Jane Not In Spain: Curaçao

Where?? That’s the common response when I mention a trip to Curaçao. A map is needed to explain this one.

Curacao is about 50 miles from Venezuela.

Located in the southern Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, Curaçao was a Dutch colony for a long time. Since 2010, Curacao has been an independent country within the kingdom of the Netherlands. They are in charge of their own affairs with the exception of defense and foreign policy which are managed by the Dutch. Together with Aruba and Bonaire, it forms what’s known as the ABC islands. Information taken from Enjoy Curacao.

The thought of Curacao in December is very inviting … 80 degree days, beautiful beaches, exotic birds, snorkeling with the sea turtles … exploring a place where many cultures have blended together. These pleasant thoughts were interrupted by a Minnesota reality … the sudden appearance of a snowstorm that arrived the day David and I were to depart. Beachwear and snorkel gear packed, we were planning to head to the airport in a couple hours.

I love a white Christmas but did the snow have to come today?

Our flight cancelled. This was not a good feeling. It took a few hours but I managed to shift our entire trip back by one day without incurring any additional charges. After all the re-arrangements had been made, it was kind of nice to have a little time to relax before departing.

A snowman on display at MSP airport made me anxious.

The second most common question about Curacao is, ‘how do you get there?’ And the answer is ‘through Miami’. The flight from Miami is about two-and-a-half hours long.

After completing immigration forms and going through customs, we headed for the car rental. The first thing you notice about Curacao is the humidity and then the heat.

To get to our hotel in Otrobanda, we drove over the St. Anna Bay on The Queen Juliana bridge. It’s a white-knuckle steep-drive that goes straight into the sky. The bridge is high enough for the largest ships to pass under.

The first part of our trip, we are staying in Willemstad, the capital of Curacao. It’s divided in half by the St. Anna Bay. On one side there is Punda (which means ‘the Point’) and across from it is Outrobanda ( which means ‘the Other Side’).

Even though the street signs are all in Dutch, the language here is Papiamento, a Portuguese-based creole blend of African, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, French, English and Arawak Indian. The official languages in Curacao are Dutch, Papiamento and English.

I chose this hotel based on location. We could leave the car behind and easily walk around and Punda and Otrobanda.
This hotel offered small apartments.
Typically, we don’t spend much time at hotels but with this heat and humidity, it was nice to take a mid-day break when it is the hottest.
No blankets here, just a sheet. The apartment has two high-speed air conditioners that cool the place in minutes.
In addition to a balcony, we have an outdoor terrace at the entrance to our room.
A few steps from our room is a tranquil pool with beautifully landscaped palms.
The outdoor bar and restaurant are very popular with the locals and feature live music most evenings.
Tonight, we enjoyed salsa, meringue and pop music.
After hours of travel and getting acclimated to the heat and humidity, it was nice to kick-back and enjoy the surroundings. The Bario entertainment shuts down around 10pm and then it’s very quiet.

Pacific City Oregon: An Awesome Weekend

Next stop Pacific City! A beautiful drive down the coast and it seems to be even more remote.

Not sure what this tree is but it is amazing to look at with its perfect symmetry and wavy branches.
Here’s our rental house … with enough beds for over a dozen guests.
A scenic view from our new digs. Pacific City has a haystack rock like Cannon Beach but it’s out farther and not reachable in low tide. Lots of surfers.
Early sunset after a long day. Weather is looking better for beach wedding tomorrow.
The house features a gourmet kitchen and my nephew James is right at home with it. He and my sister-in-law Ellen whip up breakfast for 14.
Friday brings a beautiful blue sky sunny day in the low 80s. Perfect. The wedding is the focus of today and everyone is relieved that the weather is cooperating.
The Minnesota contingency is on time and ready to celebrate. (Richard & Lisa missing from photo. )
Guests begin to arrive for the wedding.
An unforgettable ceremony …
followed by a beautiful indoor reception.
A stunning sunset sneaks by as the reception rolls on. The colors of the sunset changed every few minutes.
The evening ended with sparklers on the beach. Chandler & Kelly pulled off the perfect wedding.
Saturday … we have a whole day open and four rental cars. Some went dune climbing, some went to Lincoln City looking for fresh seafood for dinner and some took off for wine country. Richard, Lisa, Ellen and I set out for Cape Meares for some stunning ocean views.
Today’s dinner plan is for a seafood extravaganza.
The dunes may look easy but provide a challenging climb and workout.
So much fun to cruise the west coast with good friends Richard & Lisa.
It was a beautiful drive to Cape Meares with lots of farm land and interesting terrain.
A stunning wayside view in Tillamook county heading for Cape Meares.
We took a break at a stone covered beach. Unfortunately, the road to the lighthouse was closed.
No lighthouse … reroute. Now we’re heading for Willamette Valley which means a drive through the coast range heading toward Portland. More interesting forests with moss covered trees which at night could easily be mistaken for Sasquatch … that must be how those stories start.
We arrive at Apolloni Vineyards which produces Oregon and Italian wines. The Valley is Oregon’s oldest wine region and has two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards.
Apolloni is a family run vineyard. Alfredo, (second-generation) shares his passion for the vineyard and the wines we were sampling.

After a little wine, we realize it’s a long drive back to Pacific City and we don’t want to miss the sunset. Back in the car and a beeline route back.

Bubba and Ellen kick back after a long day of exploring.
Tonight’s chefs, cousins James, Kyle and Owen doing seafood & oyster prep for dinner.
Happy hour charcuterie.
Everybody on the deck … getting ready for the sunset.
A beautiful view from the cavernous living room.
A final sunset worthy of an awesome trip. Someone had a great idea — let’s go swimming!
There they go … water was extremely cold so the swim didn’t last long. A lot of hootin’ and hollerin’ took place.
And they survived with another great memory.
Back to dinner prep. A seafood bisque in the works.
James workin’ the grill by cell phone light.
A beautiful feast.
Food, family, friends … the best dinner ever!

The week ended with a bonfire on the beach and a visit from a curious creature with a big shadow. We joked about how it would be fun to come back to the rental house for a 1st anniversary celebration.

On Sunday, we packed it up and headed to Portland. Most of us were on the same flight. I rate this as a 5-star week in Portland. Oregon rocks!

Next stop: the southern Caribbean. Stay tuned.

Buckle Up … Back to Portland

Another cloudy cold day on the Oregon coast. David and I are headed to the Portland airport to pick up a few wedding guests. It was another beautiful drive through the hilly forest. No stops along the way. We were trying to arrive at the airport in a timely manner.

We planned to squeeze 5 people plus luggage into an SUV with a second airport pick-up later today for a 6th person.

Youngest son Owen shared the back seat with several suitcases. The rental car had a luggage rack but rain was in the forecast.

With our passengers in tow, we headed toward downtown making a stop for gas on the way. I pulled into the gas station and a man came up to my window and wanted a credit card. I wasn’t sure that he actually worked there and was hesitant to let go of the credit card.

David jumped out of the car and ran around to start pumping gas. The “attendant” told him that he could not do that … it was illegal. I released the credit card and the man inserted it into the pump and started filling our tank. David hovered around him and started washing the car windows which the attendant said was ok to do. I anticipated a “service charge” in addition to the gas payment but that didn’t happen. How odd is this?

We sooner (or later) realized that all of the gas stations in Oregon have attendants. There is up to a $500 fine for pumping your own gas. Oregon remains only one of two states that doesn’t allow drivers to pump their own fuel. (New Jersey doesn’t trust drivers to responsibly pump gas either.) Because of the pandemic and nationwide workforce shortage, they are considering legislation to allow for both full-service and self-service pumps.

Across from the gas station was a string of food trucks about as far as the eye could see. We were hungry but this seemed overwhelming, not to mention that we would have to find a place to leave a car full of luggage. So we passed and went downtown.

Welcome to food truck world! I don’t think I’ve seen this many food trucks in one place.
We had lunch at the Portland Food Hall, an industrial-chic space with a variety of international fare.

After lunch we walked to the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a tranquil oasis in the midst of some sketchy old streets in the historic Chinatown district. It is an authentic Ming Dynasty-style garden built by Suzhou artisans that brings together art, architecture, design and nature in this 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition. It was lovely.

Lan Su Garden touts itself as a window into Chinese culture, history and philosophy, a living Chinese landscape art and a spiritual utopia.
David and Owen relax in the garden’s tranquility with our long-time friends Lisa and Richard.

Walking back to the car, we made a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts — good things come in pink boxes. The flagship store is tiny and being mid-afternoon, the line was short. It was hard to choose from the large selection but we managed. The famous Voodoo Doll donut has a pretzel stake plunged through its raspberry jelly belly. The interior of the store was whimsically decorated in retro green and pink with yellow accents.

Not just for breakfast … Voodoo Doughnuts is open 24/7 serving early morning risers, the bar crowd and everything in between.
Voodoo offers over 50 kinds of donuts. The Voodoo dozen makes selecting a lot easier.
Yum!

Another run to the airport to pick up our oldest son Quinn who brought his “suitcase bike”. To make room in the car, Owen stayed downtown and rambled around. We reconnected for dinner at Mother’s Bistro, just down the street from Voodoo Doughnuts.

