Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

In the Wake of the Vikings: Unexpected At Sea Day Instead of Lerwick

Today was actually a bonus for me. We were supposed to land in Lerwick, Scotland, and AdventureMan had been really pumped. He’s watched a mystery series set in the Shetlands, and has read up on some of the things we were going to see. The plan for the day was to be OK’d by British immigration to visit at 0700, all of us lining up through the Chef’s Kitchen, and then our trip would leave to visit ancient civilizations of the Shetlands.

As we stood in line, a rumor spread that the days outings were cancelled. Within a few minutes the captain made an announcement that with the angry seas, he and the pilot had decided it was too dangerous to take us into port and we would have an extra sea day en route to our next stop, the Faroe Islands and Torshavn.

Even AdventureMan was glad. It was really rainy and windy, and he needs another day of sauna and sleep to help him get rid of his terrible cough.

The photos I took ARE in color! The day was just a black and white day!

So we hit the spa at nine, when it opened, and with the pitching and yawing and rolling of the ship, the waters of the pool bubbled and rolled and swished, and it was very hot and great fun. We stayed there about an hour, visiting the snow room and the steam room and the sauna between romps in the pool. Around ten, more people started coming, so we vacated the area. I had a lecture on Viking history in the Shetlands I wanted to attend, and AdventureMan started sleeping.

For me, it was a chance to catch up with the blog. On the busy days, it’s so easy NOT to blog, so this day was a gift, a day I could upload my photos, choose some photos, put them in the blog, and write up the days, as best I could remember them.

AdventureMan went to a lecture on German wolf packs interrupting trade in WWII, and then came back and slept some more.

In the hallways are some very green and very unsteady people, who are more affected by the motion of the water than I am. I have been seasick, but only once, when it was hot and I felt like I needed fresh air. Once I got into the fresh air, I was OK. Mostly, motions sickness doesn’t affect me. One woman at the foot of a stairway was standing stock-still, looking petrified. I am guessing she was afraid she was going to throw up and didn’t want to be embarrassed. We’ve all been in similar situations, and the ship was full of similar situations today.

Our waiter told us a lot of the new crew are sick, and in bed resting; those who are not affected are taking on extra chores. Love that teamwork.

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September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the Wake of the Vikings Aboard the Viking Sky

Boarding the Viking Sky is a piece of cake. There is a line, but with several stations to check you in, it goes quickly. We go straight to our stateroom; we know exactly where it is. It looks . . . almost exactly as the last time we stayed in it. But actually, we have never stayed in it, we stayed in the exact same room when we did Empires of the Mediterranean on the Viking Star. The boats are very similarly built, but have some differences in art work, and perhaps some changes to improve functionality in design. Some little things look different, but I am not sure whether they really are different, or maybe I am remembering wrongly.

View from the Explorer’s Lounge aboard the Viking Sky: a double rainbow!

And blue skies, even just for a moment!

 

While I am unpacking and putting things away, AdventureMan goes to the sauna to help clear his head. He has a wicked bad cold. I know just where everything goes. I love this ship, and I love the familiarity.

IW

September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Oslo City Tour and Embarkation

Here is what I so admire about Viking Ocean Cruises and their associates who have to deal with my demographic – they put up with us. The Viking company must be making a fortune, primarily on U.S. citizens, but also British, Canadian and Australians who travel. Viking Ocean ships are adult only, there are no casinos, no photographers, no annoyances, and almost everything is included. I don’t mind at all if they make a fortune, what I love about their model is that it seems to be mostly win-win-win. They do everything in their power to satisfy their customer, and they give great value for the money.

They are dealing with a group of spoiled big children, and I say that knowing I can be one of them. We are people who want what we pay for, and don’t hesitate to make a fuss if we think something could be better. The Viking staff is a good parent to the needy, whining, tired, confused and frustrated children we become when confronted with the strange, challenging or new situations.

