Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

China Town, Fan Tan Alley and I Get Some GOOD Chinese Food

We try to limit what we attempt, when we travel. If we try to do too much, we sometimes fail, or we get so busy trying to accomplish that we don’t really get to enjoy what we are doing. Or worse, we get cross with each other, crabby! On our vacation! So we make choices, AdventureMan wanted the Victoria Butterfly Gardens; I wanted GOOD Chinese food.

Our son knows us. When we decided to settle in Pensacola, to be near him and the coming grandchild/ grandchildren, he sat us down and told us things we needed to know about Pensacola. The first thing he told us was that there was no really GOOD Chinese food. Honestly, for me . . . well, I don’t want to say I thought twice, but no good Chinese food? Chinese food is my comfort food!

We asked the concierge at the Grand Pacific for a recommendation for GOOD Chinese food, and she, with great delight, directed us to the Fan Tan Cafe in China Town, just a short walk down Government Street. It was an easy walk, past the grand historic Empress Hotel (we didn’t stay there because the views, in my opinion, are not as good), and down one of the most fun shopping streets in the world to China Town.

We know we are getting close 🙂

Chinese Dragon

 

The entrance to China Town on Fisgard Street

ChinatownEntry

 

Fan Tan Cafe – it’s small, and crowded. You are bottom to bottom with the chair behind you and you are almost sitting next to the next table. It’s fun. You get to see what everyone else is eating. We were hungry, we were early and that was a good thing because we got a table. There are maybe 16 – 18  tables at the Fan Tan Cafe, and some of those are for two people. They do take reservations.

Fan Tan Cafe

This was the absolute best. AdventureMan chose the Spicy Shrimp appetizer, and it was delicious, top to bottom. Even the bedding vegetables were delicious. This was the highlight of the meal.

Spicy Shrimp Appetizer

 

We didn’t intend to order deep-fried pork. It was good, very General Tso kind of taste.

Hot Sweet Pork

The scallops and shrimp in black bean sauce was too delicate for us. We decided everything about it was beautiful, and the problem is probably more our palate, which likes more intensity.

Scallop and Shrimp in Black Bean

 

All in all, it was a very tasty meal. If we were to go back, which we will the next time we are in Victoria, I would try the Cantonese Chow Mein, or one of the noodle dishes for which they are famous. We saw them all around us, glistening and gorgeous, and they looked divine. Cannot wait to go back 🙂

I still miss the Taiwan Tourismo, in Jordan, where we had authentic, amazingly tasty Chinese food and never even knew how extraordinary it was. I miss the China Queen, later the Great Wall of China, in Mahboula, Kuwait, a little hole in the wall where the Chinese workers ate and I could point and say “I want that, please!” Real Chinese is different from North American Restaurant Chinese.

Advertisements

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Food, Jordan, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Values | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheminus, Victoria, Fan Tan Alley and the Grand Pacific in Victoria, B.C.

I will admit it, I was a little depressed leaving Ucluelet. If you are a frequent reader, you will know I am a believer, and sometimes my heart is just so full of gratitude to our enormously generous and open handed God that I can’t even think of the words to adequately give thanks. I take comfort in knowing he knows my heart. Ucluelet and Tofino were everything we hoped they would be. I could imagine myself living there happily. And leaving . . . it was painful.

We had a nice drive to Victoria, stopping in Chemanus for lunch at a small cafe which surprised us and knocked our socks off. It looked like something from the forties. Owls were everywhere. Most of the menu was breakfast offerings, nice, but breakfast. We ordered the spinach salad and the Scallop and Crab Cakes – have you ever heard of Scallop and Crab Cakes? We hadn’t either.

OwlsNest

 

OWL

We split both the salad and the Scallop and Crab Cakes. They were both taste treats!

SpinachSalad

The Scallop and Crab Cakes were made the way my good friend who is Chinese makes Crab cakes – good, tasty ingredients and no distracting filler. These cakes were meaty, full of whole small scallops, crab meat, some green onion, pimento and some minimal binder. They were truly extraordinary. They were accompanied by an apple slaw, tart and tasty. It was a great combination.