Country-chic decor with lots of chandeliers at Mother’s Bistro.

Mother’s Bistro featured home-made favorites that have been refined with classical cooking techniques … Mac & Cheese, meatloaf anyone?

This not-very-comfortable throne of a chair looks like it came from a cheese head tail-gate party in Green Bay.

The sun set early, there was a steady rain and it was dark and dreary. I tried not to think about the possibility of a beach wedding in the rain. It was a snug fit in the rental car with a half-hour ride to our suburban hotel which was near a bike trail. Tomorrow, Quinn, a bicycling enthusiast who has completed a few century rides (100 miles) was planning to bike to our Pacific City destination where we have a beach house reserved for our group of 14.

At the hotel, Quinn got busy assembling his Ritchey suitcase bike. It’s a good thing he is determined to ride the 90 miles to Pacific City even if it rains. Otherwise, we would have to figure out how to load and secure suitcases in the rack on top of the car so we would all fit. He did bring rain gear.

Voila! A full size bike that fits in a suitcase.

Quinn said he was impressed with the Portland airport because it has a bicycle assembly station. The assembly station offers a work stand with two clamps, basic tools, maps and other literature about resources in the region. The station is not only for those who travel with a bike but for employees who commute by bike.

Nationally, Oregon is #2 on the 2022 ‘Bike Friendly State’ ranking. Massachusetts ranks #1 and Minnesota is #5.

Thursday morning … Quinn is ready to roll to the coast. The rest of us were planning to take our time. We had a late-afternoon check-in at our rental house.

On the road again … next stop Pacific City.

The weather looked favorable even though it was a bit overcast and on the cool side. The wedding is scheduled for tomorrow night and we were all nervous about the beach venue. I can imagine how stressful it must be for the bride and groom. Quinn said the weather was perfect for bicycling.

Today was a rerun of most of the sites David and I had visited earlier in the week except for Cannon Beach which was too far out of the way.

On the way to Pacific City with a stop for an oyster burger at The Fish Peddler in Bay City.

Jane Not In Spain: Oregon’s Cannon Beach

It’s Monday and just after noon. My flight landed on time in Portland. My husband, David, flew from Minneapolis this morning and will be picking me up shortly. We will be attending a beach wedding at the end of the week and doing a couple airport pick-ups mid-week. The trip ends with a weekend at a beautiful rental house with family and friends on the beach near Pacific City in Cape Kiwanis. Today’s destination, however, is the coast and Cannon Beach.

Why Cannon Beach? Several people have told me how amazing Cannon Beach is with its ‘haystack’ rock. Not being a beach person, I really didn’t understand what made it so special. So curiosity won out again.

Like clockwork, David with the rental car picked me up as planned. Our road trip to the coast began via the direct route which is about 80 miles. It’s a beautiful drive through the hills covered with fir and spruce trees. There’s a couple quick-stop towns but not much more.

The sun faded slowly as we approached the coast. By the time we arrived, it was overcast, windy and a bit cold. First stop was the coastal town of Seaside, a small picturesque resort town known for its surf breaks and a 1920s style promenade.

Cold, windy and overcast … not exactly what I was dreaming about.
Seaside honors Lewis and Clark with a statue on the promenade. They reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805 and set up camp north of Seaside by the mouth of the Columbia River.

Before European settlement, the land that is now Seaside was home to the Clatsop Tribe. They subsisted on a diet of seafood, game, berries, and roots. But fur traders and explorers brought diseases, and a deadly smallpox outbreak eventually killed most of the Clatsop population. By the time the Lewis and Clark arrived, just 250 members of the tribe remained.

Lewis and Clark set up a salt works where ocean water could be boiled to harvest salt. The salt was essential for curing meat. The region slowly grew, and the town of Seaside was established in 1899.

Early on, it was a place for tourists to experience the coast. Seaside had many crazy events but one stands out the most … six months after Pearl Harbor, the town of Seaside witnessed the shelling of Fort Stevens by a Japanese submarine. While there was no significant damage from the shelling, uneasiness settled over the town. Blackout rules became strictly enforced and air raid drills were held. In 1943, it was common for Seaside residents to see blimps flying over the beach, as there was a station in Tillamook to monitor the shore and search for subs. (Information from Seaside Visitors Bureau.)

During WWII, Blimps patrolled the coast searching for submarines. (Image from tillamookbayheritageroute.org).
Happy to arrive on the coast, David enjoyed chowder and a beer on the beach at Seaside.

Next morning … we started down the coast to Tillamook and would return ending in Cannon beach. We wanted to save the best for last.

It’s a very scenic drive with old-growth forests and mesmerizing ocean views.

Even though the weather wasn’t the best, the views of the coastline were amazing.

Rockaway Beach’s claim to fame is the Pronto Pup which was first created here in the 1930s. A Pronto Pup restaurant topped with a giant 30-ft pronto pup complete with an 8-ft stick makes it easy to spot along highway 101. Unfortunately for us, it was closed today.

Iconic Pronto Pup restaurant in Rockaway Beach.
Closed on Tuesdays. David still got a ride on the Pronto Pup.

Hard to miss the next stop just south of Tillamook … the road seems to lead to the Air Museum.

The road literally runs into the Tillamook Air Museum.
Hangars A and B were built in the 40s. Hangar A was destroyed by fire in 1992. The remaining Hangar B is the largest clear-span wooden structure in the world.

This used to be a hangar for Blimps used for anti-submarine coastal patrol and convoy escort during WWII. The K-Class Blimps were 252-ft long, 80-ft high and filled with helium. With a range of 2000 miles and the ability to stay aloft for 3 days, they were well-suited for coast patrol and convoy escort. Naval Station Tillamook was decommissioned in 1948 and Hangar B has been home to the Tillamook Air Museum.

This 7-acre hangar held several blimps in its day.

Today, the museum houses a growing collection of aircraft and exhibits including over 30 restored warbirds and a large collection of rare historical wartime and aviation artifacts.

This was my favorite proto-type airplane … it has the reminiscent charm of an old station wagon.

Our favorite aircraft (which featured David’s last name … Erickson) is the Aero Spacelines Mini Guppy.

From this angle, it looks like the Mini Guppy has no nose.
Mini Guppy does have a snub nose! It is a large, wide-bodied American cargo aircraft used for transport of oversized cargo.
David in the cargo area of the Mini Guppy. It’s swing tail splits the body in half opening to accommodate large cargo … like another airplane.
The Air Museum is so large, it has plenty of room to accommodate a collection of tractors.

Moving up the coast, time for a stop at the Tillamook Cheese factory. Designed by iconic Seattle-based architect duo, Olson-Kundig, The Creamery is made to look like a modern barn.

Flower, Tillamook’s very own award-winning show cow is the Creamery Greeter keeping a friendly eye on the guests as they enter.
Many visitors enjoy having their photo taken under the watching eye of Flower, the mascot cow.

The Tillamook headquarters is built on the land of the indigenous Tillamook and other Oregon tribes. The Tillamook cooperative is made up of a group of farmer-owners. Many have been farming in Tillamook county for multiple generations.

The Viewing Gallery overlooks the production line.
Employees oversee 40-lb blocks of cheese being cut, weighed and packaged.
Lucy and Ethel working the line.

We filled our pockets with wrapped cheese samples, skipped the ice cream and headed out for seafood.

The Fish Peddler at Pacific Oyster in Bay City was a great place for lunch. We feasted on clam chowder and the Captain’s platter which was filled with oysters, shrimp, crab cakes, fish and clam strips.
Too windy on the bay to eat outside today.

Up the coast … next stop Cannon Beach and the Haystack rock. According to the tourism info, it is one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks, home to colorful tide pools and diverse bird life.

From a distance, it did look like a haystack. It was low tide so we were able to walk right up to it.

From a distance, it’s a rock.
The closer you get, the more interesting it looks.
Smaller stacks sit next to the Haystack.

So what is this thing? It’s not a rock! It’s covered with mussels and barnacles.

It’s the remnants of a volcanic flow that came down the Columbia gorge from a super-volcano in Yellowstone about 17 million years ago.

According to the Haystack Rock Awareness Program volunteer, the lava flowed along the old Columbia River drainage system to the ocean and intruded into the soft marine sediments. Eventually with sea level changes and erosion, these bizarre formations can be seen all along the Oregon coast.

Volunteers in red jackets patrol the area and provide information about the unique habitat. The Haystack Rock is 235-ft tall but at one time before erosion set in, it was about 1000-ft tall.

ABOVE the Barnacle line is protected as part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, providing habitat and viewing of a wide range of seabirds. BELOW the Barnacle line is protected by Oregon’s Marine Gardens. Its protected status requires that no animal or material be removed from within 300 yards of Haystack Rock. Climbing above the barnacle line is strictly prohibited to avoid disturbing marine life and nesting birds.

There are mussels, shells, barnacles and sea creatures everywhere! The volunteer said these living organisms are waiting for the tide to come back and take them out to sea.

Beautiful starfish everywhere you look!
Some of the bigger starfish were about 10” across and in shades of purple and orange.

Beautiful green sea anemones were found in shallow tidal pools. We also saw a variety of crabs of all sizes.

This barnacle and mussel community formed a circle.

