helmets for a photo, but were in constant motion (sigh) in the low light.

Probably the very best gift (from his perspective) our grandson got was one of these paper Viking helmets; our grandson wore it all the next day, after we got home, even to choir practice!

We had lunch at Sams #3, wow, so much selection and every dish was wonderful. Then, home to pack up and have a rest before we all meet up again for dinner. Dinner is a lot of fun, we’ve all been to Damascus, so we are eating at a restaurant near Denver University called . . . Damascus!

Things did not start well. “Mike” greeted us and told us he was not really the waiter, but the waitress had quit and he was the dishwasher, but tonight he would try to be the waiter while the owner trained a new cook. They couldn’t promise that everything on the menu would be available, but . . .

The good news was that as much as we all love Middle Eastern, particularly Damascus, cuisine, more than anything we wanted time together, sitting, talking, laughing, telling stories, so we just rolled with it. We ordered and it seemed nothing was not going to be served.

First out was hummus, and mohammara, and a big basket of hot hot hot fresh pita bread. Oh! I had forgotten how good it tastes, fresh out of the oven, and so plentiful. We were so happy, we stopped even thinking about the rest of dinner.

A while later, our dinners appeared, and they were each wonderful. AdventureMan had a felafel sandwich, which I failed to photograph. I had ordered this wonderful vegetarian platter, which I was happy to share with everyone.

My brother-in-law had chicken on the bone, with rice and salad. Perfect!

Little diamond had fattoush and grilled mushrooms.

My sister had a cucumber soup. We all had lots of mohammara and bread. As we ate, the restaurant filled. Mike explained to each table that things might not go well, but every table seemed to get a great dinner. It’s the old adage, Under Promise and Over Deliver. Makes customers happy every time. 🙂

 

 

This was the BEST way to leave Denver, full, happy, having time with family.

We leave early the next morning for Pensacola. Not everything goes smoothly, but we arrive in Pensacola little worse for wear. It’s been a great trip.

And we’re off on our next adventure! 🙂

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Education, Entertainment, Family Issues, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Santa Fe, Here We Come

We spent one night in Santa Fe two years ago, and knew we had to come back. We put a three day stay at the end of our parks visit to give ourselves some play time, we really love Santa Fe.

This was not a bad day, but I will not tell you it was another best day of the trip. Some days, you just have to drive to get where you are going. This was mostly that kind of day.

We came south back to Kayenta, turned left, and stayed on the same highway until Farmington, where we had lunch at the crossroad where we turned south. On the way, we saw flashing lights ahead, and were afraid it was an accident but it was a marching group. We didn’t know why they were marching. Then about ten miles later, we saw a similar group marching towards us. We gave them a big thumbs up; YAY! Marching for a healthier lifestyle! They all looked about our age 🙂

We were about to turn south when we saw this sign: Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.  Who could resist that sign? Not us!

We each ordered a sandwich. When they came, we discovered that SERIOUS meant huge. We couldn’t begin to eat the whole sandwiches, we had to leave about half behind. The restaurant was full of big burly cowboy types who seemed to have no trouble packing away that kind of serious sandwich.

All the following photos seem to be about food, but we did other things, too!

Checking in at the Hotel Santa Fe and Hacienda, AdventureMan reminded me we had one of the best meals of our lives at their Amaya restaurant. We reserved for that night, and AdventureMan had their duck, and I had the salmon.

 

As we were eating, we overheard another table talking about the Farmer’s Market the next day. We love Farmer’s Markets! We asked the waitress if she knew where it might be, and she didn’t know, but very soon, another waiter came over and told us how to get there – it was right across the street. After dinner, we took a walk, found where the market would be, and came back to the hotel, had coffee and dessert while we listened to the hotel musician, who plays Spanish guitar and Indian flute, then headed upstairs for some much needed sleep.

Although we were near the elevators, the rooms are so quiet, we never heard another guest. I love that the hotel has coffee service for guests on each floor; early the next morning while AdventueMan slept, I could creep out and fill my cup without him even missing me.

He was awake soon, and we headed for the Farmer’s Market, only to learn that there was also a Crafts and Artists Market in a separate row. Oh, what heaven! I found some wonderful gifts and AdventureMan and I found wonderful quiche and croissants at the Farmer’s Market, which also has baked goods and crafted goods, plants, all kinds of things. We loved the Santa Fe market.