ScallopCrabCakes

 

We made a stop at the Butterfly Gardens near Buchart Gardens so AdventureMan could take some photos of rare butterflies, or at least butterflies we don’t get to see in Florida. They had some awesome specimens.

Then on, on, into Victoria. Highway 17 empties right into downtown Victoria, and ends almost right at the Grand Pacific Hotel, where we are staying. While we were checking in, the concierge told us it would be another 10 minutes, but that we had been upgraded. I hoped it was an OK room; I had chosen our room on the basis of a view of Victoria Harbor. With trepidation, we headed for our room.

 

This is the Grand Pacific from Victoria Harbor

Grand Pacific fm Victoria Harbor

 

Lobby

GrandPacificLobby

Our bedroom

GPRoom

Our office/sitting room

 

GPSittingRoom

Bathroom

GPBath

Our view of Victoria Harbor (and Empress Hotel)

GPHarborView

Night time view. Sigh. Isn’t it lovely?

HarborViewNight

Sunset peeking through the overhanging clouds.

VictoriaSunset

 

May 20, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, ExPat Life, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | 3 Comments

Whaling and Bear Watching Out of Tofino

We are enjoying perfect weather, not a given when you are in the Pacific Northwest, and not a given on any coastline or any vacation. The mornings may dawn a little grey and foggy, but it all burns off – this week, anyway – and we are having wonderful afternoons.

I don’t even bother trying to shoot whale any more. I have one photo of a marvelous whale tale from our first trip back to Alaska and this time the boat was rocking and rolling and mostly all we would see were backs breaching and spouts. Do you really want to see the place where two seconds ago there was a whale? Hmmm, no, I didn’t think so 🙂

In calmer waters, we also saw otter, seal, sea lions and lots of birds.

The next day, on the bear watch, we also took lots of photos, and I won’t show you all of them because again, as the boat rolls, that perfect shot of the mother bear and the baby bear walking down the beach cuts off the mother bear’s snout, and the next one, the mother shows up fine but the baby is indistinguishable from the shadow in which he is playing . . . or the bear on the beach, you know 40 photos of the bear’s backside as he sucks a clam for one good photo of the bear (without his legs cut off). Wildlife photographers make their money by spending hours, days and months to get those calendar shots, and then being in just the right place at just the right time.

And it is so much fun just to go watch, and to try to get those good shots 🙂

Otter

 

SeaLion

 

SealPup

 

SeaWaterIsland

 

GuidesGrandson

 

BearFace1

 

BearFace2

 

MamaBaby

 

BearRubsTree

 

BearRubsTree2

 

MamaBaby2

 

Do you see the little bear? He’s over to the left, in the grass; Mama Bear is looking at him.

MamaBearLooksBaby

 

Now you get to see him! (And Mama’s nose is cut off, dammit!)

PerfectMamaBabyExcept

 

BestAvailableMamaBaby

 

BeachBear

He’s digging and eating clams. He is in heaven, full belly, lots of clams.

NotPerfectBeachBear

 

ExposedBear

 

BestBeachBear

Seeing an eagle; good luck!

Eagle

May 17, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

Just a Little Drama To Spice Up Our Trip to Tofino

I think I may have mentioned that occasionally I am a little OCD. In our family, I am the trip planner. I get an idea, I run things by AdventureMan, he gets a veto even if I make a strong recommendation. He also does research, and asks to have things added in. That’s how we ended up doing two separate trips to Alaska; we realized with all our good idea, we couldn’t do them all in one trip.

 

This time, our trip was centered on two things, Mother’s Day in Seattle and three days at Ucluelet, during which we would whale watch and bear watch. We booked our reservations, months in advance. The night we left Qualicum Beach, we got a nice e-mail from our guide, with devastating news – he had a severe injury and would not be able to take us on either tour.