And if you look up above the haystack, there are birds everywhere. The volunteer said there are 37 different species of birds living in the haystack. Early spring to mid-summer offers the most accessible viewing of Tufted Puffins in the Northwest. A wide variety of other birds make this a good bird-watch location year-round.

Over 37 species of birds call the Haystack rock their home.

Now I know what makes Cannon Beach so amazing. It’s like a living aquarium full of creatures to be discovered. With the tide, the inhabitants change and so does the Haystack Rock which is the result of a 17 million year old lava flow.

Tomorrow we’re heading back to Portland to pick up a few travelers and take a glance at Portland.

Alaskan Cruise: Ship to Shore Seattle

Typically on cruise ships, passengers are asked to have their packed bags in the hallway by 10:00 pm the night before. The crew picks up the bags and organizes them for disembarkment in the morning.

In the morning, everyone needs to be out of their stateroom by 9:00 am. Rather than have 5,000 guests trying to get off the ship at the same time, passengers are asked to go to their muster station where they wait until their group is called. It’s an orderly way of processing bags and passengers.

When preparing for the cruise, passengers are asked to schedule their outgoing flight for departure after 2:00 pm which allows plenty of time to get off the ship and make their way to the airport.

I was quite surprised to see that this ship was encouraging people to take their own bags off the ship and provided an early time slot for doing so. I’m not excited about schlepping my bags anywhere especially down the gangway. However, I hadn’t abided by the ship’s request and had booked my departure flight for 1:00 pm. Being a little nervous about getting to the airport in a timely manner, I was eager to leave early even if it meant lugging my luggage. Theresa’s flight wasn’t until 5:00 pm but she was eager to get moving, so we decided we would take the early departure invitation and haul our own bags.

Sally and the Golden Girls opted for the standard departure and pre-purchased passes for the shuttle bus to the airport. They had a late afternoon flight also.

I wonder if this new ‘take your bags and get off the ship’ option was the result of covid and less contact or a way to help the crew with the monumental task of clearing the ship before the monumental task of preparing for the next sailing’s passengers which would begin arriving around noon.

Early morning arrival in Seattle.

No coffee room-service this morning. Even though it was dark when we arrived in Seattle, our early morning awakening was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over Seattle.

We were greeted in Seattle by a beautiful day with warm weather and sunshine.
We bid farewell to our Alaskan cruise-ship home.

Theresa and I started our departure journey around 7:15 am. It was a short walk down the gangway and through the terminal. Out the door where a dozen taxi’s were waiting. We found one quickly, loaded our bags and jumped in. The familiarity of Seattle streets from our visit last week made for a happy ride down memory lane with a sunny day bonus.

To our surprise, we were at the airport in 30 minutes … around 8:00 am. We split the cab fare which came to $30 each — about the same price as the shuttle bus to the airport.

I went to check my bag while Theresa went to see if she could get on an earlier flight even though she had a non-refundable ticket. I never saw her again at the airport — she was able to get on a 9:30 flight. We said our goodbyes by phone.

Our Seattle-Alaska adventure had reached its final destination. Theresa was on her way home and back to reality. Where was I headed? On to the next adventure. Stay tuned. I’ll give you a hint — it’s not Spain.

I boarded a prop plane to my next adventure.

Alaskan Cruise: Last Day Stop In Victoria

Sunday morning at sea … the further south we went, the better the weather. Our challenge of the day was to see if it would be possible to find today’s Packer game somewhere on the ship.

Theresa posed with this pink tornado of a sculpture.

YES! We found the Packers vs Buccaneers game at one of the ship’s bars. It was very odd because there weren’t any Buccaneer fans and I think Theresa, Sally and I were the only Packer fans. I guess everyone else in the bar just like watching football.

Go Pack Go! Watching the Packers win at Sea.

The jewelry store was packed shoulder-to-shoulder … there was a drawing for those who purchased anything during the week.

Happy shoppers Mary and Sue waiting for the Sunday drawing.

Earlier in the week we pulled Sue into the jewelry store at the last minute to enter a drawing where you had to identify three stones … and she won — Sally had provided all the correct answers for all of us. That’s teamwork.

Life as twins … Sally provided all the correct answers and Sue won.
Sally and Toni hanging out at the jewelry store.
After a week of looking, Sally selected the perfect ring and necklace.

Our ship pulled into Victoria. There was an empty cruise ship next to us. The guests were probably out seeing Victoria. The ship’s big outdoor screen was broadcasting the Packer game which Terry was watching from our balcony.

Side by side … another cruise ship docked in Victoria.

Going ashore in Victoria … we had an early dinner and said goodbye to our wait staff who took good care of us all week.

Jane, Mary, Theresa, Sally, Sue & Toni with our waiter Geraldine and her assistant Jason.
Before heading off to tour Victoria, we said goodbye to our room attendant Kevin.
Beautiful sunset at the end of the dock between two parked cruise ships.

Oh Canada! It was so much work to correctly complete the online ArriveCAN app requirements for this short four-hour visit. The purpose was to minimize contact at customs as a Covid precaution. When we arrived, there was one custom officer who waved us through with no stopping. On previous visits, we waited in lines for them to check and stamp passports.

No waiting around at Customs. We walked in and out.

On our short visit to Victoria, we opted to see the night lights of Victoria. We enjoyed a tour narrated by a good-humored bus driver.

The last sunset … a pleasant way to end an Alaskan adventure. Tomorrow is an early departure.

A Day at Sea: Alaska to Seattle

Today we start the journey back to Seattle with a brief stop in Victoria tomorrow night. Plenty of activities on board during the ‘At Sea’ days. It’s not raining today but there are gale force winds rocking the boat. The closed pools were sloshing and outdoor activities were cancelled. We took a visit to the top deck. Notice Theresa and I are the only ones on the top deck??

Nobody on the running track today, even Theresa threw in the towel.
Gale force winds made it challenging to be outside.
The big pink bear guards the climbing wall which no one will be climbing today.

Back inside … most days the shopping floor features many bargains … winter wear, jackets, caps, watches, bags, perfume, jewelry and more. There’s usually a feeding frenzy of shoppers gathering round the counters especially early in the day.

Bargain of the day … five for the price of four.

Cruise ship food is amazing and I think on just about any cruise ship, you’ll find something appealing plus more. We loved having escargot for an appetizer on the dinner menu. Lots of steak, prime rib, seafood, and interesting things to try.

Typically, Theresa and I would order coffee and something light from room service to be delivered early like around 7:00 am. We’d follow up a few hours later with breakfast or sometimes later for lunch.

Early morning coffee and something light delivered to the room.

When it came to breakfast or lunch, we opted for the restaurant over the buffet … we like being waited on which doesn’t happen too often. Even though it’s the same restaurant, the menu changes daily.

Keeping an eye on the weather.

Today, I found something on the lunch menu that I had always been curious about but never really felt compelled to try until today … chicken & waffles. I’ve seen this down south at Waffle House establishments and never understood the logic of wrecking good chicken with waffles and syrup. Apparently my kids have had it somewhere and like it. Curiosity won out today.

Chicken and waffles … the chicken was really good. It came with gravy instead of syrup which improved my attitude about it.

Doing a little research, I found out that Chicken & Waffles is not a new thing at all. Chicken and waffles came to Los Angeles by 1931, when they were served at The Maryland, a restaurant that marketed the dish as a Southern specialty. But my research shows that Chicken & Waffles are not found in any of the ‘big name’ southern cook books. So is it really a southern thing?

In New York, the dish was served in the African-American community in Harlem as early as the 1930s in such locations as Tillie’s Chicken Shack, Richard Wells’ jazz nightclub, and particularly the Wells Supper Club. In 1935 Bunny Berigan composed a jazz instrumental titled “Chicken and Waffles”.

Since the 1970s, chicken and waffles have gained popularity in Los Angeles due to the fame of former Harlem resident Herb Hudson’s restaurant Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles which has become known as a favorite of some Hollywood celebrities, referenced in several movies which spun off several more locations into a small chain.

My review of the cruise ship Chicken & Waffles … the chicken was so good I almost dumped the waffles but I knew this would be one of the few times (only time) I would try this delicacy. I’m not a fan of waffles or pancakes but will eat them if forced by some over zealous relative who loves making them. The combination of chicken and waffles with gravy was ok. I still can’t imagine eating this combination with syrup. Even if its a gravy thing it’s not something I would seek out or order instead of a good omelet or egg option. Chicken & Waffles just doesn’t make sense to me. (Historical information from 50Kitchen.com; TastingTable.com; Wikipedia.org)

Onward! Theresa and I went to the “Napkin Folding” session. It was fun and creative. Crazy to see how many people showed up to fold napkins.

Theresa showed off her napkin folding expertise.
This is a perfectly folded napkin rose.
Hey there … this is our friend Jackie. Every time we waited in line, there was Jackie. Every place we went, there was Jackie. She is a delightful gal from the other end of the Mississippi River … Baton Rouge.

Theresa and I also attended the “Zen Coloring” along with a few dozen other people. This was a very relaxing quiet time.

Even though we didn’t finish our Zen artwork, we felt it was worthy of being hung on our magnet wall.

Now it’s time for Bingo! I can’t remember the last time I played bingo but it wasn’t for $1000. This awesome glass room was filled with eager bingo players plus a crazy long line of people wanting to buy cards.

We had the best spot in the room … right at the bar.
Immediately after Bingo was line dancing. Here we go with the Macarena!
A day at sea is also a good time to kick back with a good book.
Happy hour on the balcony was a little chilly. Ice cubes didn’t melt.
Sally, Mary, Sue & Toni … it’s always fun to connect at dinner and hear what everyone had done during the day.
Baked Alaska! One of the sweetest and best desserts served.
In the theater this evening was the “Earth Harp” which had harp strings that started on stage and went to the balcony or beyond for all I know.
Tonight’s towel animal was a floppy-ear bunny.

No Roads Lead to Juneau

Juneau is a mountain town and a coastal community surrounded by extremely rugged terrain making it one of the most scenic capital cities in the United States. It’s so rugged, it’s virtually an island with all goods and visitors coming and going by plane or boat even though it is part of mainland Alaska.

Early morning arrival … open the curtains and be awakened by the stunning view of Juneau.

The view of Juneau was stunning with the balcony door shut. Open the door and say hello to winter weather. It was cold and damp. Dark clouds and a good breeze were sure to be followed with rain.

Ready to roll … Sally, Theresa and Sue were layered and bundled.

The weather was worse than we hoped. All excursions and outdoor activities were cancelled due to the weather. We may have missed the typhoon but this felt like payback.

There was the usual activity at the gangway but this time passengers were turning around and retreating until the weather improved … it’s a short window today, the ship was departing at 3:00 pm.

Being Minnesota tough, we took the rain and wind in stride.

It was a short walk to the main streets of Juneau and like everyone else, we ducked into the first retail option we could find. It was a very warm and welcoming woolen goods store.

No matter where we walked, we were overshadowed and overwhelmed by the mountains. They were hard to see with the sinking clouds and fog that was setting in as it started to rain harder.

With the rain, we could see several streams flowing down the mountainside.
Stairway to heaven? No it just leads to the next block uphill … a secret shortcut.
Housing was camouflaged in the hillside.
Unsuspecting Theresa is being overshadowed by Alaskan store security … he’s just a teddy bear in disguise.
Shops featured a wide range of local handcrafted items.
A wall full of handcrafted drums painted with Tlinkit icons.
Balcony view: The rain stopped close to ship departure time … the air was exhilaratingly fresh.

Back on the ship and hungry, we opted for the first thing we saw … pizza. Not far from the gangway is a little pizza shop. This tiny pizza factory serves 1500 pizzas per day. Watching, it was a constant flow of pizza prep with oven doors opening and closing every few minutes and a constant flow of hungry people.

Happy pizza chef said they serve 1500 pizzas daily.

No time for napping this afternoon. Going to line dancing with Sally, the dancing queen. Being a few weeks away from 87, she has boundless energy and knows most of the dances. Me … I’m not much of a dancer and could never keep up with this crowd which moved like they were at an advanced aerobics class.

The music is loud and rockin’. Electric Slide is the obvious favorite.
Our dancing queen, Sally, keeps step with this fast movin’ crowd.
Sally and Toni showing off their new moves.

Back at sea, the weather had calmed down and looks nice. Step through that balcony door and it’s a different story.

Being tough Minnesotans, we laughed at the weather and bought hats, scarves and gloves from the ship which had an end-of-season clearance.
An after dinner stop at one of the clubs for Latin music.
A towel bunny greeted us at the end of the evening, courtesy of our room attendant Kevin.

Visiting Icy Strait Point & Hoonah

Our ship was scheduled to go to Skagway but had a last minute change substituting Icy Strait Point because of high winds in Skagway. Along with Icy Strait Point, a shuttle to the village of Hoonah was available.

Icy Strait Point is a purpose-built cruise ship port that offers activities and excursions. The port is under the authority of the Alaska Huna Totem Corporation and its Alaska native shareholders. All profits directly go to support the people and town of Hoonah.

Until 2022, only one ship could dock at Icy Strait Point. A second dock was added. (Image from Royal Caribbean)

Hoonah is located on the northwest shore of Chichagof Island across Icy Strait from the entrance to Glacier Bay. Hoonah is the principal village for the Huna Tlingit tribe that has occupied the area for centuries.

At one time, Hoonah was also home to the Alaskan Bush Family, a reality show on the Discovery channel about the Brown family attempting to survive in the wilderness, detached from modern society.

Not wanting to detach from modern society, Theresa, Sally and I went to the Vitality Spa for massages and followed it with breakfast in the dining room before disembarking to Ice Strait Point.

The ships spa offers a variety of services including massages, facials, fitness classes and more. (Image from Royal Caribbean)
Off the ship and over the bridges, Icy Strait Point is a five-minute walk.
The adventure center offers opportunities for whale, bird and bear watching excursions as well as zip lines, a gondola, ocean rafting and hiking. Nearby are restaurants and a beach with a few bonfires. (Image from Royal Caribbean)

The port features authentic replications of the culture and history of the Huna people and includes the completely restored salmon cannery that burned down in 1944. All proceeds from tourism in this town go back to the Huna Tlingit and the Huna Totem Corporation.

On the way to the Cannery Museum, we passed a small narrow cemetery bordered by a white picket fence and tall trees. There was no plaque or signage acknowledging the cemetery.

A very peaceful cemetery with about a dozen graves was found enroute to the Cannery complex.

All of the graves had coins either scattered on the grave or stacked on the headstone. According to the Department of Military Affairs, a coin left on a headstone lets the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect; a penny means you visited; a nickel means you and the deceased veteran trained at boot camp together; a dime means you and the deceased veteran served together in some capacity; a quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that veteran died. Perhaps this cemetery was for fishermen or those who died in nearby seas.

Coins covered the headstones at this cemetery.
Captain Paul E. Dybdahl Sr. was born in Trondheim, Norway and according to his head stone, he died a “Pioneer Alaskan” at 87. He must have had a very interesting life.
Not sure who lives in these lovely little houses but my guess is that it’s the people who work at Icy Strait Point port.

The Hoonah Canning Company opened in 1912. It now houses stores, but also has a small canning museum mixed among the wares.

The Canning Museum is a good place to learn about salmon and how it is canned. (Image from Royal Caribbean)

Chinese immigrant workers provided most of the inexpensive labor during the early days. Men were typically recruited to work on the fishing vessels. Women were recruited to work in the canneries because they had smaller versatile hands.

This free museum educates visitors about the different types of salmon, the canning process and a variety of fishing vessels. With all the cutting and cleaning devices, it must have been a dangerous place to work

On to Hoonah which is Alaska’s largest Tlingit village. To get there from Icy Strait Point, you can either take a shuttle or walk. It lies about 1.5 miles down the road from Icy Strait Point and has a population of approximately 750 people. Oddly enough, there are eight churches of various denominations.

There are two small grocery stores and everything is flown or barged into town. Prices are high and variety of product is limited … a loaf of bread costs $10-13, a gallon of milk is $9 and a head of lettuce is $6.

There are three miles of paved road from one end of Hoonah to the other.
Available year-round, Halibut have been a steady food source in the area for centuries. All five species of Salmon can be harvested in Hoonah’s waters.

The town of Hoonah will give you an excellent chance to talk to Tlingit natives and learn about their culture. We chatted with a bark weaver at one of the small stores. He told us about the hats he makes.

Dan said bark weaving is a tradition he learned from his mother. He uses strands of cedar and works to make them pliable enough to weave.

This is one of the bark woven hats made by Dan, a Tlingit local.

In the middle of Hoonah, we found a carving hut where two men were carving a totem pole. The man we spent the most time talking with told us the Tlingit community didn’t have a written language until very recently. He remembers coming home and showing his mother his written name. To the best of his knowledge his name is written as “Yandus”. All of their stories and history have been passed down orally and through art.

Yandus also told us about the expiring art of weaving Spruce root and cedar baskets which he learned from his mother. A few baskets he had made were passed down to his children as a reminder and keepsake of their heritage.

In the Tlingit society, there are two moieties, Eagle and Raven. If you are Tlingit, you are either Eagle or Raven. When you are born, you inherit the clan and crest of your mother. Your father is honored through song and dance.

Totem Poles are new to Hoonah. Yandus said they have only been carving them for about ten years. Tlingit Poles are read from the bottom to the top.
In earlier days, totem poles were painted using porcupine quills for brushes; salmon eggs were used to obtain red coloring; copper was used for blue/green and bark was used for black.

The first people of the area, the Tlingits, made long canoes out of a single tree for fishing, hunting and transportation.

This dugout boat was carved by Yandus.
Today, tribal members continue to journey to ceremonies and events in handcrafted dugout canoes.
The Huna Indian Association tribal house features one of the first totem poles in Hoonah.
Before heading back to the cruise ship, we stopped for a bite at one of the Icy Strait Point restaurants with a view.

It was a long day of exploring Icy Strait Point and Hoonah. We saw seals and a whale in their natural habitat but no bear. Even though Chichagof Island has the highest population of bears per square mile of any place on Earth, the only bear we saw was in our cabin when we returned to the cruise ship.

Our room attendant Kevin left us a cute bear made from towels.