I asked one of the vendors I was buying from where he and his wife eat when they come to Santa Fe, and without hesitation he said “The Pantry” so we put it on our list of places to take a look at. Meanwhile, we headed out Canyon Road, which we loved, with all the art shops and cute restaurants, then went to explore San Miguel’s, billing itself as the oldest church in the United States, with an altar that dates from the days of the Spanish exploration.

 

 

AdventureMan had heard of Jambo, an African fusion restaurant he thought we should try. It was wonderful. We ordered too much. We ordered a hummus appetizer, salads and a peanut chicken stew to share. The hummus was huge, and beautiful, with hummus, and also lots of veggies and olives, and pita bread, and then the salads came, huge and delicious . . . when the stew came with the rice, it was also delicious, but we were so full! We ate a few bites, then packed it up to take it back to the hotel for dinner. We love that our room has a fridge and a microwave, and we have plates and utensils and napkins, so we will feast again tonight in the glory of our own little suite.

xxx

(Forgot to take a photo of the peanut chicken stew, which when we first had it many many years ago was called Ground Nut Stew. This was a little different, but equally delicious.)

 

We were lazy on Sunday and didn’t get up until seven thirty or so, to get to the Pantry while there still might be tables left on a lazy Sunday morning. Oops, my bad, Santa Fe must get up early, all the tables are taken and there is a line to get in. The waitress says it will only be ten minutes or so, we decide to wait. In almost no time, we are in, and have a great table.

This looks like a picture, but it is actually a quilt someone did of the Pantry.

AdventureMan ordered biscuits and gravy – and beans!

 

I ordered blue-corn pancakes. Sigh. They were good, but they tasted like . . . pancakes!

 

At a nearby table was a friendly man who told us we might want to try Maria’s for dinner, that it was another good place where people from Santa Fe eat. He also told us he was a musician and an Elvis impersonator. Almost everyone we met in Santa Fe was very welcoming and glad to give out information. It was a lot of fun, being in that kind of atmosphere.

We visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum, walk around a little, but AdventureMan’s banged up leg make it hard for him to walk easily. That’s OK, we are in Santa Fe to kick back and rest up, so we spend the afternoon reading and snoozing. Later in the day, we hit Maria’s. Most of the people coming in were heading to the bar, evidently Maria’s has like 99 different kinds of Margaritas. We just wanted dinner – and our server was efficient, and sort of brusque. The restaurant wasn’t that busy, but getting busier. Maybe he had though he would get a break between lunch and dinner, and was just tired. He did the job. He did not make us feel welcome.

 

As much as we like Santa Fe, we are ready to start heading home. First step: get to Denver, where we will be staying with my sister and her husband, mother and father to Little Diamond, grandparents to the little little diamonds. From Maria’s, we head back to the hotel and organize our suitcases, take out the big ones and just keep the small overnighters. Sorting through now helps us plan for our time in Denver and for the trip back to Pensacola.

 

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Faith, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: AZ or UT?

“Look! Look! Grab your camera! Grab your camera!”

“It’s just turkeys,” I grumble to myself, I’m not even settled in the car, I don’t even have my seat belt on and AdventureMan wants me to take photos of turkeys? I take a couple shots, then we head to the lodge and check out.

This time, the camera is in my hands. This time, when we see three turkeys, and two of them are male, trying desperately to get the turkey chick to give them the time of day, so to speak.

 

This was actually a great way to start a day which will have a lot of driving before we reach our goal, Monument Valley, which is sort of in Utah and Sort of in Arizona, or at least the hotel where we are staying is in Arizona, but the road to get to it starts in Utah. Because it is Navaho Nation, they have gone on Daylight Savings Time, in spite of the technicality that they are in Arizona, a peculiar state who does not go on Daylight Savings Time.

Farewell, beautiful Zion.

 

This is the route we will be taking today. Our maps tell us it has some scenic routes. Remember, cell phone coverage is spotty in this area, and physical maps are a really, really good idea.

 

We know where we will stop for breakfast – The Thunderbird, In Mt. Carmel Junction, where we had lunch the day before. It is right on our way. Actually, I had a healthy breakfast, but I had to order this cinnamon roll, which AdventureMan and I nibbled on, and then took the rest with us in case we were stuck somewhere in a remote place and needed some sugar-energy. This roll had a lot of sugar-energy.

 

On the road, after the glory or Arches, and Bryce Canyon, and Zion, we are spoiled. It is harder to appreciate normal beautiful vistas. As we drove through a forest, however, AdventureMan spotted a deer running, not a pronghorn, not a mule deer, we don’t know what it was. I am sorry it is fuzzy; he was running!

Maybe it was a mule deer, now that I see the ears. I am not sure.

We stopped to look at this vast overlook, and I was sort of thinking “ho-hum” when an Asian family drove up, a dad and his three daughters, and the daughters all had iPads and were taking photos and one of them said to me “Just look! This is right out of the old West! Can’t you just see an enormous herd of buffalo stretching all the way to the horizon, and what if they get spooked and stampede??”

And then, I saw them, thousands of buffalo in the valley below, nibbling on the new green grass, stretching to the horizon. I owe that girl. She gave me a great gift, a major shift in perspective.


AdventureMan said “Why are there so many contrails?” and he was right, there were contrail everywhere. We were close to the Northern side of Grand Canyon, which is still closed at this time of year, so maybe they were planes coming and going out of Phoenix? Maybe the air is so cold that the contrails form more easily? I don’t know, but he is right, the sky is streaked with them.

I think these are the Vermillion Cliffs, fabulous, but . . . we are jaded after the glories we have seen. We drive on.

 

 

We stop for gas in Kayenta, and we go into the Basha Market to buy water. Two things, one is that we have this totally deja vu feeling, like we have been in this shopping area before. AdventureMan says we had lunch at that Subway store, and I kind of remember. Second, all the people in the market, mostly local Navaho, have carts full of sugary foods, sodas, sugary cereals, snacks and candy. It’s like the don’t know that sugar is the new poison, that it leads to obesity, that it rots your teeth and inflames your gums. Or they know, and they don’t care.

But we are starving. We see Amigos on the side of the road as we are heading to Monument Valley, and decide to give it a try. As soon as we get inside, we know we are in the right place. There are local people. There is a lunch special up on the blackboard. The smells are wonderful.

AdventureMan had Tostada and Enchilada. See that salsa? That salsa is one of the best salsas we have ever eaten. In the photo it looks red, but it actually was very green.

I had two tacos. The tacos were enough, I didn’t need the rice and beans and I left them, but I did ask for another salsa, it was so good.

We liked Amigos so much that we came back here again for dinner the night after we had been out all day in Monument Valley.

 

The name of our hotel is The View. It is a Navaho owned and operated hotel in Monument Valley proper, where all the tours start. We chose it for so many reasons, for one, because every room has a view, for another, that it is Navaho owned and operated, and last but not least, they advertise that they have some of the best star-gazing because there is no light from nearby cities; there are no nearby cities (Kayenta is about 30 miles away.)

At check-in, we are delighted; the lobby is lovely! It is light and bright and full of art works. We are also chagrined, the receptionist is rude to the people in front of us, and not at all welcoming to us. She wasn’t rude to us, just very businesslike and unsmiling. Maybe she was just having a bad day.

 

This is the area where people met up with their tour guides for the morning, afternoon and evening tours.

 

This is our room. It was lovely. We loved the art work, we loved the very spacious bathroom, and oh my, we loved the view.

 

 

The view, straight out:

 

The view to the right

The view to the left

 

As the late-afternoon sun begins to mellow, the colors morph and darken

 

 

Staying in this hotel is SO worth it.

 

The hotel has a fabulous gift shop, full of lovely jewelry, art items, artifacts. AdventureMan looked at a beautiful knife for our son; the cost was over $500. Oops! They also had more affordable things, one of our grand children’s favorite gifts was a bag of colored rocks, LOL. They had some good books, with Indian legends, written for children, and of course, T-shirts.

 

We ate dinner in The View restaurant, it was packed, full, with lots of families with young children and lots of tourists, some in groups. The servers did their best, but it was chaotic. AdventureMan had the “famous” green chili stew, which he said was not very interesting, and I had a taco salad, which was equally not very interesting. Our breakfast there, the next morning, was equally not very interesting. It was a breakfast buffet with a very limited selection.

