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.

Mallorca … We’re on Vacation Now!

Mallorca has been on my bucket list since Theresa and I started going to Spain in 2017, I just never thought it was a possibility. Now, we are headed there.

I didn’t know much about Mallorca (aka Majorca) but did some speed reading research to catch up before going there. It’s one of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean so of course it’s know for its beaches. Apparently, it is one of the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean. It’s known for secluded coves, limestone mountains and Spanish architecture. We have three days to find out what Mallorca is all about.

We flew all the way across Spain. The flight was just under two hours.
The first glimpse from the sky showed lots of beaches and some very steep shorelines.
Beautiful blue water.

We stayed at the Oleander hotel, Being a bargain hunter I wasn’t going to wreck a cheap flight with an expensive hotel. It took a few weeks of looking and our timing was good as we hit the start of off-season pricing. We got a room touted in this hotel as $180/night for about $67/night.

Our room had a balcony with a view of the far off sea. We were about two blocks from the Mediterranean.
The hotel had a large outdoor patio with a couple pools.

The odd thing about this hotel was that everything was German … much of the signage and tour brochures. Many of the guests were German and a couple of the front desk people spoke German to guests.

We walked to the beach and passed several restaurants featuring German food. I like German food but not on an island in the Mediterranean.
We did find a beach front restaurant with seafood risotto.
Finally … the Mediterranean.
Threatening skies. We took our time walking back to the hotel.
Street art. There were a lot of grocery stores competing for tourist dollars with the pricey restaurants.
People put their price stickers here.
The pool area at the hotel had a stage and entertainment. So we stopped for a drink.
It didn’t take long for us to realize we were watching drag queens.
It was entertaining that’s for sure!!

Our first day in Mallorca was full of excitement even though traveler fatigue was setting in. Tomorrow we plan to see the sites of Palma.

CAMINO INGLES: Returning to Finish 2019

There are many Caminos in Spain. Traditionally, people have walked the Camino for religious purposes but not so much anymore. I’ve read a report that said 10% and another that said 25% of all walking the Camino do it for religious reasons. It is believed the Santiago Cathedral houses the tomb of St. James, and people walk this path to pay homage to him.

St. James was an apostle who went to this north-western part of Spain to preach and convert people to Christianity. All caminos end in the city of ‘Santiago’ or San Tiago … San is Saint and Tiago translates into James.

St. James was martyred in about 44 ce in Jerusalem. Legend has it that his bones ended up in the crypt of the Santiago Cathedral. The dead apostle’s mojo has attracted pilgrims ever since.

There are many caminos all over Europe. Many connect to each other and they all end in Santiago.

In the modern era, people have all sorts of reasons for walking the Camino de Santiago. Many do it for adventure or exercise, for clarity of mind, for a sense of achievement, to meet people from all over the world or to enjoy and learn about the Spanish culture. In addition to religious reasons these are among the reasons for walking a Camino today.

The more pilgrims walk ‘off the beaten path’ Camino routes the better it is for the local community. It helps to distribute tourism income throughout the country. It also encourages people who live in less touristy areas to become entrepreneurs; open an albergue, a hostel, a restaurant, a laundry, etc. As a result, it gives people an opportunity to earn money in the place they live instead of moving to a bigger city in search of a job.

You get to know places that you would never think of going to or you didn’t even know existed … like Villementero (aka Animal Farm) or Reliegos with the meteor site and bar Elvis. We would never have discovered Morcilla had we not visited The Meseta.

Many people we met have walked Caminos multiple times — we know of one person who has walked Camino Frances nine times.

The Camino Frances, which is about 500 miles long, is the most popular because it has a good infrastructure and the most albergues. The Meseta, which we just did, is part of Camino Frances and stretches from Burgos to Leon.

Our next destination is on Camino Ingles which is a shorter and easier Camino.

We had a two day stay in northern Spain in the town of ACoruna which is near the start of Camino Ingles. ACoruna is located on the North Atlantic Ocean and is known for the Roman lighthouse called the Tower of Hercules. There are many beautiful beaches and seafood is plentiful.