Information taken from literature found at the Huna Indian Association Tribal House and from Glacier Bay National Park public newsletter.

Ketchikan: A Morning of Crabbing

First stop is Ketchikan. Located at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s Inside Passage, the ship works its way through a network of waterways and some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world. Ketchikan is known for salmon, incredible scenery, totem poles and rain … it is the rain capital of Alaska and on average gets some form of precipitation on about 234 days per year.

It’s an incredibly scenic voyage into Ketchikan. No rain today.

Today we’re headed out on the “Deadliest Catch Crab Fishermen’s Tour”. The “Aleutian Ballad” is a fishing boat that was featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” season 2. According to its crew, the boat is the luckiest boat around having survived countless near-tragedies in the storm ravaged Bering Sea.

Before the boat’s luck ran out, the owner decided to retire the boat and retrofitted it for guests comfort and fun, with a “live” tank on deck to allow for closer viewing of the creatures brought on board. Their presentation included personal stories about the hazards and tragedies of this dangerous occupation as well as their love for the sea and fishing.

It’s a beautiful sunny day in Ketchikan … we had been hearing about a typhoon that was devastating Alaska. When asked about it, Andy, one of the crab fishing crew said that typhoon is on the other side of the Aleutian Island chain. The gulf of Alaska is protected by the Aleutian Islands. The weather so far on this trip has been incredible.

Andy, the Aleutian Ballad’s engineer, picked us up from the cruise ship and drove us to the crab boat. He and Toni walk the ramp to the boat.
The Aleutian Ballad crabbing boat has been retrofitted with seating to accommodate the tour audience. In addition to learning about crab fishing it’s a bird’s eye view of the magnificient scenery. (Image from Flickr)

The crew was very genuine and dedicated to educating visitors about their fishing heritage and the local Metlakatla Indian Community located on Annette Island reservation. The surrounding waters where the tour takes place is part of the reservation. According to the Tour’s agreement with the Metlakatla tribe, all sea creatures brought aboard are returned to the water except for the rockfish which die quickly in 3-4 minutes. They are used for bait.

Throwing a rope to retrieve the king crab cage.
A winch and a platform raises to help accommodate the cage.
Crew member Melissa holds a King Crab that was just removed from a trap brought on the boat. She is a native of Ketchikan who has been working the tour for a few years. Ironically, she does not like seafood.
Theresa is talking to a box crab, one of the many creatures passed around for guests to hold and take a good look at.
A live starfish was also found in the trap.
This crab trap often comes up with an Octopus who has just eaten the bait.
Since the Octopi keep eating the crab bait, the crew decided to make them part of the show. Octopi have nine brains and three hearts and they camouflage well … in the tank, it looked like a large stone in the corner.
The Crab boat has a snack bar that served coffee, beverages, snacks and fresh crab with warm melted butter … which was delicious. A great quick lunch.
Returning to the dock we noticed the yellow lifeboats from our ship floating around like ducks. Glad to see the ship’s crew has training and practice accommodating the lifeboats. They should make it an excursion, I’d go.
Close to the dock, the Asylum bar is a favorite place to get Wi-Fi and check emails. (The cruise ship charges for Wi-Fi).
Darn! We have to buy a gin & tonic to get the Wi-Fi code.

Back in Ketchikan, we still have a couple hours before the cruise ship departs. On previous trips, I’ve visited Totem Bight State Historical Park and Saxman Village to explore Totem Poles. Not enough time today to do either. The streets of Ketchikan are full of shops that sell Tanzanite jewelry, furs and other tourist souvenirs.


This town depends on cruise ship tourists for its livelihood especially after two covid years when there were no cruise ships at their docks.
Theresa that hat is you!
New sunglasses and a few magnets later … we’re headed back to the cruise ship.
Walking back to the ship, we noticed a rather large pink bear on the top deck.
Bad girls sit in the back of the ship. It’s a great view as we depart Ketchikan.
Goodbye Ketchikan!
Next stop was the Solarium pool for an afternoon of relaxing with a book.
The six of us gather for dinner at the main dining room. It’s a good time to share what we all did during the day.
After dinner, everyone was tired. Sally and I finished the evening at the “Sequins and Feathers” production show.

Cruising to Alaska

Our ship is in and we’re ready to roll. Weeks before embarkation, we were required to download the cruise line’s app and complete required check-in information online. Also required within 48 hours was a verified covid test and receipt of a QR code with the results. Another “joyful” experience was completing the ArriveCAN app for a short little five hour visit to Victoria during the cruise. ArriveCAN had to be completed within 72 hours of embarkation on the cruise ship. At the terminal, it took minutes for the crew members to check passports, covid vaccinations, covid results and ArriveCAN verification.

The new digital requirements are the result of Covid. The purpose is to eliminate or minimize as much human contact as possible. In the old days a few years ago, the check-in would be done at the cruise terminal, not online. One of the benefits of these changes is that it expedites the process and allows passengers to get through the line and on board quicker.

Boarding in Seattle on a sunny day with calm waters.

This ship holds up to 4800 passengers and has 1300 crew members that do everything from hauling luggage, preparing rooms, facilitating the many restaurants and bars to leading dance lessons and the other countless forms of activities and entertainment.
After being processed through boarding procedures, we made our way to our cabins on the 8th deck.

Today we’re meeting up with the rest of our group … Mary, Toni, Sally (my mother-in-law) and her twin sister Sue. You wouldn’t believe it, but the average age of this golden foursome is around 80. Most of them have graduated from Smart Phone 101 and had a little help downloading all the cruise requirements to their phones. They are a delightful group to travel with.

The golden girls relaxing in one of the comfortable cabins. Luggage is delivered to each cabin.
Our three cabins were next to each other. Our room attendant Kevin opened up the dividers so our balconies were connected.
Beautiful view of Seattle from our balcony. The ship didn’t leave until late afternoon so we had plenty of time to relax and get acclimated to the ship.
Lunch with a view of the Seattle yacht club.
It was a busy first day with the embarkation process and finding our way around the ship. However, the view from our balcony made it all worthwhile … it was nothing but tranquility.

Sunday in Seattle: Exploring City Center

Back on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. Today we’re hopping off at Seattle Center. The number one thing we wanted to see this weekend is the Chihuly museum. Like everything else, we had to buy tickets in advance and reserve a time slot.

Bad girls always sit in the back of the bus.
Pike Place Market is one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the country.

Pike Place Market is a popular spot but today we don’t have time to roam its nine acres of fish tossing, deli food, artisan crafts and countless other things. In previous visits to Seattle, I have enjoyed its significant international presence. It’s easy to find French pastries, Russian piroshkis, Persian kebobs, Thai curries and much, much more.

Pike’s Place is the original farmer’s market and the center of locally sourced artisan and specialty foods. The first Starbucks can be found here. It is one of the country’s oldest and largest farmer’s markets which has welcomed over 10 million visitors since its start in 1907. It’s in the top 50 most visited tourist attractions in the world but not today for us — we are heading for the Chihuly museum.

The bus passed by two Seattle icons … the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop). The latter was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry who also designed the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.
This giant typewriter eraser brings back memories of an era gone by. I wonder if millennial visitors know what this is.
Sonic Bloom is the giant solar energy-generating flower sculpture by Dan Corson designed for the Pacific Science Center. It is the nation’s first science and technology center that serves as a resource for educators and fuel discovery.

Finally we have reached our destination for the day — Chihuly Garden and Glass. The centerpiece is the Glasshouse, a tall, glass and steel structure of light-filled space which holds an expansive long sculpture.

The light-filled glass and steel structure is the result of Chihuly’s lifelong appreciation for conservatories. (Image by the Chihuly photographer can.siaphotos.com)
An expansive long sculpture in reds, oranges, yellows and ambers decorates the Glasshouse ceiling.

The world knows Dale Chihuly as a glass artist. Being from Tacoma, his reputation as Seattle’s most famous artist is one facet of his life. He began his career with weaving and incorporated glass shards into woven tapestries which led him to blow his first glass bubble in 1965.

This stunning display of white glass is the first item in this exhibit.
Part of Chihuly’s personal collection of Northwest Coast Native American Indian trade blankets were on display.

Chihuly is credited with transforming the methods of creating glass art leading to the development of complex, multi-part glass sculptures and environmental art.

The Persian ceiling is a clear glass ceiling filled with numerous glass sculptures of varying sizes, hues, and forms.
Geez Terry, we look like a couple of gawking tourists … I guess we are a couple of gawking tourists. Included in the price of a ticket is a photo taken by the Chihuly photographer.
Dramatic, dynamic, and detailed, each piece is fluid yet fragile.
Chihuly is credited with the development of complex, multi-part glass sculptures.

Macchia is Italian for spot … inspired to use all 300 colors in his hot shop studio, Chihuly explored unexpected color combinations with the Macchia series. Chihuly adds brightly colored spots for a speckled effect.

Macchia forms look like seashells. The largest one made by Chihuly was four-feet in diameter.
The glasshouse frames one of the outdoor environmental sculptures.
Citron Icicle Tower is the tallest tree in the Chihuly forest.

Opened in May 2012, Chihuly Garden and Glass is already a top tourist attraction, quickly outdoing its more established neighbors like the Space Needle as one of the most highly recommended things to do in Seattle. Our tour ended in the gift shop which offered small Chihuly pieces for $5-10K. We bought magnets instead.