There is another downside. During the day, the hotel facilities are dominated by the day-trippers. The hotel area is sort-of separated from the more public areas, but the feeling is chaotic. It all calms down dramatically when the last bus leaves. Wait to visit the gift shop after the teeming hoards have departed.

The upside of The View is the view. The upside is that the view at sunset is gorgeous. The upside is that it truly is magnificent star gazing. The upside is that the sunrise is beyond magnificent.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bryce Canyon Pines and Dinosaur Tracks en Route to Zion National Park

We hate to leave Bryce Canyon Inn, we really love staying in this cabin, but the road beckons, so we get up early and find Bryce Canyon Pines on our route. Bryce Canyon Pines is a motel and restaurant, with a cowboy theme. As soon as we walked in, we knew we had come to the right place.

I wish you could hear the country music radio playing old old classic country and western tunes. I wish you could smell the buttery smell of pancakes and waffles in the pans, and the bacon frying. This is about as down-home as you can get.

 

I ask if I can have my veggie omelette made with 2 eggs, not 3 and the waitress says “of course!”

AdventureMan says these are the BEST biscuits and gravy!

I take photos quickly, before the restaurant starts to fill up.

 

This is a really cute place, and we heard they are also good for lunch and dinner.

We can actually get to Zion very quickly, maybe an hour and a half, but we decide we want more adventure. AdventureMan finds a road through the mountains, to another interstate, which we are hoping will take us to some other dinosaur tracks, more accessible, south of Zion. We have the time, and it sounds like fun.

First out, AdventureMan spots a Pronghorn Deer. “Take a picture! Take a picture!” he shouts, knowing I keep my camera in my lap, available for just such an emergency. The Pronghorn ignores us, so we shoot, quickly, and leave him in peace.

 

This is one of those photos that doesn’t work. High in the hills (once again, we have snow flurries at the higher altitudes) there are small groves of shining white birch trees among the pines. The white against the green is so beautiful, but it doesn’t translate in photos.

Did I mention it was cold? This lake, at a resort along the small Utah road, is still partially frozen. It is beautiful.

We hit the interstate, and quickly get to Hurricane, don’t you love the name? AdventureMan is looking for a particular site with dinosaur tracks, so we stop at the local historical museum for information. They told us just where to go and how to get there.

We follow the directions, and end up on a very rural road. It is so rural, it is open range and cows are on the road. The pavement ends, and it is sandy and rough. It is also hot, really hot, thank goodness we have water with us. There are no signs.

Finally, we pass Fort Morgan, which was part of the instructions, so we keep going, making a right where the track splits here, and then a sharp left a half mile later. We go up a steep hill, and finally, we find a sign. We are out in the middle of effing nowhere.

 

Looking back down the road we came in on. Of course, to get to the tracks is an uphill hike. Did I mention it is really, really hot? We are like in the desert!

 

This time, I am the one who spots the tracks. They are set aside, sort of protected, except that you can see people have chiseled out parts of the tracks and taken them for their own use. That just breaks my heart.

The signs tell us who made which track, and once you know what the tracks look like, they are easier to find.

Yep, this is it. These are the tracks. Maybe three good ones, and it was a long, hot drive followed by a long hot hike. Actually, it was a lot of fun, as adventures go, we survived, but I still get to tease AdventureMan about it.

 

We are starving. We head back into Saint George, UT, where we find this really fun restaurant with a bear theme, and pretty good salmon. I’m a happy woman.

Our reservation packet from Zion National Park included a red tag to hang from our rear view mirror. It allows us to drive to the lodge in our own car, since we are staying there. It also allows us in and out of the park, which comes in handy for us restless types. Check in is perfunctory; some lodges have chirpy, friendly receptionists, Zion has slow, surly receptionists. We like our spacious room and balcony, but we miss the privacy of our cabin.

 

We have dinner later on the terrace in the Lodge, salmon cakes and a salad for me, the salad bar and soup for AdventureMan. There are still tourist buses loading up in front of the lodge around 7; guess they are the last ones out.

 

Once the last bus leaves, you would think it would grow more quiet, but the lodge is full of hiking groups, many with wine, and they are having a fine time, everyone out on the balconies, hopping from room to room. Fortunately, they are early risers, and so also go to bed rather quickly. By nine, all is silent. We check for stars, and we can see a few, but it is hazy, so the stars are not so bright.