The view from our hotel window in ACoruna … that spot of light comes from the Tower of Hercules lighthouse.
A beautiful sunrise in ACoruna. No need to get up early to capture this view, the sun doesn’t rise until around 7:30-8:00 am.
We’re in the land of tapas … prawns provided with a beer.
Galician Scallop Pie was something we had never seen on a menu before.
A local version of muscles in a unique sauce.

It was a fun day of sampling seafood, shopping, walking around the harbor & beaches and enjoying the cultural vibe of ACoruna. It was a short but sweet visit.

Breakfast at the train station. Catching the Renfe to Santiago and then a Mon bus to Ordes which is near Theresa’s starting point..

If you followed the ‘Jane in Spain’ blog in 2019, you will know this story. We were two days from finishing the Camino Ingles. We were staying overnight in the town of Ordes and we were just out for a stroll. The sidewalks were torn up with a construction project. Theresa was on the edge of a sidewalk taking a photo and the sidewalk crumbled under her feet. She fell, hitting her shins on the concrete and tearing ligaments in her ankle.

In 2019, sidewalk construction caused Theresa to fall.

Several locals came to see what happened and brought compassion and remedies such as sugar water. The police came and assessed the situation. They called an ambulance. We recruited an English speaker who was on his way to play soccer to translate for us. The three of us rode in the ambulance to a hospital that was two blocks away. They bandaged Theresa and put her on crutches. She had to take a taxi the last two days while I walked alone.

In 2019 … Ambulance takes Theresa away. Jose (on the right) offered to translate so he joined us in the ambulance.
In 2019 … Theresa in the ER
In 2019 … Theresa was well taken care of after the fall.

Now, Theresa is going to finish the two days on the Ingles and receive her Ingles Compostela. We arrived in Ordes late Sunday afternoon. She would start walking on Monday.

Return to the scene of the crime … they did finish the sidewalk construction.
We had a nice room at the Nogales hotel in Ordes. That is not overgrown tall grass outside the window, it’s the tree tops. We were on the 4th floor.
We finished the day with a salad & pork chop dinner at our hotel.

The next day, Theresa started her trek while I attempted to catch up on blogging. The problem is that not everyplace has a good WiFi connection and that can be frustrating.

Americano Cafe con leche with churros.
In the nearby town of Outeiro is Cafe Bar O Cruceiro which is the starting point. This is where we left off for the day … two years ago.
It’s a beautiful walk from Outeiro to Siguero.
There are vineyards along the way.
Siguero is a small but thriving village.
Most towns, villages and cities have crosses at their entrance …
… Siguero just has a decorative pillar.
The second day of walking for Theresa.
The Bosque Enchanted Forest was a beautiful part of the day’s journey.
I took the Mon Bus from Siguero and met Theresa in Santiago.
Mission accomplished! Theresa finished Camino Ingles and received her Compostela which is a certificate in Latin that documents the completion of a Camino.
Time for a celebration in Santiago!

Tomorrow we fly to the island of Mallorca. Our Ryan airline tickets cost $17 … but then they charged us $19 for a seat and I paid $37 to check my backpack. Final cost was $73 for a one-way ticket. Not a bad price.

Leon

Our first stop at the end of The Meseta is the city of Leon which has a population of 134,000. Leon’s finest treasure is its Gothic cathedral. We spent a couple days enjoying the city and our new found freedom from rural life on The Meseta.

Gothic 13-century Catedral de Leon featuring many towers and flying buttresses.
Santa de Maria de Leon Catedral is also called The House of Light.

The Catedral de Leon features 130 stained glass windows together with three rose windows which is only surpassed by the 176 windows of Chartres cathedral in France. However, the windows of Chartres cover a much smaller surface area. The windows of Leon reflect both scenes of nature and aspects of the supernatural. *Information from Fundacion Jacobea.

Gothic arches surround the cloister.
Many ornate designs enhanced the ceiling.
Fountains and gardens decorate this traffic circle.
A very amusing sculpture.

The word Lion in Spanish is Leon; in Spanish it’s a nickname for a fierce or brave warrior. This Lion is escaping from a hole in the sidewalk is very creative.

A sporting goods store featured a diorama of the Camino.
A small hat store was loads of fun.
This was one of my favorite hats from Bijoux Bridget.
The Monastery of San Marcos Parador in Leon.

We love Spanish Paradors … we just can’t afford them. They are luxury hotels usually located in a converted historic building such as a monastery or castle or in a modern building with a view of a historic or monumental city. Staying in a Parador is an immersion experience. Visitors learn about history or culture, they can be immersed in a city or immersed in nature depending on the location of the Parador. There are 97 Paradors in Spain and they are all run by the Spanish Government.

This is what I found to be one of the most interesting sites in Leon. The Monastery of San Marcos existed until 1837 when it was seized and abolished by Juan Àlvarez Mendizàbal (Prime Minister under Queen Isabel II). Monastic life of the friars of St. James came to an end after 700 years. The monastery faced several auctions and constantly changing inhabitants and uses. In 1936 it became a concentration camp where Franco imprisoned his political prisoners. It is believed that 20,000 Spaniards passed through the cells and approximately 7,000 died.

Not sure what this little alcove facilitated … the friars were cloistered so perhaps it was where they could converse with family through the small opening in the wall.

The monestary now facilitates the museum of Leon and is also a 5-star Parador. *mobi.parador.es

This is the hotel lobby of the Monastery of San Marcos Parador.


The San Marcos Parador was featured in the movie “The Way”. The Martin Sheen character treats his Camino friends to a night at this Parador.

Tomorrow we head north to ACoruna and then on to Camino Ingles.

Goodbye Meseta!

Our next stop is Leon and that means we are saying goodbye to the Meseta after being on it for 14 days! Most people blow through it in seven days and complain that it was too long and boring. But not us — we doubled down on the dare. It’s very exciting at first to see all the sunflower fields, the big skies, the wheat fields and the beautiful color palette. But after a week of it, the excitement fades and the walking did become a challenge.

The latter days of the Meseta looked like this. Oftentimes the path followed the highway.
If you weren’t paying attention you would think you were in South Dakota.

THE BEST OF THE MESETA

The Ruins at San Anton and the Castle at Castrojarez.

Walking into the ruins of San Anton was amazing. These gigantic structures were dramatic and emotionally very moving. They are in the middle of nowhere before Castrojarez. To think of the history and how the niches in the walls where they left food for the poor. Now in its deteriorated state, it is somewhat mystical and even a bit haunting.

Castrojarez with the Hilltop Castle Ruins

This is an amazing town with a lot to see. I would have loved to explore the castle ruins but it was a steep climb, we were tired and it was hot. it would have been nice to have another day here. None-the-less, it was an amazing view.

Villementero de Campos –– Animal Farm

We loved this place for its creative vibe, unique offerings and the locals who came and sang at night. The dinner made by Marcello was the best of gourmet, fresh food, healthy and local. Our global companions who joined us for dinner kept the conversation lively with talk about everything from Ricky Rubio to Camino adventures and the Meseta.

Thought provoking art work lurking everywhere.
The best of home cooking and local cuisine along with interesting dinner companions.
Where else could you sleep in a tube?
Enjoyed the local ambiance and folk songs.

The Sahagun Monastery

The Monastery was very welcoming and we felt at home especially when they gave us a private room and a private bathroom. Nice location. It was a very quiet and peaceful environment.

The Marist brothers at the Santa Cruz Monastery were very welcoming and their hospitality was gracious and genuine.
The street entrance to the Monastery.
Alexandro was from Madrid, spoke very good English and was very welcoming.

Bar Elvis

This place was such a dive but it rocked. The music, the ambiance and the people were incredible. Graffiti by people from all over the world covered every square inch. It was a party and we felt like invited guests.

Bar Elvis had a lotta character and good energy even though it looked like it should be condemned.
More instant friends on the Camino.

A Morning with Caesar and Jenneke

Best breakfast ever with a very accommodating host — Caesar, and the best conversation with a total stranger who instantly became a ‘best friend ever’ –– Jenneke. It’s always inspirational to meet amazing people and Caesar and Jenneke take top honors.

Jenneke and Caesar made our day!

Best Bike Rental — BIKENBABIA

The Meseta had a lot of bike traffic and being so flat and long, it was the perfect place for biking. After several miles and a few days of walking my legs begged me for a bicycle. On a whim, I started scouring the internet for a bike rental with no luck. Some places didn’t survive the Covid year and were no longer in business. Some didn’t speak English and some didn’t want to be bothered. I

I started asking around and someone told me to contact Bikenbabia. So I did … and lucky for me, they have a representative who communicates in English. Most of our text messages were done on ‘Whats App’. I was thrilled to be able to rent an e-bike. For those who are unfamiliar with e-bikes, it’s not a moped … you still have to pedal and shift gears. It assists with the pedaling and there is much less strain on the knees when going uphill. Perfect!

Bikenbabia’s service was outstanding. With a day’s notice, Jose and Mari delivered the bike to my hotel in Castrojarez. In addition to the bike, they showed me where everything was and how it worked. There was a spare tire, a small pump, a can of fix-a-flat, a tool set, a battery charger which were all stored in a pannier. They even included a water bottle. I took a short test drive and it made my legs very happy.

As with most walkers, pace is everything. Theresa and I rarely walk together. She is a very fast walker and I am a very slow walker. So renting a bike didn’t disrupt out routine except that I would fly by and reach the next destination first.

It was such a joy to ride this e-bike and it was perfect for the long miles of wheat fields. The only downside for me was that I rarely stopped to take photos, not that there was much to photograph. Even in the rain, I loved being on a bike rather than walking.

I had planned to ride the bike all the way to the end of the Camino (Leon) but changed direction when Therese decided that she had enough walking. There was an 11 mile stretch after Carrion and Theresa said it was time for a cab. I contacted Bikenbabia and asked if I could shorten my rental and have the bike picked up in Carrion instead of Leon. They were very accommodating. The next day, Jose met us at a coffee shop in Carrion and picked the bike up there.

I would highly recommend Bikenbabia for Camino bike rental.

The other thing I liked about Bikenbabia was that they took PayPal for the deposit. I paid cash for the rental itself but could have used PayPal. When I asked to return the bike early, they were very accommodating and refunded a portion of the rental fee. I think they were very fair.

And one more star for Bikenbabia … they service the entire Frances Camino. So if you would like to do the Frances but don’t have a month, you might want to consider doing it by bike or doing part of it by bike. I would recommend contacting them by email (www.Bikenbabia.com) and giving them plenty of notice. They have a variety of bikes and they know the terrain of the Camino. My e-bike had shock absorbers. It was an awesome experience and it exceeded my expectations.

For bike rentals on the Camino Frances, contact Bikenbabia! http://www.bikenbabia.com

THE WORST OF THE MESETA

The Hill From Hell

Shortly after Castrojarez, there is a very steep hill –– Alto de Mostyelares is the hill that can be seen off in the distance. It was full sun and hot that day but I don’t think that would have mattered. This hill was steep with no switchbacks. Going down was not fun either …. it had an 18% grade, was very steep and there were no switchbacks.

FINAL REFLECTIONS

It was a long two weeks but I don’t think I would have done anything differently. Each town or village had something special that made it worth a visit. It’s all a learning experience — culture, cuisine, history, agriculture, geography, language and humanity. If you’re walking Camino Frances, do at least part of The Meseta … it is a part of Spain that should not be skipped.

NEXT STOP … is Leon followed by a couple days on Camino Ingles so Theresa can finish her walk that was interrupted by an accident in 2019.

STAY TUNED! We purchased one-way tickets to Mallorca for $17. See what a $17 ticket on Ryan air buys … a seat on the wing?

Reliegos

We were packed up and leaving El Burgo Renaro around 8:00 am and the moon was just rising. What a beautiful sky and it was the perfect view from all of the public exercise equipment.

Next stop is Reliegos — land of the bodegas which are wine cellars built into hillsides. Some also function as taverns that serves primarily wine.

A bodega on the Main Street of Reliegos.
This sign marks the meteor site.