 

AdventureMan and I looked at each other in horror. “What are you going to do??” AdventureMan asked, and we are in a bad position because our phones don’t work reliably. “He recommended another agency,” I said, “I will e-mail them now and see if we can get on with them.” It’s still early in the season. There is hope. I e-mail them telling them what we wanted, and that we are flexible as to which one we do first, and as to morning or afternoon.

Before we left to drive across the mountains, I checked my e-mail. No response. The drive was quicker that I thought, and we arrived too early to check in, so we decided to drive to Tofino, about 30 minutes away, and see if anything is possible.

 

I took some mountain photos for you on our drive from Qualicum Beach to Tofino.

 

DriveTofino2

 

P1120481

 

The day had started cloudy, but by the time we reach Tofino, blue skies are breaking through.Tofino

 

We go straight to Meare’s Landing, where Remote Passages organizes and sends out expeditions to see whale, to see bear, to kayak, to see remote hot springs.

 

MearesLanding

 

We are in luck! They have already tentatively booked us on our desired trips, we just need to pay and be read in on the safety instructions. We ask them their favorite places to eat, and they say “Sea Shanty in Tofino.” Then we ask if they have been to Ucluelet, and their eyes go all big and shiny and they say “Go to Zoe’s! We love Zoe’s!”

 

So we walked to the Sea Shanty, where an amazing waitress, Brianna, took care of us. You may think that I exaggerate when I say she is amazing, but Brianna was really good at making customers happy AND she boats to work from the island where she lives. We were so impressed, because while we have had wonderful weather, we know wonderful is not how weather always is, and in a boat you are exposed to weather, and to weather related sea changes. She didn’t seem in the least bit proud, she just took her bravery as something normal. Wow.

This is the view of the Sea Shanty from the sea.

 

SeaShantyExt

 

This is an interior wall at the Sea Shanty.

SeaShantyInterior

 

This is the fabulous Pacific Northwest Bouillabaisse Brianna brought us, divided into two bowls. It had Alaska crab, local clams and mussels, local salmon and fish. It was lacedd with saffron threads, the way a truly good Bouillabaisse should be. It was purely awesome, and accompanied by a Shanty salad, also huge, also divided for two. Even divided, we waddled out of the Sea Shanty, convinced it is one of the best meals we have had on our trip.

Bouillabaisse

We did save a little room, though, for Zoe’s, a bakery in Ucluelet. We had INTENDED to buy croissants for breakfast the next morning, but there were none. We ended up buying cookies and pie. The next day we ended up buying more cookies and more pie. The third day, we went in early for breakfast before a hike. Zoe’s has magic. The crusts are really light and flaky. The berry pie was full of berries; I don’t know what they were held together with, but the pie was almost entirely berries. The gingerbread cookie was chewy, and gingery. AdventureMan’s chocolate-caramel-something else bar (twice) was so rich that you had to nibble at it through the evening, it was too rich to eat all at once. Oh my. Go to Zoe’s.

ZoesBakery

 

Zoespie

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Food, Living Conditions, Restaurant, Road Trips, Weather | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and Quay West

“What brought you here?” our waitress, Robin, asked as we sat in one of the most glorious restaurants in Campbell River.

“My wife,” said AdventureMan.

“I don’t know why,” I started, “I just felt drawn here. I needed to see it. I like hunting and fishing, and I knew this was hunting and fishing country, and the gateway to the north of Vancouver Island.”

It’s true. I like remote places, and I like hunting cultures. I grew up among people who fished for a living and hunted for food to eat through the winter. You respect food more when you have to grow it or hunt it.

Campbell River is beautiful. You could live anywhere, and wake up every morning to water and mountains and 180 degrees – or more – of sky.

Our room is in a brand new hotel, it is clean and beautiful as only a new hotel can be. We have a balcony overlooking the BC Ferry as it shuttles cars and trucks back and forth across to the islands.