 

I know I have mentioned before the National Parks special card for seniors. My friends, this card is such a deal. You buy it once, I thin it costs 10 or 20 dollars. It covers you and the whole car every time you enter a National Park. It is such a deal that both AdventureMan and I each have one – we have Fort Pickens nearby, which is a national seashore park, and we often take visitors out to see the fort. These passes are good for life. It is a way the United States Park Systems honors aging US citizens. How cool is that, especially when the major parks charge $25 entry per car?

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Beauty, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spectacular Beauty in Bryce Canyon, UT

We wanted to see the sun rise in Bryce Canyon, so we chose to have an early breakfast at the rustically beautiful Bryce Canyon Lodge.

“Why didn’t we stay here?” asks AdventureMan, although we really love the cabins where we are.

“I can’t remember,” I reply, miserably, because I really can’t remember. When I was originally making plans it was for earlier in April, and I discovered all the best places were already booked! It was Easter, and Spring Break, and although I thought I was booking way early, no, I wasn’t.

AdventureMan also reminded me about the snow-in-the-pass issue, so I moved the trip almost four weeks later, and we are still running into snow-in-the-pass as well as snow almost every place else, too. It’s just little patches of snow, and occasional flurries of snow, which quickly pass and leave no trace.

Plus, I’m an Alaska girl, remember? I have a wardrobe of hooded sweatshirts and jeans, beautiful German boiled wool coats, which I considered investment clothing, knowing we had a house waiting our return to the Pacific Northwest in Edmonds, WA. While I may be a sartorial fish-out-of-water in Pensacola, FL, I KNOW how to dress in the chill mountain temperatures, and I am happy!

But I will let you decide for yourself. Temperatures are, indeed, chill, but just look at this light! Look at the sunlight, the blue skies, the way the patches of snow make the greens look greener and the gives the reds more depth. This day is one of the happiest days in my life; there is beauty on this earth which no human hand can create nor capture.

Breakfast at the Bryce Canyon Lodge was a lot of fun. I had the Bryce Canyon Breakfast, two eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast. I asked the waitress just not to even bother with the potatoes, and she listened. She also kept my coffee cup filled, and was efficient without making us feel in the least bit rushed.

Bryce Canyon Lodge exterior

Bryce Canyon Lodge entrance from parking lot

Bryce Canyon Lodge lobby

Bryce Canyon Lodge display of local arts

 

As soon as we had finished breakfast, we walked straight out from the lodge to a place about half way between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. This early in the morning, before too many of the tour buses arrived, we were able to take advantage of the light and have a great walk, from Sunrise to Sunset 🙂

I can’t help it. If you were in Bryce Canyon with me, you would also be taking photos like crazy. You know capturing such beauty and such grandeur is just not possible, but something within begs you to try; you want to take a little bit of it all back with you. I am sorry for you, you are going to have to put up with all my photos, my babies, my pieces of grandeur, which one would you have me sacrifice?

 

There is beauty to the left and grandeur to the right, everywhere you look. This is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I have ever been.

Rainbow bridge

 

This reminds me of the Heidelberg Castle, like a huge long castle defense

There were a surprising number of children in this park. I say surprising, because it truly is dangerous, on the same scale as Grand Canyon, this is nature, not Disneyland. Not everything is roped off or gated, you are expected to use good judgement and not get too close to the edge. In my opinion, unless you keep your child on a leash, you are taking a chance taking a young child to Bryce Canyon. Wait until they are 10 or so, and understand the dangers.

At Yovimpa Point, I was taking a photo, near the edge, and was steadying myself against a tree. When I stood up, fast, I whacked my forehead on a tree limb. First it swelled, then it showed a long cut and gorgeous bruise. I felt like a true wild woman, or a pirate, with my colorful head wound.

Bryce Canyon is a wonderful place to walk, with great walkways. Yes, this one has rails. Not all the trails do.

All these viewpoints have cute names. This one might be Balzac? Or Queen Victoria? I took it because I loved the contrasting greens, and snow, with the rusts and oranges, and the mountains dim in the background.

These eroded sandstone pillars are called Hoodoos. You can buy all kinds of sweatshirts and T-shirts (we didn’t) that say “I hiked the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon”

 

I’m pretty sure this is Thor’s Hammer.

