Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Yellowstone: Old Faithful to Canyon Village via Grant Village and Lake Village

Have I told you how great AdventureMan is? We’ve had a terrible night’s sleep, but he is awake at six and says “Let’s go.” He knows I really want to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, but it is one of the major attractions in the park, and is bound to be crowded if we go later. It is also back the way we came, not the way we are going, but he is game, and off we go.

I try not to go into a trip with high expectations; I try to sort of let the trip expand before me, but I really wanted to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. I am really into color, and just look at this colors! Go on the internet and see the colors!

But the first thing we see when we get to the Midway Geyser Basin, where the Grand Prismatic Spring resides, is something spectacular that is not the Grand Prismatic Spring. (Remember about letting the trip unfold before you?) This is Excelsior Geyser, glorious in the morning sun. We were mesmerized.

 

It is a bitterly chill morning, and the steam is everywhere. There are two other couples in this huge area, so essentially, we have this gorgeous area all to ourselves.

 

The “hike” is along a frosty boardwalk, and it is a sweet sunny morning. We come next to the Turquoise Pool:

 

So we are shooting across it, there is steam everywhere, and it is impossible to get a photo that will show you how impressive the colors are, but the pond is, indeed, very turquoise.

So remember the beautiful info sheet I showed you on Grand Prismatic Spring? This is what we could capture:

You can see how large it CAN be, but this is not Disney-does-Yellowstone, this is the real world, where life doesn’t always happen the way you want it to. I am disappointed, but oh my, Excelsior is a thrill (just to back to the Excelsior photo and see why I am so thrilled.)

There is a trail, only .6 mile, that starts at the Angel Falls Trailhead and takes you to an overlook of the Middle Geyser Basin, and maybe this would all be more impressive from there. AdventureMan asks if I want to go hike the trail and I say no, there is too much steam. Even from above, cold morning, hot steam, visibility is poor. We’re coming back next year, maybe I can hike it then on a different day and get a different result.

As we cross the bridge, I see that the cold air is showing up a variety of hot springs going into the freezing river.

The river goes pretty fast at this time of year, swollen by snow melt. I wonder what it is like to swim this river in the summer months?

Just to keep you up to speed, we are leaving Old Faithful, headed toward Grant Village, then up to Lake Village, then to Canyon Village, where the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is.

 

Just past Old Faithful, heading across the Continental Divide is Kepler Cascades:

We head across Craig Pass (elevation 8262) to Isa Lake and we have high snow on both sides of the road. We only see a couple trucks the entire drive. This road has only been open to traffic for a couple days. Yellowstone National Park has a website where you can keep track of which roads are open and which are not. It matters.

This is from Wikipedia on Continental Divide:

A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea. Every continent on earth except Antarctica which has no free-flowing water has at least one continental drainage divide; islands, even small ones like Killiniq Island on the Labrador Sea in Canada, may also host part of a continental divide or have their own island-spanning divide.

You may not think it is important now, but one day you may come to a continental divide sign and wonder what exactly it means. It means on one side, water flows in a different direction, to a different outcome, than on the other side.

We crossed the continental divide several times, twice on this same road and then again later.

By this point it was only around 8:30 in the morning, but we had been hiking, and in and out of the car, and it was really cold out. There were piles of snow taller than me by far in the parking lots. Can you see what a beautiful day we are having? We get to Grant Village and start looking for a place to eat. We find the Lake House Restaurant. Inside, it looks like this:

Wow, huh? Those very high ceilings, all that glass looking out at a spectacular view. The staff is all recruited from across the USA, and some from other countries, too. Our first waiter was of Arab descent. So fabulous physical setting and really helpful, energetic, patient (dealing with a lot of foreign visitors who spoke little English, didn’t understand the procedures, maybe didn’t understand the currency) and kind staff. I think that a lot of their customers don’t tip, but the staff gives the same wonderful service to everyone. The food wasn’t anything to remember, but they had great coffee, great service, a lovely facility and a drop-dead gorgeous view.

Above is before the haze blew away. Below is after. Wow.

I’m going to bore you with four photos of Lake Yellowstone that I just love. I just loved this drive. It reminded me of places in Alaska, where I grew up. There is still ice on the lake, although it is breaking up.

 

 

 

We see lots of cars with boats on trailers in this area; I love boating and fishing, and I cannot imagine this is a good time of the year to be fishing, but I could be wrong. It must be REALLY cold out on the water.