I love how they treat their staff. When we ask how they came to Viking, most have been with other cruise lines. Our cabin steward, Hilda, told us on Carnival she had many more rooms and often four people in each cabin. She said “I work hard for Viking, and it is like a vacation.” She also mentioned, as do others, that Viking pays for her uniforms and provides the staff with free wi-fi so they can stay in touch with their families. What a very kind, very smart thing to do! To comfort your employees, to provide them with peace of mind, and to earn their loyalty through kindness. This is so civilized. They also offer opportunities for advancement.

What we marvel at is that they hire employees from many different nationalities, and teach a kind of team approach to customer service. One wine steward today told us he was handling more than one location because several of the staff are seasick (we have hit some heavy rolling) but that he can handle it, so he does. I’ve seen the senior staff bus a table where dishes have been left, without making a big deal about it. I am betting that they have a rule “If you see something that needs to be done, do it, don’t just tell someone else that it needs doing.” I am betting that, because that is what I see, and I like it. I see the employees looking out after one another, and that is a remarkable achievement.

Before we can board the ship, we have to take a tour of Oslo. Do I sound grumpy? Viking thinks through all the details, and has implemented wonderful procedures, but sometimes I am just tired of being funneled, and like a spoiled baby, I just want to rest, or sleep. But I am compliant, I board the bus, I tour the sites. I can’t really tell you much about what I saw because my attitude got in my way. Here are some photos:

This is like a King’s hall, called the Rosenkrantz, which cracks me up because I’m sure it has some meaning but I think it sounds funny.

This was a king’s residence, and can now be hired for social events.

 

 

 

 

 

I do know this one, it is the Starbucks building, built in the old city meat market.

A great old three masted sailing ship, used to train military and other sailors.

The kind of housing Norway used to have, dense, and all white.


September 11, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

410-844-5516 Unsafe Caller

I’ve grown cautious; I do not answer a phone number any longer that I do not recognize. People who know me are good about leaving a message; I am good at returning those calls.

Today I got a call from 410-844-5516.  I checked it on my computer; several people have listed it as an “unsafe caller.”

We have little power against intrusions on my privacy, but it makes me feel good to publish this number reported as unsafe.

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Adrift in Anacortes

Totally by accident, we fell into one of the very best meals of our trip, and that is saying a lot, because Seattle is full of great food.

We were hungry. AdventureMan thought he had spotted an Italian restaurant, but it turned out to be Mexican – and closed. Across the street, though, we saw a continuous line of people heading into a restaurant called Adrift – Swell Food for Salty Dogs. We decided to take a look.

AdriftExterior

 

I want you to note the garbage can – another tip of the hat to Anacortes past as a canning town, an effort led by the same artist from the previous post, Bill Mitchell, who created more than 150 murals in the town. There are also several of these garbage cans, done to resemble classic canned fish from Anacortes. They are eye-catching.

One look at the menu – it is extensive – and we knew we could find something to like. Once inside, I was wow’ed by the copper-top bar, being kind of a copper fan. But could we even be seated?? It is Mother’s Day, we have no reservation, but we are happy to sit at the bar.

AdriftInterior

 

It isn’t easy to choose what to eat. There is so much on the menu, and we were in the perfect place to see it all coming out.

AdriftCooks

 

AdventureMan settled on their Salmon and Corn Chowder, and their Troller Tuna sandwich. The chowder was superior, awesome, and the tuna had little, if any mayonnaise, it was tasty and perfect.

AdriftChowder

 

AdriftTrollerTuna

 

I ordered the Steamers; little clams in a “drunken” sauce of white wine and garlic and parsley. It was DIVINE, served with foccaccia bread to sop up the clammy, garlicky wine broth. I haven’t been so delighted in years.

AdriftSteamers

Because it was Mother’s Day, AdventureMan ordered a Blueberry Meringue pie. Well, as an Alaska girl, I really do love blueberries, but he really really loves meringue. We shared it, and we were both happy. They gave us so much of the real whipped cream that we shared it with our neighbors at the bar, a group of bikers (of the bicycling sort) enjoying their food as much as we enjoyed ours.

AdriftBlueberryMeringue

If you get to Anacortes, find Adrift, on Commercial Avenue, and eat there. It is purely fabulous.

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SuperMoon, Lunar Eclipse This Weekend

By: The Weather Channel

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Most all of North America, South America and Africa will have a chance to see something truly amazing on Sunday when three celestial events – a full moon, a supermoon, and a lunar eclipse – will coincide for a few hours.

The majority of the viewing area will see the full eclipse for about an hour, but where you are in the world will determine just how late you need stay awake (or how early you need to get up) to take it all in.

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According to USA Today, the West Coast of the United States and Canada have the best timeframe. Folks in Vancouver and Los Angeles can enjoy the sight over dinner with the full eclipse happening around 7:11 p.m. It will last one hour and 12 minutes.

Eastern U.S. cities, including New York and Atlanta, will have to wait until 10:11 p.m., and South American cities such as Rio will have to wait a further hour.

Viewers in Europe and Africa will have to get up early on the morning of the 28th, with the full eclipse peaking at around 3:11 a.m. in London and Tangier and about 4:11 a.m. for Madrid and Cape Town.

September 26, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

When Will Ramadan Start in 2015?

You know I am a planner. When it comes to travel, it pays to know the dates well ahead of time. Vacation spots fill up, flights in and out of a country are fully booked. Ramadan comes earlier every year – it’s time to start thinking about your Ramadan travel plans yesterday!

The following is from “When Is?” a site with national and civil dates from all over the world.

Ramadan in 2015 will start on Thursday, the 18th of June and will continue for 30 days until Friday, the 17th of July.

Note that in the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of Wednesday, the 17th of June.

Although Ramadan is always on the same day of the Islamic calendar, the date on the Gregorian calendar varies from year to year, since the Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. This difference means Ramadan moves in the Gregorian calendar approximately 11 days every year. The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country depending on whether the moon has been sighted or not.

The dates provided here are based on the dates adopted by the Fiqh Council of North America for the celebration of Ramadan. Note that these dates are based on astronomical calculations to affirm each date, and not on the actual sighting of the moon with the naked eyes. This approach is accepted by many, but is still being hotly debated.

December 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Famous Foods in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Here’s the problem. We really like good food, and we know there are a lot of good places to eat in Lake Charles, but we are starting to feel a little fooded-out, a little stuffed. We decide on a nice plain BBQ for this night, and the desk clerk at our hotel knows just the place, Famous Foods.

00FamousFoodsExterior

When we get to Famous Foods, it is self serve, and there are three lines full of people. Some people are ordering to eat in, but others are ordering food to take out, and others are ordering bulk food – they sell prepared food, but they also sell Cajun meats, boudin, sausages, all kinds of foods. It is a learning experience for us, but we finally get in the right line and order.

I order chicken, and ask if I need to choose sides, and the cashier just laughs and says “Oh no, all the sides come with it!”

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When they call our name, we get our food, served in fast-food containers, nothing fancy or pretentious about this place, it’s all focused on the food. So much food. Again. This time, I make a mistake, I try the rice. It is rich. It has a spicy sausage in it; it is absolutely delicious. No, I don’t eat it all, but I probably eat more than I should. I only have a bite or two of the potato salad, it’s not my weakness. The baked beans have a peculiar taste, not bad, but I am guessing, as we are in cane country, they are sweetened with cane sugar instead of molasses, as I am used to. I can pass on the beans; so I stick to the chicken (delicious) with a sneaky bite of this fabulous rice now and then.

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AdventureMan has the smoked brisket and pulled pork, and again, all the sides just come with it. He says it is pretty good.

00FamousFoodsBrisketAndPulledPork

Many of the folks coming in and out as we are eating are buying Cracklin’s, which I think are made with deep fried pig skin, and I just can’t even give it a try. I might even like the taste, but the whole idea is just so repugnant to me.

The food at Famous Foods is GOOD!

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Death and the Expat

After four years, this settling down thing still chafes. As one fellow expat says “it’s like being squeezed into a box that’s too small” and she is talking about returning to her own community after several years abroad.

I think I wasn’t wired for settling down.

Even changing the furniture around, which I start doing after a couple years in one place, doesn’t really satisfy that urge for new challenges, new ways of thinking, a need to be on your toes, to be observant of all around you because nothing is the same as where you came from.

But one thing about settling down is a huge challenge – death.

When you are living in Expat World, death barely touches you. For one thing, you’re in a working environment, which implies you are young enough and healthy enough to be working. If someone dies, you fly back home and grieve the person, then fly back to where you are working and life goes on. That person isn’t missing from your daily life. You are distracted from grieving by the differences; there are not so many things around to remind you that the person is no longer there.

Being settled, it is an entirely different story. You get used to people, and then, often suddenly, that person is no longer around. You’re still going to all the places you used to see that person, but that person is not there, and never will be again. You think “I’ll just call so-and-so” and then you realize she’ll never answer your call again.

This is all new. Sure, expats move away, but there is always that chance you will run into them again – happens all the time in Expat World. You can call and make plans to meet up somewhere, you can gather for kids weddings. In settled-down world, death puts a big stop to that. It’s a screeching, endless dead-end.

I lost a friend this week, a woman who has been kind to me since the day I walked into the church. She made me feel welcome and she made me feel loved, and like I belonged there. It wasn’t just me, she was kind and welcoming to everyone, and a lot of fun to be around. I hugged her the day before she died as we had a quick greeting in the Parish Hall. I adored her, and I admired her, and she leaves a big hole in my heart.

I don’t wish her alive again; she lost her husband just months ago, and I know in my heart that my grief is my own, that she is happy to be with her departed husband. But this death stuff is painful. It makes me want to run get on a plane and go somewhere else, to go away from this infinite feeling of loss. To my chagrin, I also think this is a piece of growing up that I ran away from for a long time, and am learning later in life than most people.

We are still grieving the loss of Pete. He is buried in the butterfly garden, so he is nearby. We second-guess ourselves all the time, going over our choices, regretting having caused him any pain and anguish as he lived his last week. I hear the tinkle of his little name tag and forget it can’t be Pete; my husband steps over where he would lie in the hallway, equidistant between our offices. This death stuff is hard.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Distressed Travellers?

We had never heard this term before, but yes, yes, we are the ‘distressed travellers’ sent to this hotel in which we have never stayed while our room in Juneau goes unused, even though paid for.

They are so kind. We don’t have our luggage with us. Thanks to a previous trip, so many years ago my son was a small child, I always carry something to sleep in (I don’t what to sleep in my clothes, and the thought of sleeping in underwear and having to wear it the next day gives me the creeps) and a fresh pair of undies, my brush, make up and any medications I might need. We are both recovering from bad colds. They give us toothbrushes and toothpaste, give AdventureMan a tiny deodorant, enough, wonderful.

Although it is only ten in Seattle, it is midnight our time and we have been waiting for flights for hours. It’s just one of those things, severe weather hanging over Dallas, the sweet, patient airline counter woman re-did our tickets several times until we just ran out of connections at the end of the day, and she put us in a hotel for the night.

When we got to the room, it was even better. They gave us a suite, a beautiful suite, on the quiet floor. The atmosphere in the suite was very zen. AdventureMan took a shower, I took a long bath, and we tumbled into bed – not for all that long; we were on the first flight out in the morning,.

With the time change, we arrived in Juneau in time for breakfast and a hike around Eagle River before we collapsed until dinner with an old friend of my Mother’s who still lives in Juneau.

June 17, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment