Told you I would be back

But I bet you didn’t think it would be this fast.

The day after we were in Astoria we stopped in a very exotic city as far we were concerned—Seattle 😜. This day was going to the most boring one for us. We had booked a food tour of Pike Place Market with Show Me Seattle with my brother and sister-in-law. Kathleen and I had done this tour with Savor Seattle before they were bought by this company so we knew what to expect.

Our big task for this day was to leave the ship, get in an Uber, cross Lake Washington to Bellevue and sign our escrow papers to buy our new home. Kathleen was also tired out with her arm in a heavy splint, so I guided Steve, Jamie, and a few other folks from our Cruise Critic Roll Call up to the Pike Place Market and introduced them to our tour guide. I even went along to the first stop on the tour, Ellenos Yogurt (the world’s most excellent yogurt).

Then I hot-footed it back to the pier where Kathleen met me; we grabbed an Uber and raced through the city, crossed the lake and signed the papers (BTW: we LOVE this house. One of the best decisions we have ever made) that made our new house our home. Then back to the ship and by that time, it was almost time for dinner. I don’t have pics from Seattle because I didn’t take my camera off the ship. I have taken thousands of Seattle photos, so I am sure you will excuse me if I didn’t. Here are some of my Seattle pics, so you won’t think I have left you wanting. Don’t forget; these pics look much better if you click on one and watch them as a slide show on a computer or a tablet.

Back with Victoria soon.

The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.  —from the theme song to the 1960’s television show, “Here Comes the Brides.”

San Francisco, Day 2

When last we spoke, I was writing my last post while Kathleen was having surgery on her elbow that she hurt on our first day in San Francisco. Today (four days later), I am starting this while she is in for her post-op check. She is doing better. The first day was fine, the block wore off, the pain kicked in on day two, and now things seem better. I hope whatever they do to her today doesn’t make her regress.

But back to our second day in the Bay area. Not much happened for us because Kathleen (with her arm in an ugly splint) slept most of the day. But I got up before dawn to take pics from the ship (all of them are in the gallery below), and then after getting her up, bathed and off to breakfast and then back to the stateroom for another nap, I went out to walk the Embarcadero in the opposite way we went yesterday. I wanted to walk from the ship at Pier 27 to whatever they call the ballpark where the San Francisco Giants play.

It was a beautiful, windy day, and I think I enjoyed my walk as much as Kathleen enjoyed her nap 😜. I shot a bunch of pics (again, see the gallery) and then headed back to the ship as we sailed at 4:30 in the afternoon to head out for another sea day and then a visit to Astoria, Oregon.

One of the best things about sailing into or out of San Francisco is sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, and this time (on a clear afternoon), I was on the top deck as we sailed out to sea. There are lots of photos from that in the gallery as well.

That about does it for San Francisco. We had a decent time, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have preferred that Kathleen not fall and that we do not have to spend more than six hours in an ER. But that’s what happened.

Below is my photo gallery from day two in San Francisco. The first few are from an early sunrise shoot from around the ship’s upper decks.

The second group is from my mid-day Photowalk.

The last few are from our sail out, which took us under the amazing Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco is really fun and liberal, and it’s my kind of politics. It’s like being Jewish in front of Jewish people.  —Elaine Boosler

Life is certainly interesting

As I write this, I am sitting in the waiting area for Proliance Surgeons as Kathleen is getting her elbow repaired. We are now fully moved into our new home (except for about 20 boxes we still need to empty), have sold our old one (escrow closes on the 16th), and things are indeed…”interesting.”

When Kathleen asked me what I was going to do while she was getting cut (surgery takes 90 minutes, but she is in pre-op for 2 hours and then post-op for two hours), I said it was about time I finished up the Pacific Coastal cruise report, so here we go.

San Francisco—I used to like this town.

Ok, I still do like this town, but I am also kind of ticked at the city. This is the city where Kathleen found a nice lip on a sidewalk and took the fall that led to the surgery she is having now. But you already knew that, so here’s what we did that day.

Our ship was in port for two days. I had hoped to get up early and be on deck when we sailed under the Golden Gate, but we were already docked when I woke up and looked outside at 4:30 am. I guess I could have taken pics of us coming in but they all would have been black scenics.

The ship was docked at Pier 27, about halfway between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf, right on the Embarcadero. After breakfast, the four of us set off on a walk towards Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Boudin’s Sourdough Bakery. Lots of photos on the way you can see in the gallery below. We stopped for coffee at Boudin’s, and then Kathleen and I headed back to the ship via Uber while Jamie and Steve went exploring.

That afternoon we had scheduled another food tour with Local Tastes of the City Tours. We had chosen to do their North Beach/Little Italy tour. They also do a Chinatown tour, but we went that way since I love Italian food more than Asian. We took an Uber up from the ship to meet our guide smack dab in the middle of Little Italy. We four were part of a group of 14 who would take the tour, which started with us eating a cannoli on the street corner where we met up. They were delicious, but I sure would have liked to see the places where they came from. Our guide just brought them along with her from Stella Pastry about half a block away.