 

This narrow canyon reminds me so much of our camel trips in Wadi Rum, near Petra, in Jordan.

 

After another best morning of the trip 🙂 we have lunch at the Bryce Canyon Lodge; I have a particular reason, they have an elk stew. We used to eat elk when I was a kid and I didn’t remember what it tasted like. There wasn’t a lot of meat in the stew, mostly carrots and potatoes. The elk seemed a lot like ground beef.

 

There is no such thing as “enough” when you are taking photos at Bryce Canyon. We loved all the places we travelled on this trip, but in retrospect, Bryce Canyon was the most stunningly beautiful place we visited. We were glad, really glad, we did it in May, before schools get out and there are even more people in the park. Many many were from other countries, and we were happy to see them. Astounded, really, at how many Chinese there were.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Exercise, Hotels, Jordan, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Arches Thai in Moab, UT

We were so hungry! Hiking all morning left us starving, and wanting something healthy. We found Arches Thai listed as a hidden gem, and when we found it, we totally agreed. First, it is beautiful. It has a lovely atmosphere, even before we saw the menu.

 

 

The menu was huge. We ordered samosas, which were unusual – maybe filled with sweet potato? Whatever it was, it was fabulous.

 

We both ordered Rama, a dish I love and a dish I don’t find in Pensacola. We chose chicken, and it was served over a bed of beautifully steamed broccoli.

 

There was so much food we packaged up what was left over and took it back to our hotel, where we had a refrigerator and a microwave. We had the same delicious Rama for dinner 🙂

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | Leave a comment

Denver to Moab: Snow and Ice, Sun and Heat

 

Sometimes an early start might not be the best choice. We loved the easy access to the highway, and the quick Google Earth designated by-way that helped us avoid all but four or five minutes of the Denver morning traffic, but as we headed into the mountains, I had a pit in my stomach seeing a long red stretch between Denver and Glenwood Springs, and not a lot of options.

 

The sights of snow, truckers putting on heavy chains, and then a big sign that tells us the tunnel is blocked due to an accident, none of these are good signs. Our rental car is low to the ground, and not heavy. We watch the temperature drop as we rise higher, and tell ourselves this is the beginning of a great adventure, and every adventure entails a little risk, it adds spice. Right?

We see cars that have slid off the road, and it is starting to snow heavily. The temperature falls below 30 degrees (F) and we watch for ice, and black ice. Fortunately, there are not a lot of people on the road. We are guessing they know better. Worse, many, like us, have California plates, a sign of a Denver rental car.

“No one on the slopes,” AdventureMan observes.

“The snow is too sticky,” I reply, instincts still strong from my Alaska days.

We think we have passed through the worst, when we come to Vail and take a break for a stroll and a cup of coffee. We were enchanted. If we didn’t already have reservations for tonight, we would get a room in one of these very German, very charming hotels.

 

Safe in Glenwood Springs, where we stayed two years ago on our way to Denver, where we took the plunge in the sulphery spring fed pool. We look for the Italian restaurant where we had a great meal, but it is closed. On the other hand, there is a great barbecue place, looking open, looking warm. Smoke is where we are meant to be 🙂

 

 

They have five different kinds of barbecue sauce. We order a starter of onion rings so we can taste test all the sauces.

 

AdventureMan is really cold; he needs tea to warm him up inside and out. He wraps his hands around his hot hot cup of tea.

Very quickly our meals arrived. AdventureMan ordered a barbecued pork sandwich with a side of baked beans. He said it was as good as anything we have eaten in the South, very tasty.

I had the pulled chicken with cole slaw, and there was so much chicken I couldn’t eat it all. I couldn’t even eat the bun at all. So much food, I hate to waste it but we have miles to go, and we are heading into hotter temperatures, so we leave all the left overs behind.

As we leave Smoke, a few snow flakes catch up with us . . .

 

 

Interstate 70 is a piece-of-cake now, snow and ice free, temperatures rising. Very shortly, we come to the turn-off to Moab, and then, the turn off to Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands. AdventureMan says it is one of the best $15 we have ever spent; suddenly we are in a new world, full of natural glory.

 

 

 

 

What is really fun is that the next afternoon, we were down, way far down, in this same canyon, searching out petroglyphs.