The claim to fame for Reliegos is being struck by a meteor in 1947. The 38-lb meteor is on display in the natural science museum in Madrid but the site is well marked on the Main Street of Reliegos.

A metal plaque in the street marks the place where the meteor hit.
Albergue Las Hadras is where we stayed.

Once again, we saw Las Hadras turn away quite a few people. It’s a small albergue that had a good vibe.

We had a bunk tucked away in a small alcove. Fortunately, this is the only time we (Theresa) got stuck with a top bunk. Because of covid, top bunks usually were left open.
This albergue did serve Vegan meals. The back yard of the albergue had a patio and some landscaping.
Very interesting … take a closer look!
It’s a packer cap on a pole. We think it came with the meteor. Go Pack Go!
On our walk through town we found only a couple restaurants and they were open only in the afternoon and early evening. Sorry … no coffee anywhere in the morning. We filled up on Calamari and vino tinto.
We walked by a hillside filled with bodegas.
Somebody had their onions displayed on the sidewalk.
The dark sky looked threatening all day.
The tour of bodegas …
In this small town, I’m thinking the bodegas must have been a family run operation.
This is Bar Elvis. We were told it was the town hotspot.
… And it was. Our new friends we met at Bar Elvis … Peter and Annette from Minnetonka! Annette just retired as an elementary teacher from Wayzata and Peter is a civil engineer. Behind Annette is Tara from Toronto, Jasmine from Zurich, (Theresa) and Chuck from Oregon.
It is mind boggling to be so far away from home and to meet people who live so close to home.

El Burgo Renaro

The monastery halls were quiet and it was a peaceful night’s sleep. Before we moved on, the Brothers had breakfast food set up in the dining room.

A quiet hall at the monastery.
A variety of bread, meat, cheese, fruit, yogurt and hard boiled eggs as well as coffee & tea were available for guests.

Our next stop was El Burgo Renero which was a wool producing town, the biggest business of Castila during the Middle Ages. Huge flocks of sheep, up to 40,000 were tended. They grazed in the mountains in the summer while the Meseta fields were occupied with wheat.

Back to small town life in El Burgo Renero, population of about 800. This is our albergue for tonight.

The town had a church that seemed to have a Mexican flare to its architecture.

More stork nests on the bell tower.

We were impressed with the community exercise equipment. There were about a dozen pieces of equipment outdoors, facing a field. We tried them all and it was a nice little workout circuit. Our albergue owner said the locals use the equipment in the winter when they aren’t out in their fields.

This unit was similar to an elliptical. Impressive equipment — every neighborhood should have this.

Somebody “yarn bombed” the whole town. Most of the trees were covered with knitting. There were little yarn pompoms on almost every door. This might have been somebody’s quarantine project. Very charming and gave the town a nice cozy feel.

Yarn bombed tree.

The tidy little town was very quiet during the day. The only noise came when a tractor or farm equipment rumbled through town. Not much car traffic.

As in many villages, Covid helped close down the little grocery stores. In this town, a grocery store on wheels came through and would park for a while and then move a few blocks away and stop. There probably was a time schedule. People would come down and do their shopping.

The grocery store on wheels helped fill in for the missing stores.
The mobile grocery store sold a variety of items, everything from bread to cleaning supplies..
We found a sunny little oasis for lunch.

We were going to be adventuresome today and try something on the menu even though we had no idea what it was. We discovered Morcilla de Burgos. It was very tasty but had a flavor we couldn’t identify. We asked the waitress what was in it and she said a lot of onions. We had this delicacy a few more times until I started researching it. I discovered it was “black pudding” which is another name for blood pudding. No wonder we couldn’t identify the taste! The “Burgos” version had a lot of onions in it. The morcilla de Leon had a bit of a different flavor. We’re glad we tried it but don’t think we’ll be ordering it again.

We had a dinner guest …
… and he brought the whole family.

Back at the Albergue … there was a lovely grass area with reclining lawn chairs and palapa huts for shade. Almost made me forget I was in the middle of farm land. They also had an outstanding laundry facility and lots of clothesline. It was a good day for doing laundry.