Then it was off to cross the street to Cavalli Cafe, where we tried Italian sodas (definitely the weakest link on this tour), but they did have a nice restroom. This was also one of the few stops where we got to go into someplace and sit down. The rest of the tour involved our guide (who was very good) going into the store/restaurant and bringing the food out to us to eat on the street. While all the food we had was excellent, this got a little annoying after a while—eating on a sidewalk with people walking by. But as I said before, life is certainly interesting.

After Italian sodas, we went on to a fun little Sicilian delicatessen about a block away to try arancini (rice balls full of meat and cheese). The food was fine, but the real attraction here was the owner, who came out on the street and pretty much put on a comedy show. As you can see from the photo, he is a pretty animated Sicilian who truly loves his store. A few days later, I have to say that we had arancini in Victoria, BC, which was a lot better.

I should also note that none of these places were more than about two blocks from another, so this was not a long tour by any stretch. As we walked, our guide Isabella told us all about the history of the neighborhoods we were walking through. She was genuinely well-versed in her San Francisco lore.

Our next stop was our favorite on the tour, San Francisco’s oldest Italian market, Molinari’s. Inside this place was AMAZING! If we had a place like this near home, I might ask for a job or spend a lot of money there regularly. I have some great photos of the inside of these places in the gallery below. BTW: This place had the best sandwiches I may ever have eaten. Don’t ask me why, but I think it’s because everything was just perfect, from the bread to the cold cuts and veggies inside. It was so good it would almost be worth a trip back to the city to eat there.

After we left Molinari’s, we walked a bit, and I climbed a high set of stairs to take pics with a few others from the tour (see the gallery), and we were headed to Z Cioccolato to get some of their amazing fudge. But sadly, we never got there. About 25 feet to the right of this photo is where Kathleen fell and broke her elbow. From there, we hailed an Uber and drove quickly back to the ship. We had hoped that she wasn’t hurt too badly, but by the time we got down to the ship, it was evident that we needed to get to a doctor or an ER.

At this point, I need to point out that we did have a little bit of good luck because the ship was in San Francisco overnight. If that had not been the case, and seeing that it was already after 3:00 pm, we would have been in real trouble as the ship would have sailed at 4:30 pm, leaving us behind to fly home on our own. That’s what happens with ships. That would have given us some real problems for so many reasons.

After we got back to the ship and dropped Steve and Jamie off, we grabbed another Uber and had them take us to the nearest Kaiser hospital (our HMO). It wasn’t too far away, but when you are driving bumpy streets with a broken elbow, it seems like 100 miles. We had high hopes that we would be out of there within a couple of hours and make it back for dinner. Unfortunately, that was not to be. We were in the ER for more than six hours from start to finish. And they were so crowded they wouldn’t let me in the building (not even a waiting room) due to COVID restrictions for the first three hours. I got so stand outside in the cold wind. This was not one of my most fun experiences.

Kathleen left with a fully wrapped arm in a splint (that had to be kept DRY), and we got back to the ship about 9:30. My brother had arranged for a wheelchair to get her back on board, and by that time, she needed it. So we got a very late room service dinner and went to bed.

One other thing I want to mention before I drop in the photos. The folks at Local Tastes Tours were awesome when this all happened. Our guide (after making sure we were doing OK) ran to the chocolate store and grabbed fudge for all of us to enjoy later. Then that evening, I got an e-mail from the tour company owner asking how Kathleen was and sending us a certificate for a free tour for four the next time we are in San Francisco. Of course, he did not need to do that, but this is the sign of a great company, and then our guide Isabella sent me a separate e-mail asking how she was doing. They were just wonderful. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Don’t forget, these pics look much better if you click on one and watch them as a slide show, either on a computer or a tablet.

That was about it for day one in the city by the bay. As if that wasn’t enough. As I am finishing this, we are back home after Kathleen’s surgery, and she is OK and doing well. Her elbow just needed some repairs but not a complete replacement. Thank heaven (or whoever) for that.

Nothing important has ever come out of San Francisco, Rice-a-Roni aside.
—Michael O’Donoghue

Sorry I disappeared

I hate that I haven’t finished the story of our cruise. I just wanted you to know that I will finish it as soon as possible. We are still in the midst of our move, Kathleen’s broken arm needs surgery and by the end of the day, when I usually write, I am beyond tired. Saturday morning is my no-workout, so I have a few minutes to leave this note.

I still have a lot to say about the cruise…A LOT. I promise to come back and say it. I have been writing notes; I just need to put them all together.

I kept a diary right after I was born. Day 1: Tired from the move. Day 2: Everyone thinks I’m an idiot.  —Steven Wright

I thought it was bad before

So if you follow my posts, you know I just did one about our day in Santa Barbara, and I promised the next one would be about Catalina Island. We had a great time, but I need to update you on something that happened yesterday in San Francisco that will change what I can write about and take photos of.