We head up through Lake Village, which has two beautiful lodges and a camp ground. I cannot tell you from personal experience, but reviews had all said the Lake Hotel has the best Lodge food on Yellowstone. This is what ThrillList has to say:

The Lake Hotel

If money is no object and you’re looking for absolute class, anyone who knows anything will tell you to go to the Lake Hotel. Breakfast and lunch are first come, first served, but reserve in advance for dinner, when you can go for fresh fish or bison but also lobster florentine or Montana wagyu beef, depending on the mood.

In addition, ThrillList recommends that you do a lot of picnics – the prepared food you buy in Yellowstone National Park restaurants is not that good, and it is expensive.

From Lake Village, we head north through Hayden Village towards Canyon Village and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You are paralleling the Yellowstone River all the way. We stopped a couple times, once for bear and once to view the Sulphur Cauldron / Mud Volcano. It smells like fire and brimstone!

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June 23, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Random Musings, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park: Old Faithful and Old Faithful Inn

I love this photo, which I owe to my husband. we were out for a walk after dinner and he spied this old bison in front of the steaming geyser, just walking along, not at all concerned about the dangerous ground.

 

Forty two years ago, (we were so young) my husband and I spent six weeks driving across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus with our six month old baby and our cat, Big Nick. Mostly we camped; one time Big Nick, who was dog-like and usually came when we called, didn’t come. We had to cool our heels for a couple hours before he sauntered out of the meadow and rejoined us. We stopped in Yellowstone, and stayed at the Old Faithful Inn. Big Nick had to stay in the car.

So when we started planning this trip, we knew we had to stay in the Old Faithful Inn. This time, we wanted a bathroom, in our room, not down the hall.

We loved our room. It is so quaint and cabin-ish. It even had a radiator, and because it is very cold, the radiator feels good. For a while.

This is the view from our room:

 

 

 

I loved this old time bathroom with it’s clawfoot tub and octagon-tiled floor.

 

We watched Old Faithful erupt, and quickly went to the Bear Pit so we could grab something to eat. We had looked at the dining room, which is grand and atmospheric, but even the staff told us it was too expensive for the unreliable quality of the food.

The Bear Pit Lounge is a bar that serves food. It seemed odd to me – it was a large space, with few tables, mostly for six people. Not much food, a few items. We thought we would try the bison burger, in honor of being in Yellowstone. It took a loooonnngggg time to get there. The fries were cold. The bison burger was ok.

 

 

I took a couple photos of the Old Faithful Inn Dining Room. Normally I love lodge dining rooms. Not so much this one.

 

 

After dinner, we take a walk over to the Old Hamilton Store – remember, you saw a photo of it from the Museum of the Rockies? On our way back, we were far enough away that when Old Faithful erupted, I could capture the whole thing. The firs time, I was too close.

 

 

 

 


So I can be a little wonky about old lodges, but we were so delighted to be at Old Faithful Inn . . . until we went to bed. I had taken a bath in the claw foot tub, fighting my guilt about using all that water, but the room was hot – all that radiant heat. We had the window wide open because we couldn’t get the radiator to stop radiating. We were also in a bed that called itself a Queen, but hmmm. . . . we used to sleep in a double bed, and this bed was very small, like a double bed.

We could hear every conversation, from the outside, from the rooms on either side of us, from the hallway. Any time, all night, someone went in our out of their room, we could hear it. It was very atmospheric, and it was the worst nights sleep of our entire trip.

I wouldn’t recommend skipping the Old Faithful Inn. You can visit. You can sit in the galleries and drink coffee or have ice cream and listen to the cellist. You can make reservations and eat at the Dining Room. You can do all that. You can take a tour of the historical parts of the hotel. We are actually going back next year, we already have reservations, but we will stay in the newer part of the hotel . . . with bathrooms.

Why stay at Old Faithful Inn? Early early the next morning, before any of the tour buses or day-trippers arrive, you can have Old Faithful all to yourself, to give you a private eruption with the sun gleaming off the steam in the icy cold morning.

(Thinking of all my old Kuwaiti friends and the Kuwaiti sunrise series I used to run)

June 22, 2019 Posted by | Food, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Day at Sea Between Qaqortoq and L’Anse aux Meadows, Canada

 

AdventureMan pokes me awake, he’s hungry. “I felt like I was falling out of the bed a couple times last night!” he told me.

I am sympathetic. I don’t have motion sickness, but the other day, after a massage, in the spa at the bottom of the boat, I felt queasy. I’m pretty sure it was the moisturizing lotion; there was something about the smell of it, but once I had showered it off, I was OK again. I can imagine what it must be like to have that feeling every time the boat rocks and rolls.

 

 

The sun is coming up; it may be a little rocky but it is a beautiful day. We even see some gulls.

