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



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.


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.




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


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.



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




Our bedroom


Our office/sitting room





Our view of Victoria Harbor (and Empress Hotel)


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


Sunset peeking through the overhanging clouds.



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 🙂























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



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






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






Seeing an eagle; good luck!


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.






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.




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.




This is an interior wall at the Sea Shanty.



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.


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.




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

Seaview Resort in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

You can’t believe what you read on the internet. When I research our trips, I “vector” our choices. I take a look at them on TripAdvisor, then I take a look at them on Google, then I might look at them on Google Earth. It all matters.

The Seaview Resort is not a resort, or at least not what I think of as a resort. It is 7 cabins, and most often on TripAdvisor, they are referred to as “tiny.” By reading the description of each cabin carefully, and by reserving early, we got the cabin we felt might be right for us, and it is.

The Seaview resort is located in the midst of a residential neighborhood, and right on the beach, not across the street from the beach. We have Cabin #1, and there are Irises in bloom in back where we park, and lavender growing in the garden next to it. It has a fully stocked kitchen, and a tiny living room with a couch and a tiny dining table with two chairs. I pulled in one of the the lounge chairs from the deck when AdventureMan grabbed the sofa for his nap.

You can look out the big sliding glass doors, or sit on your deck, or sit in the outside lounge chairs, or the seats around the beach fire-pit, or in the boat. You have the run of the resort. There is a large family having a reunion here, and another family in another cabin. Honestly, I can’t imagine more than two people in a cabin, but they claim to sleep four, and I can imagine four people who really get along could squeeze in and be OK as long as it doesn’t rain.

We love this place. It is private, and we like private. We can watch the water to our hearts content. We can watch the light change on the mountains. I can write up some blog entries – the WiFi works great. We are happy.

















And here is the icing on the cake:


May 12, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, ExPat Life, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Shady Rest Restaurant in Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

It was lunch time in Qualicum Beach. We knew we wanted a view of the water, and we wanted some choices.

The Shady Rest appeared to have the view situation all locked up, but what about choice? We took a look at the menu posted outside, and we knew we were going to be fine. There was a wide variety.


We had a lovely table outside, with a view from north to south of the beach, the sea and the mountains. The weather was warm, barely a cloud in the sky.


AdventureMan ordered the Salmon Chowder and a Spinach Salad, I ordered a pretzel crusted cod because I have never heard of such a thing before. One bite, and I was glad I did. It was a WOW. In fact, I was enjoying my bites so much I almost forgot to take a photo.




A group of Chinese tourists came in. We always have a lot of sympathy for people who are traveling in lands where they are not fluent in the language. This group had done some really smart things. They had photos on their smart phones of food they have tried and liked. They already had some idea of things they did not like, like they did not like salmon. Even with the language problem, they ended up with food they liked, because they had gone to some trouble to be able to know how to tell the waitress what they wanted. (Fish (Halibut) and chips, Clam Chowder, salad, oyster po’boy and I couldn’t see what else.)



After lunch, we stopped to pick up some stuff for dinner. We are staying in a cabin tonight, with a kitchen, right on the beach, and we don’t want to be bothered having to go out looking for dinner. AdventureMan spotted Qualicum Foods, and it is just like Whole Foods. We found everything we needed – and more. It’s nicer than any supermarket in Pensacola.


May 12, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, iPhone, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | 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.



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.



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







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.







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

Anacortes to Sidney, BC on Ferry Chelan

Aboard the Ferry Chelan, en route to Friday Harbor and Sidney, BC


The cafeteria is open to aid caffein-deprived passengers 🙂


Coming into Friday Harbor




Passengers departing in Friday Harbor



I remember when the Canadian – American border was open. This time, we had to go through Canadian border guards, exceedingly polite, but so many questions! It breaks my heart that things have come to this, that once open borders allowed people of good will to freely pass back and forth, and now those open borders exist no more. I hate ISIS, I hate terrorists who make this necessary.

May 10, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment