Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Oceana Grill, New Orleans

In our casual conversations with people who work in New Orleans, we always ask them where they eat. Sometimes we specify in the French Quarter but because we always have a car with us, we aren’t limited. One of the places most frequently recommended is the Oceana Grill.

“It’s not fancy,” one waitress told us when we asked her she she liked to eat, “but the food is reliably good and everyone I know goes there.”

That’s what we want to hear.

Our concierge recommended Deannie’s, a seafood grill just a block away, and since it is raining, we give it a try. There are like fifty people waiting, and a 45 minute wait. We walk another block to the Oceana – still a wait, but only 10 minutes, and we like the atmosphere.

We are quickly shown to a table near the grill. This was an exciting place to sit. We figured out that there is another kitchen somewhere, as food would appear from another direction, but here was where the action was happening, billows of steam flying up into a huge exhaust fan as the fillets hit the grill.

 

 

I decided to go for the New Orleans special, focusing on shrimp etoufee, beans and rice, jambalaya with andouille sausage. It was good. We have a lot of the same in Pensacola.

AdventureMan choose a Po’Boy Oyster sandwich. He said it was fine.

We couldn’t resist a creme brûlée. It was the highlight of our meal 🙂

Just as we left, it rained heavily, it poured rain, and the streets flooded, and even just two blocks back to the hotel took forever – and we didn’t mind a bit. Our clothes were soaked, our shoes were soaked, and we had a wonderful time.

We slept the sleep of The Saints. We woke up late the next morning . . . well, late for us, maybe 7:30 instead of o-dark-hundred when the cats think it’s time for me to get up and feed them. What luxury! Check out was quick and easy, and off we went to grab breakfast and be early to the World War II Museum.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, New Orleans, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

The Saint Hotel, New Orleans

What you see is the trips we take.

What you don’t see is the planning and the occasional agony of trying to find just the right place to stay, which restaurant to try. We live in an age of information, sometimes too much information, sometimes false information. You can read reviews, and you have to filter through what they like to glean nuggets pertaining to what you like.

I was looking for a hotel in New Orleans. There are a lot of hotels in New Orleans. We stay frequently at the Westin, at the foot of Canal, for one reason. It is perfect with the grandchildren – the room is spacious, there is parking close by, the kids LOVE the elevator on the outside of the hotel, we can walk to restaurants in the French Quarter, it is close to Magazine street, and a short drive to the Zoo, and it is right next to the Aquarium. (It is also right next to the Algiers Point Ferry I just told you about.)

We have another hotel, the French Market Inn, which we love, but it is noisy, and the rooms we love are actually the noisiest. Others are dark, and smaller.

I found a special offer on a new hotel in the Marriott chain, which is a chain I love because of their customer service training. It looked . . . intriguing. Not like any place we have stayed before. So I booked at The Saint. I liked the location; I liked the novelty.

 

And, as it turned out, I totally loved the hotel.

The entry to the hotel is at least two floors high, with long flowing panels breaking up the space. The lines are clean, the colors soothing – and bold.

For some reason, I think of the room as cobalt blue, when in reality, as I see the photo, the walls were white, with just a small portion of cobalt, and the rug was cobalt. There where long flowing white sheers, and the combination of the cobalt and the white was serene.

The receptionist was welcoming, and efficient, and gave us a couple good ideas for dinner. Meanwhile, it had started raining, and we loved the room so much we took a nap. Even overlooking Canal Street, the room was quiet and . . . serene. The bed was lovely, the bathroom was spacious and sparkling clean with a clear bowl sink – we just loved the room.

 

This was the door to our room – every door was different:

The hallway had blue lights.

It was pouring rain when we went out to eat, and it didn’t matter. We were near so many good restaurants, and we had this lovely room to come back to.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Building, Customer Service, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , | Leave a comment

World War II Museum: Big Mistake

From a truly lovely lunch, we headed to the World War II Museum. Big hint – you can buy your admission ahead of time at the National World War II Museum Website and save yourself a lot of time and energy. AdventureMan did so, and did a really smart thing, he bought two day tickets. Once we had parked, we went straight to the will-call counter for our tickets and wrist-bands and day-pins, piece of cake.