After breakfast, we grab our reading material and head up to the Explorer’s Lounge, where we  have a 180 degree view facing forward. There is a rainbow, ending almost on our ship, and a shadow rainbow with it. Surely, that is the best of luck!

 

Midmorning, we still have beautiful skies, even some blue, lots of sunshine. A little rocky but people are getting used to it.

I love the way the wind blows the spray off the top of the waves and leaves a ghostly mist.

 

 

 

We had a wonderful dinner in the Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, last night. I had a cold tomato soup, very tasty, even some peppery heat, and the seafood platter, AdventureMan had Caprese Insalata and the Seafood Platter. It was a lovely evening altogether, great food, attentive service and very interesting dining companions from the Carolinas.

 

Every day the Captain comes on at noon to give us a location and conditions update. “Ladies and Yentlemen” he begins and then brings us up to speed on what we can expect, ending with “From the bridge, all is well.” We love that ending. All is well.

September 18, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Restaurant, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Dawn in Reykjavik, Iceland

The omens are all good, the old Norse Gods must be happy, as we enter Reykjavik harbor:

 

 

We are up for the sunrise, we have a full day excursion on our agenda and we meet the guides almost as soon as the boat docks.

 

The day is beautiful and we can’t wait to get started.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, sunrise series, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Glorious Sea Day to Reykjavik

It’s party time aboard the Viking Sea, with gentle seas and blue skies and a whole load of sunshine:

 

One of the fun parts of this trip is that every other day or so, we gain another hour, so we often get to sleep in an hour “extra” in the morning. Even after sleeping our extra hour, we were up bright and shiny, had our breakfast, and I suited up and hit to pool when it opened, at 0800.

Except . . . it wasn’t opened. I was still mostly emptied, and closed. The jacuzzi was open (or as the spa manager calls it, the ya-kut-zi) and I spent about ten minutes there, but for me jacuzzis aren’t that fun, I really loved how the waves rolled and roiled as the ship tosses from side to side, and fore and aft. It did, however, give me time to update the blog.

AdventureMan and I laugh; we spend money to have a nice room and we spend time reading. We could do that at home, but at home, there are so many things demanding our attention. We are willing – even eager – to have this time with no responsibilities, no cooking, no cleaning, no yard work. There is some guilt associated with the luxury of having this kind of time, especially when the hurricanes have devastated to many to the east of us, and to the west of us. It’s almost primal; if we enjoy ourselves too much are we inviting destruction?

When we get hungry, later than usual because of the time change, we discover that with everyone on board, no tours, no lunches in a local city, everyone using the same facilities, that the facilities are more crowded than usual. The World Cafe, where we take most of our meals, is packed. We head for the Pool Cafe, which we also like, but there is a loud rock band entertaining the lunchers, and people have even found our hidden favorite places near the WinterGarden.

 

Below is the World Cafe, where we tend to eat. There are other restaurants, an Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s, the Chef’s Table, where a specialty menu is paired with wines, and another called The Restaurant.

AdventureMan and I are odd. We have preferences, and our preferences are strong enough to prevent us from eating often in the other restaurants. We really like Italian food, and we have eaten at Manfredi’s, where we found the tables too close together for our comfort; we could hear every word of conversations in every directions, and we felt shy about having our own conversations which could be overheard. We also asked for small portions, and were told that the plates come as they come; they didn’t split, they couldn’t give small portions, but that we would love it so much we would want to eat it all. I hope my face didn’t show how aghast I was at that response.

We had similar problems with The Restaurant. Seats too close together, no privacy, and the service is SO SO SLOW. I can manage an hour, even an hour in a half without getting too antsy, but at some point attention deficit kicks in and all I can think is “get me out of here!” Too much eating! The Chef’s Table does a lot with foam and freezing and precious tiny portions of things I can barely taste, as well as having close seating and pretentious presentation. Actually, that is too harsh, I am a fan of presentation, it is this style that annoys me and you might like it just fine.  You might like more leisurely meals, and be fine with two to two and a half hours of sitting, but I am a restless sort, so as fine as some of the food may be, I like the World Cafe.

 

It would be awful to be married to someone whose style was different from your own. Lucky for me, AdventureMan is a lot like me. We really LIKE good food (you couldn’t guess 😉 reading this blog?) In the World Cafe, I can tell the man I would like a small portion of the risotto, and I get a small portion. Or if I want to make a dinner of mushroom soup, I can go back for more. We have found the horseradish, the tabasco sauce, the red pepper flakes, the balsamic vinegar, the things we need to enhance the blander foods. We are up and down, soup, salad, maybe a little main course – or maybe not. We like having choices, and I even like being able to get up and walk around to get what I want next. All that walking helps me justify a small bowl of ice cream, or even maybe a small fudge brownie. All the desserts are tiny, which I like a lot. They also have smaller plates and larger plates; we stick to the smaller plates.