Close to the Chihuly exhibit we discovered the start of the monorail. Having had glimpses of the monorail around town, we enthusiastically decided we just had to ride it.

We couldn’t resist the allure of the monorail. You don’t see them very often. (Image from Seattle attractions.)

Not knowing anything about the monorail beforehand, we discovered it is a two-minute ride with only one-stop. We felt like little kids who had just ridden the kiddie train at the zoo. We had a good laugh. Looking around, we did notice that there were a lot of kids riding the monorail.

Built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the monorail is the fastest way to travel between downtown and Seattle Center. It is the world’s first full-scale ALWEG monorail system. Alweg was a transportation company based in Germany known for pioneering straddle-beam monorails.

The best part of the monorail ride is that it curves around MoPop, the Museum of Pop Culture. (Image from Seattle Attractions.)

Speaking of MoPop, that is one stop we wish we could have done but we didn’t have enough time on this trip. The Museum of Pop Culture’s mission is to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect communities.

Frank O. Gehry-designed the MoPop building which is a fusion of textures and colors. (Image from Hoffman construction)

It was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000 as the Experience Music Project. It has the world’s largest collection of artifacts, hand-written lyrics, personal instruments, and original photographs celebrating the music and history of Seattle musician Jimi Hendrix and the band Nirvana.

This looks like a tornado of musical creativity. (Information and image from Seattle Attractions).

Exhibits feature pop culture, from the art of fantasy, horror cinema, and video games to science fiction literature and costumes from screen and stage.

One of the reasons we didn’t have time for MoPop was because it was Sunday afternoon. Had to find a Packer bar.

(Image from packers.com)

Buckley’s Pub was a short 4-5 blocks downhill from the Space Needle. Coincidentally, we happen to see someone wearing a Packer shirt by the Space Needle. As usual when I see a Packer fan I do a little “Go Pack Go” shout. This was a couple from Florida who just happened to be looking for a place to watch the Packer’s game. We mentioned that we were going to Buckley’s Pub which was touted on google as being a fun Packer pub. Theresa and I started wandering toward Buckleys.

Flamingo dude was part of the landscape at Seattle center. Musicians playing amplified string instruments were interspersed among the exhibits.

With Pudget Sound in the background, it was a scenic ten minute walk to Buckley’s through a pleasant neighborhood. We arrived in time to see the Seattle Seahawks lose 27-7 to the 49ers. Being an empathetic person I felt sorry for the disappointed Seattle fans at Buckley’s.

Coming from Minnesota, I see this kind of disappointment often with Viking fans, many of which are my friends. With that said, I must mention that the Vikings recently beat the Packers 23-7 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It’s all fun.

Buckley’s Pub is a neighborhood bar that attracts Packer fans on game days.

When we were seated on the Packer side of the bar, it was confusing to see someone wearing a Viking jersey sitting at the table next to us. Hoping we were at the right place, we discovered the Viking fan was from Hudson, Wisconsin (even more shameful). This misguided but very personable young man blamed it on his family of Viking fans. Nick had just moved to Seattle and reassured us that the Viking bar was elsewhere.

Packer fans are everywhere … Dillon and Abbie are from Gainesville Florida.

Shortly after the start of the game, we saw our acquaintances from the Space Needle walk through the door. We waved them over to our table. It was really fun having Packer fans to party with. Theresa and Abbie were less interested in football so there was some interesting crosstalk going on while the game proceeded. I’m good at multi-tasking so I tuned into the conversation when the game permitted.

Kindered spirits attract. Abbie is a very talented person who does graphic design, excels in pottery and is an entrepreneur. Her pottery has been promoted on Etsy but she is striving to create her own website and find other ways of marketing her creativity.

Check out Abbie’s work on Instagram at ceramic.af

Confident that the Packers were going to win, we cut out of Buckleys during the 4th quarter of the game and headed back to Chinatown. Our Hostel receptionist Jessie had recommended a nearby restaurant called Fort St. George. We were eager to try it.

We shared Takoyaki which is octopus dumplings with Tonkatsu sauce.
For a main course we shared Shabu Shabu salad which has lettuce, mizuna, cucumber, and blanched thin pork slices dressed in a ginger soy vinaigrette.

Fort St. George was a lovely place with quiet ambiance. The food was touted as Japanese comfort food and it hit the spot.

Packers beat the Bears 27-10. It was another great day in Seattle.

Seattle — the Emerald City

Seattle is called the Emerald City because it has a vast number of evergreen trees that remain green and beautiful all year long.

Hotel rooms in Seattle are very expensive. The moderately priced ones start around $200 per night. Since Theresa and I have experienced many albuergues in Spain, we were curious about American hostels and thought this might be a good time to test the waters. Green Tortoise is promoted as ‘Seattle’s Best Hostel’ and was close to Pike Place Market.

We opted for the HI Seattle Hostel in Chinatown because it seemed to be a quieter area and we could get a private room with bath for about $145/night. They also offered less expensive options like a room with a shared bath and also dormitory rooms with several bunk beds.

The building behind the arch is Union Station, part of a major transit hub that includes Amtrak, Link light rail, and Seattle Streetcar service. For a few dollars, the light rail can get you from the airport to Chinatown or to downtown.

We were somewhat apprehensive about staying in Chinatown. When friends and family heard we were staying there, they warned us that it could be dangerous, ‘don’t stay out after dark’, etc. We found it to be anything but dangerous. It was a warm and friendly neighborhood. The housing buildings looked new and modern. Streets are wide, clean and well maintained. Restaurants, tea shops, a dumpling house, bakeries, chicken and Korean hot dogs could be found a footsteps from our door.

On the block past our hotel was Hing Hay Park which translates into Celebrate Happiness Public Park. Built in the 1970s it features principles of feng shui and is a popular spot for martial arts practitioners, quiet morning meditation, a meeting place for local families and the center of many festivals and celebrations.

A stunning gateway steel structure resembles origami art.
Two elderly gentlemen were playing ping pong at 9:00 am on a Monday morning. The ping pong tables were made of concrete.

When we checked-into the HI Seattle Hostel, I was delighted to find that it has an elevator. Hauling my almost 50-lb suitcase up a flight of stairs would be devastating. We were greeted by Jessie, a delightful receptionist who checked us in. She provided the necessary details about our stay and how everything worked. It was easy to tell that she loved this building and the neighborhood. She said she has been a local resident for about 14 years and had nothing but praise for the neighborhood.

We enjoyed meeting Jessie — she is delightful, informative and a great conversationalist.

The hostel featured a couple community rooms, a kitchen and a laundry room. Breakfast is included and offered between 7 and 9 am. Guests choose from coffee, fresh oranges, bananas, granola bars, instant oatmeal and cereal.

Guests have access to a full kitchen.
Dining room had plenty of tables and a view of the Chinatown arch.
Laundry machines take credit cards and soap pods are included.

The HI Seattle Hostel is an older building and our room was basic, functional and immaculate. The bunk bed had a double bed on the bottom, a single on top. The memory foam mattress was comfortable.

Hosteling International: HI Seattle Hostel
View from my window: a pleasant neighborhood on a sunny Saturday morning.

Each bed had four electrical outlets a fan and a light. Very comfortable. A desk, a couple chairs and open closet shelving rounded out the room. Nothing fancy about the bathroom which had a tub and shower. Towels and soap included.

Our room’s window faced King Street. On Saturday morning we heard a lot of talking and activity across the street in a parking lot. There is a super big Asian market a block away and we thought maybe these people were going there to shop. However it appeared to be clusters of young adults, mostly men dispersed throughout the lot. They didn’t seem to be going anywhere and there was a lot of loud cars and vroom vroom action. Eventually I found a few friendly-looking faces and inquired about why they were there.

It was a car meet-up. They gather in this parking lot once a month on Saturday mornings to be social and show off cars and see what’s new. I was told they intentionally meet at this lot to support the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.

The dude in the middle is the owner of this car and he obviously takes great pride in his vehicle.
Why take the time to open the hood to display the engine — just remove the hood … don’t even have to park, just keep rolling through the lot.
This not-so-new Honda Civic was fitted with scissor wing doors that rotate vertically at a fixed hinge rather than outward like a conventional door.

The Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a great option if you have limited time for sight seeing. This one hits all of the essential Seattle must-see sights.

Across the street from the HI Hostel Seattle is the Chinatown International District stop for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus.
What could be better than a birds-eye view from the top deck of the bus on a sunny day in Seattle?
Stops included Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and waterfront. In addition we had a great view of lush flowers hanging from light posts.

One lap around on the Hop-On Hop-Off took about an hour-and-a-half. Back in Chinatown, we needed a lunch break. We picked up Korean corn dogs, mango milk bubble tea for me and a strawberry smoothie for Theresa. We retreated to the Hostel kitchen-dining room.

A Korean corn dog has a crispy outer layer of french fries attached. There are about a dozen sauces to choose from and just about as many different corn dogs to pick from. Lots of people walking around eating these.

After our lunch break, we walked over to the Uwajimaya market and Kinokuniya book store. This place is fairly new, super large and offers a massive variety of groceries, liquor, cookware, novelties in addition to a food court with many authentic and interesting choices.