 

 

 

 

This reminds me of decades ago, in Tunisia, where villages would be built atop cliffs like this. The rock formations on top look a little like the ghorfas, storage caves, except there are no TV antennas.

 

 

The sun is getting low by the time we are ready to stop hiking around, even so, we keep stopping for one more glorious sight. But now, it is time to check into our hotel, another Fairfield, this one bills itself as “the closest hotel to Arches National Park”. Our room is spacious, and clean, the whole hotel is very very new. The beds are wonderful . . . except once again, they have this crackly plastic cover that makes for sleeping hot.

Moab is a lot of fun, full of energy. There are a lot of athletic looking people going hiking, going boating, going biking, going rafting, going rock climbing. They are all ages, and from all kinds of places. We drive up and down the main drag, looking at other hotels and motels, and really get a laugh at the one TripAdvisor kept telling me was right for us; it is a little dive with tiny rooms and limited parking lot and looks very very noisy.

We had heard the Twisted Sista was our kind of place, and when we got there, we believed it. After our hearty lunch at Smoke, we wanted light. We both ordered French Onion Soup and the Mediterranean (or was it Greek?) Salad, and the soup was fabulous (we did scrape off all the cheese, there was really a lot of cheese) and the salad even better. We had dessert; AdventureMan ordered some chocolate bombe, and I had a puckery lemon sorbet, just what I love! So tart, and just a little sweet.

The Mediterranean Salad

After dinner, we took a drive, figuring out where we wanted to go the next day, and caught the last gleam of light on the hills as the sun went down.

 

 

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, GoogleEarth, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, 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.  🙂 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

Cafe Degas in New Orleans

We love our trips to New Orleans, and are able to go often, even just on the spur of the moment. Such was our trip last weekend, we needed to pick up some things from our friends at Zito’s, and decided to make it an overnight.

We have never visited the New Orleans Museum of Art, so we looked for restaurants nearby and found Cafe Degas, a French restaurant.

We miss France. Going to France was one of the best parts of living in Germany, not far from the French border. We were in France all the time, and oh, how we miss France.

We found Cafe Degas with no trouble, and were able to find a parking spot within a short walk.

cafedegasentry

 

Each table filled almost as soon as it emptied. There were families, people coming in after church, friends meeting up to share their weeks. It had a great vibe.

cdinterior

The bread was wonderful, crispy on the outside, light as a cloud on the inside

cdfrenchbread

We LOVE mussels. These were perfect, and the broth was exquisite.

cafedegasmussels

The mussels come with fries. Normally I will avoid fries, but oh, these were so good. I ate about half, more than I had intended! I had thought “oh one bite won’t hurt!” and twenty fries later, I still had trouble stopping.

cdfrenchfries

3127 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 945-5635

Hours of operation
Lunch: Wednesday through Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm.

We are open for drinks, salads and appetizers between lunch and dinner service Wed – Sat.
Dinner: Wednesday through Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm.
Sunday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10:30am – 3:00pm

HAPPY HOUR Wednesday and Thursday 3:00pm – 6:00pm

All Major Credit Cards Accepted

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, France, Mardi Gras, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

P1020847.JPG

P1020875.JPG

A restaurant nearby the Talisman:

P1020898.JPG

Breakfast at the Talisman:

P1020907.JPG

The historical nearby Bab, or gate:

P1020909.JPG

A nearby Tabak and the friendly operator:

P1020916.JPG

Streetside bakery:

P1020935.JPG

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

P1020937.JPG

A Christian Shop near Bab Thoma:

P1020946.JPG

P1020964.JPG

P1020967.JPG

P1020973.JPG

P1020975.JPG

P1020981.JPG

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:

P1030002.JPG

P1030018.JPG

P1030023.JPG

P1030068.JPG

P1030091.JPG

P1030099.JPG

P1030103.JPG

P1030110.JPG

P1030124.JPG

P1030132.JPG

P1030133.JPG

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.

P1030135.JPG

Inside Naranj

P1030136.JPG

P1030137.JPG

P1030140.JPG

A merchant in the Souk al Hamidiyya

P1030157.JPG

P1030183.JPG

P1030184.JPG

P1030186.JPG

P1030189.JPG

A courtyard restaurant set up for Christmas dinners:

P1030201.JPG

P1030209.JPG

 

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