It’s not that we are so virtuous; it must be an age group thing. The ship is full of our demographic, and most are eating healthily.

This was my lunch on the Sea-Day-En-Route-to-Reykjavik – fritto misto, green beans, and a soba noodle salad which tasted of sesame, divine combination.

 

With the glorious sunshine, there is a party atmosphere on board, a huge group playing Trivia in the Explorer’s Lounge, the bridge players all down in the Chef’s Table, lectures in the Star Theatre, movies – so much going on!

My thrill – I had just washed my hair and was dressing when I saw a spout. I know that spout! That is whale! I quickly finished dressing and went out on the balcony, where I happily spent an hour or two taking photos where the whale had just been. Finally I got the one photo showing a spout as it was just finishing. I quit taking photos and just enjoyed the sunshine and the frolicking whales; one was flicking his tail after spouting.

 

The day ends with a beautiful sunset. We are nearing Reykjavik, and can’t wait to visit this beautiful, dramatic land.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Blogging, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Restaurant, sunrise series, Sunsets, Travel, Wildlife | , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Dawn at Sea en route to Iceland

Dawn? Well, close enough to sunrise. We are all sleeping a little late, it’s an at-sea day with no great requirements to be any where at any time. There will be lectures and activities, for those who wish them (one on Icelandic down feathers) and plenty of free time for those who love to use their free time for other things, things like keeping a blog up to date. 😉

While it is not what I would call heavy seas, the boat rolls back and forth, and horrors – the big pool in the spa is closed for maintenance. I had envisioned rolling around while I do some exercise, and settled for only the hot tub, which gets old – and hot – after about ten minutes.

 

 

 

September 13, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Exercise, ExPat Life, sunrise series, Travel | Leave a comment

The Wake of the Vikings: Dawn in Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Our wake up call comes at 0730, and we have slept through the night! We celebrate even minor blessings 🙂 another of which is that despite the heavy clouds, it is not raining, and rain is not expected until late afternoon. We’ll take that 🙂

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Travel, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Monument Valley: A Day to Remember

When we decided to go to Monument Valley, we decided to go all out, and we are so glad we did. We had read you can go down and visit many of the places in Monument Valley on your own, which we often like to do, go places on our own. On the other hand, doing Monument Valley on your own, you could very well miss something important.

So we signed up with Majestic Monument Tours, for a morning in Mystery Valley and an afternoon in the regular valley below the hotel. Bright and early we met our guide, Hope, in the hotel lobby and our day began.

Immediately we were so glad to be with Hope. For one thing, she is knowledgeable, not showy but quiet and modest and full of good information, if you want to know. Second, she is a really great driver, and some of the places she took us needed four wheel drive. Third, many of the places she took us were also off-limits to people who did not have guides. Last and not least, the roads were as bad as any we have ever driven in Africa or the Middle East, and our little rental car might have suffered damage had we tried these excursions on our own. Going with a guide was the right decision, for so many reasons.

This was another best day of our entire road trip.

While it was still cool, we hiked up to some dwellings, straight up the red rock. I didn’t have any problem going up, I wasn’t worried about going up, it’s always going down on rock where I worry – loose pebbles can make your foot slip, and there are no soft surfaces on the way down. I did fine, and I thought AdventureMan did, too, only to learn when we got back to the hotel at the end of the day that he had actually slid and tumbled badly down one rock slope when he had gone up to photograph some hand prints in a location that I would not attempt.

This is the rock hill I climbed, early in the morning, while it was still cool. By later in the day, it was too hot for me, I would hike, but hide in the shady areas.

This is Hope, our guide, with me at the top of the hill, and the truck down at the bottom of the hill.

I risked it all for petroglyphs.

I was cooing and babying him, so sorry I had no idea that he had hurt himself, but he said “I didn’t want anyone to know, and the most important thing is I didn’t damage my camera.” LOL, so stoic, and here we are bumping around all day in hard seats mounted on a truck, like we are riding really difficult hard horses most of the day, and he doesn’t make a peep!

 

This is the cliff AdventureMan fell down. He had gone up to take photographs of family hand prints and petroglyphs on the wall. He was the only one who climbed up with Hope.