But here is the Big Mistake. It never occurred to us (DUH!) that the number one attraction in New Orleans, the World War II Museum, would be mobbed, packed, full of people, on Memorial Day. As soon as we were in the door, we looked at each other in horror. What were we thinking?? No, worse, what was I thinking? I am the one who chose the dates for the trip and did the hotel bookings. What was I thinking???

Crowds were everywhere. We started with the Nazi Propaganda exhibit, and we were shuffling through with hoards of people. It was hot, it was stuffy and it was very crowded. I quit. I couldn’t see what I wanted to see. I had my New Yorker magazine and I told AdventureMan where he could find me, and I went off on my own.

 

 

As I read my magazine, a group of women in full WWII era dress and make-up sang some 1940’s era songs. They really sounded and looked authentic.

 

 

I had thought the ice-ream shop might be a refuge, but no, it was also packed.

Did I mention how SMART AdventureMan is? It wasn’t an hour later he found me and said “Let’s go. We can come back tomorrow.” Even he, big WWII buff that he is, was daunted by the mass of humanity visiting this fabulous museum.

“Yes!” I agreed. “Let’s go take the ferry!”

And we did.

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | 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

Zion National Park, Mineral Gulch and the Coral Sand Dunes

Wake up to grandeur in Zion National Park 🙂

 

It’s a little chilly for breakfast on the terrace, but the inside restaurant is nice, the wait staff is exceptional, professional, helpful and quick. When I saw blueberries available on another dish, and asked the waiter if I could add them to my oatmeal, it was a done deal. Don’t you just love it?


Most of the hiking groups who are tackling the higher peaks have already departed, but there are some elderly hikers getting a later start. We hike, but we are not group hikers. We like to set our own schedule and our own pace, but we admire the groups that have been hiking for years and adapting to one another’s styles. They have a great camaraderie.

We have to take the shuttle to get deeper into the park, so we go all the way to the end. Our plan is to do the Riverwalk hike, then work our way back to the hotel. At this time of the morning, there are only adults, no children. The children arrive on buses, hundreds of school children brought to the park nearing the end of the school year, to show them the wonder of our country’s natural beauty.

The Riverwalk is awesome. It is glorious, and relatively easy, and relatively safe. You reach a point where it says “no wheelchairs beyond this point due to the grade” and realize that even to this point, there have been steady ups and downs.

The beauty is so totally different from Bryce Canyon, we are in another geological era and we are viewing it all from below, rather than from above. This reminds me very much of Yosemite, with Capital Dome, and all the granite. The color mixtures here are wonderful to behold.

You can see that the path is mostly smooth, and paved, with an obstruction here and there to keep it interesting and natural.

There are rockfalls along the path, giant rockfalls. Anyone with an inkling of imagination can realize how short life can be, how unpredictable, how chaotic.

 

It is so early that the river itself is mostly in the dark.

 

Wonderful plants and flowers find enough nutrients in crevices and eroded places to explode into life.

Look at those trees, clinging to life at the tops of these cliffs!

 

I spotted this, and followed the line up.

AdventureMan, with his sharp eyes, spots an anomaly on the side of the cliff:

We think this is one of the park employees, creating safe climbing areas for those who like to go straight up, using ropes and pitons and you know, climbing stuff.

 

Leaving Zion, we are exploring Mineral Gulch, just outside Zion National Park, where we are told there are pictographs. I will tell you the truth, but do not do what we did, it is not safe. AdventureMan went one way, and I went another. I found a dry stream bed that looked promising, and I followed it.

Doesn’t this look exactly like where pictographs would be?

Or this? Oh, I wish AdventureMan were with me, with his sharp eyes. Even as I am thinking how very wrong and stupid it is to be off exploring separately, not together, I keep going a little further, a little further. Every now and then AdventureMan and I shout back and forth, but it’s been a while since I have heard him. I know I need to go back, I know it, but maybe, just around the corner, are the pictographs.

 

We never found the pictographs. I found a lot of places where I think they should be, but if they were there, I didn’t see them. Hot, tired, dehydrated, we headed for Mt. Carmel Junction, where we found this crazy funky restaurant, and got our orders in just before the Korean tour bus arrived.

Club Sandwich for AdventureMan:

Taco Salad for me. Very different, lots of peppers, lots of salsa. Very tasty, not a lot of beans or meat.

 

AdventureMan has spotted another remote road going to Coral Dunes State Park. I keep thinking we are on the wrong road, and he keeps insisting this is the road, it is the only road it can be. We are not arguing, we are just not on the same page. He was right. We find the Coral Sand Dunes, and they are beautiful.

He has shown me the road on the map, and we THINK we can make it, but his rental is a little low to the ground. I notice that the road number obscures the fact that for four miles, going into Arizona, the road is actually a track. We hold our breath, as the pavement ends, the road turns into washboard, the road forms crevasses, and we just hope the road doesn’t wash away. This is one of the longest four miles ever.

Safely off the track, we hit Springdale, just outside Zion, for ice-dream, and for sandwiches for dinner. They have a mercantile shop with a sandwich shop inside, with gourmet sandwiches. AdventureMan has an Avocado Veggie special, and I have a Reuben, and we find some crazy great T-shirts for all the little ones.

Back in Zion, the light is fading fast.

The horses are being taken back to rest up for the next day.

My feet are sore from the uneven smooth rocks in the creek-bed, and I am still a little dehydrated. Sure wish we had found those petroglyphs.

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Environment, Exercise, Food, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Moab to Tropic, Bryce Canyon And a Wonder-Filled Detour through Capitol Reefs

We are still on Pensacola time, so early rising is a piece-of-cake. Quick breakfast, quick departure. We had looked at the options the night before, we could go directly to Zion via fast roads, or take a southern route which would take considerably longer. AdventureMan had looked at the map and suggested a third route, which took longer, but not so long as the southern route, and took us through a place I have never even heard of, Capitol Reefs.

We’ve lived in so many wonderful places, and, because AdventureMan’s job was always so demanding, I took care of trip-planning, finding places to stay, creating routes to travel and choosing sights to see. This way is so much better, AdventureMan has the leisure to look at the maps, and he has good instincts. This day was another best day of the trip.  🙂

(Yes, I know, technically, they can’t all be best days. Toward the end we had some more boring days, but each day brought wonders and joys, and this is one of those best days, honest.)

One thing we never want is to find ourselves miles from a gas station in a remote location. As we are filling our tank, leaving Moab, I see one of our contemporaries loading up for his own adventure. This is what I love about Moab, you are free to pursue your own adventure.

If you are thinking about taking this trip, or a trip like it, you need to know that our phones had no service much of the time. Fortunately, we had maps and are good at reading them, mostly. It is really important to have some kind of back up when you are in remote locations. If you rely on your phone, and there is no service, you will have a harder time.

The scenery, even along the major highways, can be distractingly spectacular. This is, I believe, along I-70, which we take for a short time to get to the scenic road we want to be on to get to Capitol Reefs.

What we didn’t realize was that the greenery near the cliffs in Capitol Reefs indicated a river. I discovered it as I was making a pit-stop. I was headed to a private spot when all of a sudden, I realized I was not alone. By a stroke of luck, I had my camera in my hand. I whispered to the Mule Deer that I meant them no harm, and they calmly grazed as I took a couple photos.

Can you see why I am considering this another of the best days? I love happy surprises, and this day is full of happy surprises, even a few flakes of short-lived snow.

Good thing we stopped where we did. Just another quarter of a mile down the road is a major stop, with a beautiful walkway, so people can view Petroglyphs!

So, can you see the petroglyphs? I bet your eyes are getting better at it. You learn to look a little higher than you would think.

There are so many places where petroglyphs have been lost to natural breaking off and erosion.

 

This is a piece that has broken off, but remnants of the original petroglyphs remain.

This is the beautiful walkway they built.

This is the sign. It is a little obscured, but we are always thankful for good signage.

I want you to know how very brave I was. I was about to lean on the railing to steady a shot when AdventureMan said “You’ll want to look before you do that,” and when I did, I saw a thousand creeping caterpillars. They were falling out of the trees, and covered the walkway. I made AdventureMan check my hair, and my hoodie, then I covered my hair completely; I looked like a total dork. Back in the car, I made him check me again, to make sure I wasn’t carrying an unwelcome guest with me. But no matter how much I was creeped out, it didn’t stop me from taking these photos 🙂

“This is the day that the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be thankful in it!”

Shortly after finding a gas station, and looking for a restaurant that was open and might serve more than hamburgers and beer, we found the Capitol Reefs Cafe and Restaurant, which suited us perfectly. It had a unique gift store – I found the only petroglyph soap, black with etched petroglyphs – of the entire trip, perfect for a three year old, or even in the tip of AdventureMan’s Christmas stocking. Alas, there was only one, and I gave it to the three year old.

Look at that! Cloth napkins, and in a beautiful local textile.

AdventureMan had a fabulous corn chowder, and these Shrimp Tostadas.

I had a smoked trout salad, the only one I have ever had in my life. It was unique, and wonderful.

At Larb Hollow overlook, you could see for miles, maybe hundreds of miles. We could see Lake Powell. In the highlands, it was still very cold, and we had occasional flakes of snow.

This stop was hilarious. We thought it was some kind of big deal but it was a very little deal. It reminded us very much of Germany, with a rural forest feel, a walk around a large lake, people with those walking picks that give me the shivers – “No! Don’t point that pick at me!”

We stopped at a rock shop, where I bought a T-shirt I loved. He said it was last year’s color, and gave me a great discount, but it was a much more subtle color, a desert deep rose color, and it has a 70’s peace sign in gold, so elaborate that you don’t necessarily even see what it is. I love it. Then I went to take a photo of these cows, which AdventureMan thought was hilarious. “You’d be surprised how many people stop to take photos of those cows,” the owner of The Rock Shop told him.

Arriving in Tropic, we are assigned to this cabin. Of all the places we stayed on the trip, we loved this cabin the best. It was a lot of fun, spacious, clean, very private, great beds, and the least expensive place we stayed. This was the Bryce Canyon Inn, in Tropic, which also has a coffee shop and a pizza restaurant in the same complex.

We took a short rest, then headed out to do a reconnaissance of Bryce Canyon, finding one of the major sights on our way. I think it was called Mossy Grotto, or something like that. Honestly, they give names to all these hikes, and while the hikes are great, I can’t remember the exact names. These are all late in the day, some times the sunlight is perfect and some times it has already disappeared due to landscape features. We needed a good hike after spending so much of the day with our only exercise getting in and out of the car.


This is one of the features, and I couldn’t really figure out why. I think in winter it has huge icicles hanging from it. It is moist and water weeps from it. I think it is the mossy grotto.

It looks like these rocks are kissing 🙂

 

We headed back to Tropic around dinner time, ate at the pizza restaurant. AdventureMan did the smart thing, he ordered a pizza. I saw halibut and chips on the menu and the Alaska-girl instincts kicked in, oh, halibut and chips! I got two small heavily breaded pre-frozen little lumps of fish, tasteless, what a waste of halibut. 😦  Learned – re-learned a lesson: if you’re in a pizza restaurant, order pizza.

We slept wonderfully in this cabin 🙂 Every day so far exceeds 10,000 steps 🙂

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Eating Out, Exercise, Faith, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arches National Park

Almost every day of this trip, we would look at each other at the end of the day and say “This was the best day of our trip!” Arches National Park was one of the very best.

We got up early to grab a quick breakfast and then go to get in line to be in Arches as the sun rose. We had a map, and we had a plan – to see the famous Delicate Arch, then drive to the far end of the park and work our way back. We had our hiking shoes on. Big surprise – there is road work going on in the park and we can’t even get on the road to get in line – we have to wait until the park opens at 0700.

We watch carefully, and as soon as the guard starts letting cars in, we are there. We are car number seven.

 

There are three ways to see Delicate Arch. One is a long hike across a marsh and then up a rock mountain. We didn’t do that. Another is a short, easy walk to a viewpoint where you can see Delicate Arch way off in the distance. The third way is a hike up a steep path, mostly rock. We took the third way, and by the time we reached the top, I was gasping. I stay pretty fit, but the altitude kicked me; and I felt like a fish, gasping for air. I would love to say that it was so beautiful, it was worth it, but actually, the light was flat, we had early morning clouds and no sunlight, so it was a little disappointing.

We drove to the end of the park, and hiked to the end of the path, about a mile, to Landscape Arch. The air was crisp and cool. Everywhere we looked was another beautiful sight. Arches National Park was a thrill to the senses. And we had logged 10,000 steps before nine in the morning.

We kept meeting up with interesting people, people our own ages, people who have done a lot of traveling. One couple gave us a hint about a trip up the Irrawaddy, another man talked about the mess in Washington. These were all really fun people.

Forgive me for putting in so any photos, but this park was inspirational, so beautiful.

And, just as we started to leave, it started snowing. Just a few flakes, and then that cloud passed, but we laughed, so far – we’ve had snow every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took the walking path, which ends here. The path continues, and as you can see here, it goes straight up steep rock. You can see people who are willing to tackle the rocks climbing.

 

There are a lot of port-a-potties at the entrance to the walk into the valley. This sign was in the bathroom. It cracked me up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 26, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | 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

Wrapping up the Year in New Orleans

I bet you think we are going to write about a grand adventure partying in New Orleans, crowded with people eager to watch the Sugar Bowl, parades, grand times. I could – but our visit was a little different.

AdventureMan and I DID have a grand adventure – taking the 6 year old and 3 year old grandchildren to New Orleans for three days. We were a little aghast at the enormity of our undertaking, but AdventureMan did a little investigating, and found a wonderful solution – The Audubon Nature Institute has an annual family membership which gets you into the New Orleans zoo, the Aquarium, the Butterfly Garden and the Insectarium, and invited to special events, for a year.

Even better, the cost of the year-long family membership is so reasonable that our first trip to the zoo paid off the entire membership. The next day, the children voted that we visit the zoo again, and the third day we visited the aquarium. We can go back all year, walk in through the membership gate (that is a great feature, beats standing in line for tickets) and get a membership discount in the gift shop. This is a real deal. You can find it at Audubon Nature Institute, you can join online and print out your temporary membership card. What a great value for the money.

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New Orleans – and Pensacola – had an unseasonably warm Christmas, and when we arrived in New Orleans, it was 75° F. and the zoo was packed. Fortunately, one family was leaving and we found a good parking spot. Parenthetically, the three year old was a total trooper, doing her 10,000 steps with no complaints. We had lunch with the flamingos at one of the zoo food stops.
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We think the zoo has one of the most beautiful carousels we have ever seen. Tickets cost $1 and are worth every penny. This is a treat for children and their parents 🙂
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Two days, two trips to the zoo. It was fun, and plenty to occupy the kids for more than a couple days.
There are all kinds of enrichment centers and activities.
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We stayed at the Westin, which we discovered atop a high end shopping mall and offices when we had to rush to New Orleans to replace a missing passport at the last minute before one of our trips overseas. It is not where we stay when it is just the two of us, but it is a perfect place to stay with children who are going to the aquarium (next door) and the insectarium. It is also a very short drive to the zoo. Parking is $30 per day, and relatively secure. We looked over the city and the river, and had a very spacious room for two adults and two children.
We were also able to find some great places which welcomed children and provided fairly healthy food.
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A short walk from the hotel was Felipe’s, a taqueria, which we liked so well that we ate there two nights. Everything was freshly made, the kids loved the food (they had quesadillas and black beans), I had a taco salad made with pork al pastor, AdventureMan had tamales, tostada and a tortilla soup. We all split two flans. It was casual, the food was tasty and fresh and we were comfortable being their with kids.
Across the street from  Zito’s, where we take our Middle Eastern treasures to be shined up and sealed, is the Wakin’ Bakin’, where we had plates full of eggs and toast and fabulous biscuits, bowls of fresh fruit and good coffee.  They make their own croissants, and other wonderful goodies, and it’s all good.
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We introduced the grands to Ethiopian food at the Cafe Abyssinia, 3511 Magazine Street, close to the zoo and on the way back to the French Quarter. They loved the Ethiopian tea, and the injera, which they thought were pancakes. Not so fond yet of the Doro Wat or the veg entrees, but we have time . . . .  🙂
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Last but not least, as the weather turned chilly overnight, we snuggled into the Jackson Brewery, on Decatur, close to the Westin and close to the Aquarium and the river park walk. We started with beignets, which were a big hit, and orange juice. The brewery actually had good fresh options and the children loved the space and ambience.
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Entrance to Jackson Brewery from Decatur Street:
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We had such a good time, we think it might have to become a Christmas vacation tradition. In the meanwhile, we also enjoyed turning them back over to their parents and enjoying hours of silence. 🙂 Happy New Year!