ViewBCFerryFmComvort

 

We are trying to decide where to go for dinner, and I am reading to AdventureMan from Trip Advisor. The first review at Quay West features a couple who split a Ceasar Salad and a Pork Schnitzle with a Mushroom Peppercorn Sauce. I didn’t even get to finish reading; AdventureMan said “That’s where we are going!” and five minutes later we were out the door.

 

QuayWest

Quay West has more than great food going for it. It also has location, location, location. Here are the views:

QuayWestView

 

QuayWestView2

 

QWView3

 

Our waitress was fantastic, and fun to talk with. She brought us a Ceasar Salad to split, then a huge plate of Pork Schnitzle (remember, we have lived almost 20 years in Germany, not continuously, but in segments) with the mushroom peppercorn sauce. It was everything the reviewer had said it was, and we relished the meal, every bite, even the beautifully cooked vegetables, surrounded by natural beauty. AdventureMan had a Steam Whistle IPA which had the crisp pilsner taste, and I had a Pinot Blanc, dry, flinty, just the way I like it.

QWOnionRings

 

PorkSchnitzlePeppercornMushroomSauce

 

HalfPorkSchnitzle

 

We passed on dessert, but Robin brought us two huge strawberries, coated in chocolate, and we did not resist.

Back at the hotel, I discover that I can pick up texts and messages as long as I am connected via the hotel Wifi. Woo HOOOOO! We are not totally out of communication!

A perfect ending to a great day.

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Communication, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Technical Issue | , , | Leave a comment

Pacific Northwest Natives Have DNA Link 5,000 years

Don’t you love technology? It’s like working on a complex puzzle, and all of a sudden seeing how disparate pieces relate 🙂 This is a fascinating discovery from AOL/Huffpost:

Ancient DNA Linked To Living Descendants In Genetic Study

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 07/09/2013 2:24 pm EDT  |  Updated: 07/09/2013 9:12 pm EDT

What if you could trace your ancestry back to around 5,000 years ago? Researchers were able to do just that in a fascinating new DNA study, which found adirect genetic link between the ancient remains of Native Americans and their living relatives.

“It’s very exciting to be able to have scientific proof that corroborates what our ancestors have been telling us for generations,” study co-author and participant Joycelynn Mitchell said in a written statement. “It’s very amazing how fast technology is moving to be able to prove this kind of link with our past.”

In the study, U.S. and Canadian researchers used mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) sequencing to analyze DNA inherited exclusively through mothers. Looking at the mitogenome is cheap, easier to sequence than nuclear DNA, and skirts around the problem that European men mixed with Native American women.

The researchers collected DNA from 60 living indigenous people belonging to the Tsimshian, Haida and Nisga’a tribes in the northern coast of British Columbia. The tribes’ oral histories and archaeological sites indicate they have lived in the region for generations, which made them good candidates for tracing their lineage back so many years.

Complete mitogenomes were extracted from the remains of four Mid-Holocene individuals found in British Columbia’s Lucy Islands and Dodge Island, and then that information was compared to the DNA of the study participants.

What was found? The research team discovered one of the living individuals carried this same “mitogenomic signature” as a young adult female who lived on Dodge Island 2,500 years ago — which also matched the mitogenome of the remains of a woman who lived in the Lucy Islands 5,500 years ago. Wow.

Three other living participants had mitogenomes that linked back to the remains of another individual found on Dodge Island, who may have lived around 5,000 years ago.

“This is the beginning of the golden era for ancient DNA research because we can do so much now that we couldn’t do a few years ago because of advances in sequencing technologies,” study co-author Dr. Ripan Malhi, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois and Institute for Genomic Biology professor, said in a written statement. “We’re just starting to get an idea of the mitogenomic diversity in the Americas, in the living individuals as well as the ancient individuals.”

The new study was published online on June 3, 2013 in the journal PLoSONE.

July 10, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Local Lore, Relationships | , , , , , , | Leave a comment