 

The day was full of wonders, including backdrops from old cowboy movies. When we cam back, AdventureMan reviewed a lot of the movies mentioned and would call me in and say “Look! Clint Eastwood is climbing that rock formation!” or “John Wayne is there with those cliffs in the background!” That was a lot of fun.

 

 

I love pictographs and petroglyphs. Can you see these?

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s what I find interesting about the following two:  each one has a right hand that is enlarged. I wonder if it is co-incidence, or if the enlargement of the right hand has significance? Look at the line coming out of the head of the top figure. That doesn’t look accidental, it looks intentional. What could it mean? These were intelligent human beings, problem solvers, artists. We have to give them credit for having as much capability of expression and intent as we have – or do we?

 

 

At one of the hollowed out areas, Hope pulled out her flute and played a haunting melody, echoed off the wall. It was a wonderful moment.

I liked this formation below a lot; it is called Three Sisters, and I am one of three sisters.

I think this was called God’s Eyes

And this was called God’s ear.

One of the classic cowboy movie backdrops.

Late in the afternoon, we got back to the hotel, grabbed quick naps (hey! it’s vacation!) and then headed to Amigos for a truly great dinner.

I woke up early to take this photo for you. This is sunrise in Monument Valley. You want this on your bucket list. Look, you can even see a star and the dim lights of the first trucks heading down into the valley to capture the early morning light.  🙂

 

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Local Lore, Road Trips, sunrise series, Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Viking Sea Disembarcation

Somehow, we go to bed around 8:30 pm and actually sleep. At 0215 we get our wake-up call as requested, and, as ordered, a beautiful breakfast shows up with a cheerful room service waiter, and we have coffee, tea and croissants as we hurriedly dress. We are to be in the terminal by 0300.

We are there by 0245, us and just about everyone else in our timing – Viking seems to attract those sorts, people who show up where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there. We are astonished to learn that there was a group ahead of us, they are just finishing up, and yes, there are a few pieces of luggage not claimed, so I guess not quite everyone made it on time.

We identified our luggage, which had been picked up outside our rooms the night before, watched as it was loaded into our assigned bus, and drove for about an hour to the airport. At the airport, there were baggage carts waiting, and we were able to check in very quickly for our flight. We are amazed and delighted; Viking truly has this down to a science. That’s not easy with 900 people disembarking on the same day. Kudos to Viking, even the smallest details are thought through.

As we signed in to the lounge, I said “Kalimeri,” which means Good morning, and the lady said to me “You’re Greek!” and I said no, I am not, but I got that a lot in Greece, I must have a Greek look to me. In truth, there is no Southern Mediterranean blood in me; mostly Scandinavian, French and Irish, or so Ancestry.com tells me.

We depart as the sun rises:

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Everything is smooth until we get to Paris. We have to get to 2E, hall M. We know this drill; it’s the same as last year. “Oh no problem,” the “helper” tells us and hands us this paper with a map and directions:

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You know what? I’m a map reader. I am really good at it. I navigate. We look closely; this map is useless. We start looking for signs and asking as we go, and we go quickly until we find the inner circle of hell, which is the passport line. We have priority passes, so we head to the priority line, but there isn’t even a line, and the real priority line is only for French citizens.

There is one huge shoving, desperate mass of people, all nationalities (except French) and then we find a secondary priority line, and every wheelchair goes to the front, and desperate passengers afraid they are missing their flight go ahead, and those who think they have the right push through, pushing their way in front of others. We are feeling desperate, too, our flight is in a very short time, but we don’t think the scramble to get in front of others is worth the price you pay in karma points.

I will tell you honestly, I have seen similar lines. Laborers in Kuwait lined up to get processed for residence visas. Refugees, desperate to escape violence and poverty, and afraid the gates will close before they get through. It is truly humbling to be a part of this line. Bread lines in which food is running out.

There is no one keeping order. The line inches slowly forward. It is like the end of times, everyone looking after his or her own needs regardless of others. There is little kindness to be seen in this line.

This is shameful. It’s not like this is unexpected. CDG needs to man their passport stations with enough personnel to allow these lines to flow quickly. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a bureaucracy which takes pride in their work.

This is not new; the planes wait, they take off a little later. We make our flight. As much as we love flying Air France, this experience is enough to make us re-think traveling through Paris.

Atlanta is straightforward. Our luggage, by the grace of God, is with us. We fly into Pensacola, and our son is there to meet us and take us home. All is well that ends well.

November 18, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, France, Interconnected, Paris, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, sunrise series, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Morning, Corfu!

November, and we are having spectacular weather. Another fabulous sunrise 🙂

 

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November 3, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, sunrise series, Travel | 4 Comments