December 31, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Family Issues, Holiday, Hotels, Living Conditions, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | 2 Comments

Dubrovnik: The Best Day of our Trip as We Walk the Walls

You know how you build expectations? From the time I started reading about Dubrovnik, I was excited. For one thing, some scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed there, and we are great fans.  Even more, there is a great hike; Dubrovnik has restored and created a wall all around the old city which you can hike. It isn’t for the faint-hearted; it starts with about 60 stair straight up. Once up, there are more stairs, FitBit told me we did 30 sets of stairs on the wall. There were ascents and descents, some a little challenging.  A friend who had done it before told me to be sure I had shoes with a good grip because the stones could be really slick. Even on a beautiful sunny day, there were a couple slick places, so I cannot imagine what it would be like to hike it in damp or rainy conditions.

But we had perfect weather, sunny and warm, but not hot, even a little chilly in the shade. We were also the only ship in town, a rare occurrence in Dubrovnik.

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LOL, no, that is not our ship, but I loved this old looking ship. It isn’t really old, and I imagine it is an events location, a party ship, but I loved it.

 

We took the panoramic tour, but dropped off once we got to the Pile gate at the entrance to old Dubrovnik. The first entry to the walls is just inside the gate, to the left, with good signage.

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About halfway up the double sets of stairs taking people up to the wall, I stepped aside, yes, to catch my breath because there are a LOT of people struggling up these steep stairs, but also to take a documentary photo:

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When you get to the top, the views are spectacular.

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I had read that the best strategy was to head uphill, first, get the worst over with, but as we started left, we saw this sign:

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So aarrgh! We had to turn the easy way first. Never mind. Each step introduced a new and spectacular sight.

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We sighted the Dubrovnik harbor from the walls, and decided when we finished our walk that we would have lunch there, if we could find a good place.

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Once we finished our hike, we explored the back streets in Dubrovnik, zig-sagging our way to the port:

 

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November 1st is coming soon; the flower markets are doing gang-busters business as Dubrovnik citizens buy flowers to remember their dead on All Saint’s Day.

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As we enter the port, we spot a restaurant where crowds of people are sitting in the sun, the Konoba Locanda Peskarija, eating cauldrons of mussels, big huge pots of mussels steamed in a simple wine broth, just the way we love them. We find a seat; we already know what we will order. As we wait, a wedding party arrives to have their photos taken in the port.

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A beautiful Dubrovnik salad to share:

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And a heaping cauldron of mussels, so many mussels we couldn’t eat the all! It was served with a basket of wonderful crusty bread to sop up the wine broth.

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We couldn’t be happier.

As we leave, we run into our friends from the ship at the restaurant next door; they have made an art purchase they are celebrating. We always have great chats with this couple.

We wander around a little longer, avoiding, as much as possible, the beautiful wide street down the center of old Dubrovnik until the very end:

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We head to the old gate once more, and just outside the gate is a shuttle, waiting to take us back to the Viking Sea. It doesn’t get any easier.

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Tonight we have dinner in the World Cafe. We have discovered that the food is the same as in the restaurant, but here we can deal directly with the chef and servers, and have exactly what we want in the small quantities we prefer. We have found a very quiet table, no one seated in our laps, and we can have our own quiet and private conversations, dine at our own pace; this isn’t what we thought we would prefer when planning our trip, but it seems to suit us well.

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Exercise, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | 4 Comments