Uwajimaya market offers an endless assortment of goods.
The fresh fish section is almost as interesting as an aquarium.

“Rice is Nice’ t-shirt … a perfect souvenir from Chinatown.

At the Kinokuniya book store, I found the perfect gift for my squirrelly 10-year-old nephew Graham. It’s a Squirrel in Underpants car air freshener. I can’t wait to see whose car he hangs this in — mom Alisa’s car? Tony or Ellak’s, Grandma Susan would love to drive around with a Squirrel air freshener. Or perhaps he’ll hang it in his room.

The Kinokuniya book store was full of unique items like this Squirrel in Underpants car Air Freshener. I don’t remember seeing very many books there.

We walked back to our King Street hostel block and decided it had been a long enough day and it was time for a beer. On the corner next to the Chinatown gate is Joe’s Bar & Grill. Not many customers when we entered but it soon filled.

Some sort of Komodo dragon climbing the light pole oversees Joe’s Bar & Grill.
One-by-one an array of characters filled the bar stools. They were locals.
This guy wins the prize for most interesting head gear. Yes, that is a coyote he’s wearing on his head.
Aaron told us the whole story about his coyote hat that came from the family farm in Missouri. When asked if his coyote has a name he responded that he had too much respect for the animal to give it a name.
Lulu our waitress was a firecracker of entertainment who kept us laughing.
Lulu has waitressed at Joes for many years. This is one of her portraits that graces the wall. The other one is too obscene to post.

Hunger set in and we wandered down the block. There were a dozen or so restaurants to choose from but somehow we narrowed it down to the Shanghai Garden. The quiet, calm and peaceful ambiance was appreciated as was the attentive service. Being adventurous, we tried two dishes that were new to us.

Barleygreen with Pork Chowmein (above) and Happy Family hot pot with chicken, beef and squid got our thumbs up.

This happy surprise-filled day was so much fun but it wore us out. We were tucked into our bunk beds by 8:30 pm (10:30 pm Minnesota time). It was an unplanned but full day of adventure. Looking forward to whatever Seattle has to offer tomorrow.

JANE NOT IN SPAIN: Seattle & Alaska

We’re off on another adventure but this time it’s not in Spain. Theresa and I have just arrived in Seattle for a couple days and then we board a ship for Alaska.

More Thrills Than Chills … especially on this trip!

If I were a superstitious person I would have concerns right now. Joining us on the cruise will be my mother-in-law Sally who said this will be her 13th Alaskan cruise. Her twin sister Sue and friends Toni and Mary will round out our party of six. Theresa and I will meet them at the cruise terminal Monday around noon.

Adding to the superstitious concern is a schedule change to our cruise route. A few weeks ago the cruise line informed us that one of the four engines on our ship needs repair and there are supply chain issues delaying the repair. A second engine is due for maintenance. The route was changed to accommodate the two downed engines by eliminating some of the mileage because the ship will have to travel slower. But we were assured it is safe and they threw in a little bribe of $100 credit for each cabin.

The 13th cruise and two missing engines — no big deal! However, a big typhoon is hitting the Alaskan coast today (Friday). The cruise line informed us of another schedule change because of anticipated high winds in Skagway. Today’s CBS news said the Alaskan coast is flooding, they’re having 18-ft swells and expecting 60 mph winds. My husband David encouraged me to pick up Dramamine before boarding.

Adding to the drama, Theresa’s co-worker informed her that six planets are aligned — anything can happen now. Some believe that human affairs and terrestrial events are affected by the position of the planets and other celestial bodies. I would like to believe that peace will guide the planets and love will stir the stars.

To summarize, we have Sally’s 13th cruise on a ship that’s missing two engines in the midst of a typhoon while six planets are aligned. That spells ADVENTURE!

You’re welcome to join Theresa and I as we explore Seattle. Follow our cruise ship escapades by staying tuned to Jane (Not) In Spain.

Theresa and Jane have landed at the Seattle airport. No backpacks this time.

janeinspain.blog

Goodbye Spain!

We are definitely ready to go home. I wouldn’t call this trip a “vacation”, it was more of a journey. Our Air Europa flight from Barcelona arrived in Madrid early afternoon and we were settled in the hotel around 2:00 pm. It was a beautiful afternoon so we decided to take a final wander around Madrid.

We usually fly into Spain through Madrid. Puerta del Sol has become our home base when we travel to Spain. Over the years, we’ve covered a lot of turf in Madrid and it always brings a bit of joy to walk to our favorite places.

It’s time for the Gin & Tonic show.

When you order a ‘gin tonika’ in Madrid and much of Spain, it’s always a show. They bring out the glasses with ice, the bottles of tonic and the bottle of gin. Then they ceremoniously pour the gin. They are usually very generous with the gin because the tonic is the expensive part of the drink.

The afternoon dawdled by slowly. We went back to the hotel for some final packing and blogging before dinner.
Dinner started with tomatoes, cheese and olive oil.
Oxtail stew is a favorite!

Puerta del Sol in central Madrid is one of the best known and busiest squares.

Wednesday Morning! It was smooth sailing at the airport. It didn’t take long to check our backpacks and go through security. Now it was time to relax and enjoy all the memories.

Buen Camino and Happy Trails!

Returning to US: Required Covid Test

The CDC requires those traveling internationally to get a viral test no more than 3 days before traveling by air into the United States (US) and to show a negative result to the airline before boarding a flight.

Verified Antigen Test Kit for Covid Detection.

Before leaving the US, we purchased verified antigen test kits from American Airlines. We purchased and split a 6-pack for $160. Each of us carried two kits so we would each have a back up.

Now it’s about 48 hours before our flight and we’re back at the hotel so it’s a good time to take care of this.

NAVICA facilitates the documentation of test results.

We already have the NAVICA app on our cell phones. We downloaded it before we left the US. We opened the NAVICA app. The NAVICA app started the process by having us scan the QR code on the packaging … the one located under the “Do Not Open” sleeve.

emed.com is the site that connects you with a technician who will oversee the test and record the results. The whole process takes about 25 minutes.

The next thing is to go to the emed.com site. This is where we connect with the technician who is going to monitor the test. The site has an option to “Start Testing”. Then it asks simple questions like ‘what state are you from?’ Then it asks you to connect to the NAVICA site.

The covid test can easily be done from the comfort of your hotel room.

The app will tell you how many minutes it will take for the technician to connect with you. The technician will guide you through the process and tell you exactly what to do.

The eMed technician walks you through the test.
It’s a very simple test and easy to do.

Then the tech walks you through the process of setting up the test. In the presence of the tech, you swab your nose and insert the swab into the test slot.

This is what the test specimen looks like. It’s similar to a pregnancy test.

Next, there is a 15 minute wait while the test specimen is developed. You don’t have to sit there, you can move around but the test specimen has to stay in the presence of the technician. After the 15 minutes, the technician tells you the results and will email a QR code with the results.

The e-med technician will email a QR code with your test results.
The QR code needs to be added to your American Airlines VeriFLY digital flight portfolio.

The next step is to open the American Airlines VeriFLY app. Log in and indicate that you are taking a trip to the US. It will tell you everything that is required including the QR code with covid test results. Scan the QR code or send it from your NAVICA app.

After you have completed all the requirements for American Airlines VeriFLY, they will label your digital flight portfolio as a “Confident Traveler”.

When you go to the airport, all you have to do is show them your “Confident Traveler” document on your cell phone and you’re on your way.

Barcelona: Sagrada Família & La Boqueria

When it rains, it pours. And today was a pouring rainy day. Tomorrow we head to Madrid and the following day we fly home. However, we were notified that Renfe was anticipating a strike and we were advised to cancel our train tickets to Madrid and find another way there.

The choices we had we to take the Alsa bus which is an eight hour ride or find a flight. The thought of being on a bus for eight hours the day before being on airplanes for 12 hours was not appealing. We found a flight on Air Europa for about $50. We booked it without thinking twice.

Aerial view of Sagrada Familia

We had Sagrada Família reservations for 9:30. Navigating the metro always take a little time at first to figure it out. We did find our way and all was good. We found our tour group and had a little wait … in the rain.

Gaudi took the helm of the construction work on Sagrada Família in 1883. He died in 1926. Even though the construction is not finished today, work continues facilitating his philosophy and plans.

Tour guide telling us about the structure of Sagrada Família which means Holy Family.
The nativity facade. There is so much to look at in this facade.
The plan for the main entrance was to have a grand staircase and in the early plans they assumed the property across would be purchased. However, the owners are not willing to sell.
A view down into the crypt which is where Gaudi is resting in peace.
Pipes from the only Cavaliers-Coll organ in Catalonia was donated by the nuns and placed in the crypt beside the tomb of the basilica’s architect, Antoni Gaudi.

There is so much to see at Sagrada Família and one visit probably isn’t enough. After three hours we decided to head back to our neighborhood. Time for a visit to the Mercado.

St. Josep La Boqueria
We opted for seafood but also had an order of mushrooms and padron peppers.
Love the disco ball enhanced with forks and spoons.
A nice farm display of eggs.
Spiral potato chips.

The market is a bustling place and has countless booths with many delectable options for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Now it’s time to start preparing for our trip home.

Barcelona: Park Guell

Mallorca was a joy ride and I hope I get the opportunity to return some day. We barely scratched the surface of this fascinating island.

Sunrise in Mallorca came too early. Time to head out to the airport.
Ryan Air is taking us back to the mainland of Spain.

After Theresa and I completed the 2017 walk on the Camino Frances, David and I toured around Spain for a couple weeks. We spent some time in Barcelona so this isn’t my first visit. When I think of Barcelona, I think of Gaudi and his amazing work which can be found throughout Spain. Gaudi anything is high on my priority list.

Theresa and I are limited on our time in Barcelona. We have approximately a day and a half for touring. Sagrada Família is high on Theresa’s bucket list and it’s so amazing that I welcome the opportunity to see it again. Because it is so popular, we did reserve tickets in advance over a month ago from home.

After we landed in Barcelona and got settled in our Las Ramblas hotel, we headed for Park Guell which is a much treasured leisure area for the people of Barcelona. It was designed by Antoni Gaudi between 1900-1914 at the request of Eusebi Guell.

The original request was to create a housing development for families within an estate popularly known as Bare Mountain. The development had a series of restrictive requirements. Construction of the park was carried out during Gaudi’s naturalist stage when he perfected his personal style, inspired by the organic forms of nature.

Eusebi died in 1918 and his heirs offered the park to Barcelona City Council, which agreed to the purchase in 1922. It was not opened as a municipal park until 1926 and has since been the city’s most important and prominent park. casabatllo.es

This is the multiple flights of stairs we hiked to get to the entrance of Park Guell.
The Catalan Vault
The bordering wall of the esplanade, a space for community gatherings.
Portico of the Washerwoman.
The famous Hypostyle Hall (aka Hall of a Hundred Columns) finished in 1907.
I don’t know what this building is but I call it the Dr. Seuss house.
A brightly colored dragon or salamander.
A nearby Park Guell gift shop was over stimulating. So many colors that I couldn’t focus on anything and had to leave.
After all that it was time for a gin tonika.
Dinner on Las Ramblas,
We shared a salad and a seafood assortment platter.
Stop and smell the roses!

A total stranger gave us these roses. It was an older woman who had been dining with her husband. She laid the roses on our table and said, ‘these are for you lovely ladies.’ What a nice way to end our first day in Barcelona.

Mallorca: The Serra de Tramuntana

The most spectacular views in Mallorca are found on the North coast in the mountains in the Serra de Tramuntana.

Windmills were used by farmers to grind grain and pump water.

Windmills, dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries are still a significant feature of the landscape on Mallorca. The ones with the “arrow” feature are used for extracting water into a reservoir. Many are commonly seen in poor state of repair. Today their presence is so inherent to the island’s heritage that the Mallorcan government developed a project dedicated to their restoration and preservation. firstmallorca.com

Our bus tour started in the foothills of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.
Hillside terraces were made to help manage water and erosion.

The cultural landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana is an example of the Mediterranean agricultural landscape. The system of terraces and cobbled road network, common to many Mediterranean landscapes, is combined with an articulated network of devices for the management of water, revolving around farming units designated in the Middle Ages. Several villages, churches, sanctuaries, towers, lighthouses and small dry-stone structures punctuate the terraced landscape and contribute to its actual character. abc-mallorca.com

It was a two hour drive up the mountain.
The big tour buses shared the 2-lane road with many bicyclers who must have been in training. I can’t think of another reason for riding up this extremely steep road loaded with tour buses.
Incredible views with the Mediterranean in the background.
The snaking road is where we had been.
A lone goat climbed the rocky hills.
Our destination … Sa Calowbra

The Serra de Tramuntana mountains plummet dramatically into the Mediterranean. The tiny coastal village of Sa Calobra has two beaches trapped between spectacular cliffs.

We had a two hour break to enjoy Sa Colobra. We brought a picnic lunch and sat by the beach.
A view of the beach and restaurants at Sa Calowbra. I think there was a hotel and casitas in there too.
This boat will take us to our next destination … the town of Soller.
It was a beautiful day for a boat ride on the very blue waters of the Mediterranean.
There are many caves in the steep mountainside.
A number of boat cave tours are available to visitors. Very intriguing but no time to explore caves on this trip.
The lighthouse marks the entrance to Soller.
The harbor and village come into view. We had about a 30 minute stay in Soller.
Our next mode of transportation was a tram followed by the vintage train that would take us down the mountain. We went through several tunnels.
More beautiful views.
We passed olive groves and herds of sheep and other grazing animals. Our bus met us in Palma and returned to the hotels.
Back to our beach neighborhood.

It was still warm when we returned from the day of touring. I walked down to our beach and took a dip in the Mediterranean. The water wasn’t cold and it wasn’t warm. It was perfect. Soft sand could be felt under my feet and seen through clear blue water. Gliding through the gentle waves, I watched the sailboats off in the distance as the sun began to set. What a memorable moment and one of the highlights of my trip to Spain.

Beautiful sunset tonight.

Our time in Mallorca is nearing an end. Now what? Tomorrow we fly to Barcelona on another Ryan Air bargain flight. Our ticket to fly from Mallorca to Barcelona was $12 in addition to the $19 for a seat and another $37 to check my backpack. With prices like this, I am a happy traveler.

Mallorca: Touring Palma

The Oleander hotel was about three miles from the heart of Palma. It was very convenient to take the city bus. We caught it about a block from the hotel.

Sunrise from the balcony. Looks like a rainy day on the horizon.
By the time we reached Palma it was raining hard.
We were trying to find our way to the Cathedral.
Beautiful landscaping and gardens on the outside of the old town
Navigating the walled old town proved to be a bit challenging.
Finally we found the Cathedral. Now we have to find the entrance.

The 13th century Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma is massive. It is a Gothic landmark that overlooks the Bay of Palma. It was built on the site of a pre-existing Arab mosque. An admission is charged and they encourage visitors to purchase tickets in advance. We paid at the door and there was no waiting.


One of the features of this cathedral is the Gaudi canopy over the altar.

The building was started in 1229 and finished in 1601. Fifty years after a restoration of the cathedral had started in 1901 Antoni Gaudí was invited to take over the restoration project. Some of his ideas were adopted. He moved the choir stalls from the middle nave to be closer to the altar. He also made a large canopy. Gaudí abandoned his work in 1914 after an argument with the contractor. The planned changes were cosmetic rather than structural.* The project was cancelled soon after … and it looks like it. There is so much to look at it can be overwhelming to the senses and hard to focus on the design elements. *abcmallorca.com

This is a massive silver candelabra. It’s at least five feet high.
This is the relic of San Sebastián.

Relics are suppose to be an object or article of religious significance from the past. Many of these lavish holders contain bones from the Saints and its a way to honor the individual. I think I’d prefer a nice photo instead.

The cathedral had very ornate light fixtures.
The Bay of Palma is across from the Cathedral.
Beautiful beaches nearby.
The harbor is packed with vessels.

About those pearls … Mallorca has been producing man-made pearls since the end of the 19th century, and is still doing so today. Natural pearls are formed within the soft tissue of an oyster or mollusk, are very rare and can take anywhere between 5 and 20 years to form.

Would love to have gone to the pearl center of Mallorca but we didn’t have time. We did found a great spot for pearl shopping.

It was with this in mind that Eduard Heusch, a German innovator invented a process for creating man-made pearls. He obtained the first patent to create pearls and founded the company Societe des Perles de Indes E. Heusch & Co. Which is today known as Majorica and is located in Manacor. The patent belonging to Majorica lapsed in 1948 and since then a number of pearl manufacturing companies have popped up all with similar processing techniques. balearic-villas.com

The perfect pearl ring!

We rambled down the narrow streets of the old town part of Palma. We were lost and continued to ramble looking for a place for lunch.

It’s easy to get lost here. It was a maze enclosed within the old town walls.
We found a hidden treasure ‘hole-in-the wall’ for lunch.
Best tomatoes ever topped with a locally made cheese and covered in olive oil, seasonings and herbs. Fabulous flavors.
This little deli had the best seafood salad.
After lunch, we managed to find our way out of the Old Town walls and back into the streets of Palma.
Travelers fatigue was setting in so we headed back to our beach area. Here we see more of the German flavor with Pizza Berlin and you can also get Turkish Donar Kebap. Note: Turkish food is very popular in Germany because of all the Turkish guest workers hosted there.
We bought a small bottle of Tunel hierbas to sample. Mallorca is the only place we saw this liqueur.

Túnel de Mallorca is a herb liqueur made from rosemary, chamomile, mint, fennel and marjoram. Crafted to display the aroma of the Mediterranean. It is popular and traditional across all of the Balearic Islands. Often served over ice, this is a perfect after-dinner drink.

Hierbas is also popular throughout Spain. Many families have a ‘family recipe’ for their hierbas that has been handed down through the generations.

We didn’t have a ‘chupito’ so we used our recently purchased candle holders from the Cathedral of Leon as shot glasses. It’s definitely better over ice.
A rainbow at the end of a rainy day.

We have one whole day left and a lot of Mallorca left to see. Our best option was to sign up for a tour. Tomorrow we do the mountains.