We were on a food tour in the North Beach/Little Italy section of San Francisco. I will report on it later because it was superb until about three-quarters of the way through. That’s when my wonderful bride Kathleen caught her foot on a metal piece in the old sidewalk, took a fall and wound up with a broken arm. After six+ hours in the hospital ER, we made it back to the ship around 10:00 pm. Not the most fun day of vacation we have ever had. But we are very happy it happened on a day when the ship was staying in port overnight, or we would have been in a hotel last night and flying home to Seattle today.

We will tough it out until at least Wednesday when we get to Seattle. If she is in a lot of pain or wants to get off, we will take an Uber/Lyft home.

I just wanted to keep you updated. Today, we planned to head to Sausalito on the ferry, but that isn’t going to happen. She is just not up for it. And I have been having painful problems with my back and legs, so it isn’t all her. We are just two old people getting older.

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.    —Mark Twain

Colorful Curacao

Usually my headlines are written just for the alliteration but this one really is true.  We thought things were pretty colorful the day before in Bonaire, but Curacao really takes the colorful cake. It appears that this town loves color. We took a short tour on the town’s trolley and our guide told us the real reason that Curacao’s capital Willemstad has so many colorful buildings is that about 100 years ago, the governor of the island decreed that houses could no longer be white. That they had to be painted one of a set number of colors. After he left office it was found that not only was he the governor but he was also part owner of the only paint supplier on the island 😂.

But it has served Curacao well as you will see from my photos. It’s a photographer’s paradise. Besides all the colorful buildings my photos benefited from one of the bluest skies I have ever seen.

But before I show you the photos I want to tell you what we did to tour. First, when the ship arrived there was quite a bit of discussion between the ship and the port. It went on for a while. So long that many people were waiting for the Captain to announce we were going to have to skip the port. But finally, almost an hour later, the port allowed us to disembark. There was one big change though. We were originally scheduled not to leave the port until 11;00 pm but because Willemstad had a 9:00 pm curfew for everyone in the town they moved up our all-aboard time to match up with the curfew and let us off.

Our included (in our Have It All promotion) shore excursion for this port was the aforementioned Old Town Trolley Tour. We were actually picked up by taxis (vans) and driven across the Queen Juliana Bridge to meet up with the trolley and our guide in downtown. Our tour was in a three car trolley pulled by a gas-powered engine that looked like a train engine (bell included). We saw lots of colorful architecture on our about 90 minute tour which started and ended at the old town fort. Our guide was good, the driver a great guy but I can’t recommend this tour. The fumes from the engine were horrible. By about halfway through we were either nauseous or getting there or we had a horrible headache. This trolley engine needs a tune up or a replacement before anyone should try and take that tour again. But it was interesting (when you could breathe). What we saw is in the photo captions. Funny but it was one of the few times we were thrilled to be wearing masks. Can’t imagine how bad it would have been without them.

After we were done they gave us the option of either walking back to the ship or taking the taxi back. Kathleen had a bad headache from the fumes so she headed back. I wanted to take more pics of downtown so I elected to stay and walk back across the fabulous floating bridge.

So here’s the pics that explain everything else. Remember, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

That was about it for downtown Willemstad. From the bridge it was about a ten minute walk back to the ship, back aboard and after a nice evening (more about entertainment and food coming soon) we went to bed and woke up sailing into Oranjestad, Aruba. More about that tomorrow.

What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful.   —Joshua Foer

Beautiful Bonaire—I’m impressed

Yesterday (Friday January 28th) we were in beautiful Bonaire. One of the three ABC islands, the island is predominately known for its diving—both scuba and snorkeling. I could go on and on about their politics, their industry and the rest of it but if you really want to know—click here—for a link to the Wikipedia page for Bonaire.

What I will tell you about is the two (yes 2) excursions we took and how impressed I am with the island. First let me say that we are NOT divers of any kind. We leave that to our friends Mike and Cathy. They do the snorkel thing and the scuba thing. They live in Florida so they have warm water. We live in Washington where if you go in the water, you freeze to death in less time than you can say, “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

So we started off the morning with a ship’s excursion called “The Best of Bonaire.” There were three groups of about 12 people in three different vans. We had settled into one of the vans when the head of shore excursions asked for volunteers to move to another van because they had miscalculated the numbers on ours. We were in the front so we said we would switch. Best decision of the day. I have nothing against the guide and driver on the original van but the new van had a guide that made our day—Gladys. Now we really doubt Gladys is her real name because she acted like it was a joke all day long but if you are in Bonaire doing this tour, get Gladys. The woman is a HOOT! Not to mention an excellent guide and you could tell how much she loves her adopted island—Bonaire. She is originally from Wisconsin but has been on Bonaire off and on since 1963 so she knows her stuff. Her driver was a guy she called Cheech because of his past life as a cop confiscating marijuana and being in charge of burning it after the perpetrators were caught.

These two took us all over the island and while Gladys regaled us with stories, history, geography, science, nature and local customs, Cheech kept a VERY sharp eye out for the best flora and fauna he could find. And find it he did, time and time again. Check out my pics to see what I mean. He found parrots, parrot fish (he was good at parrot stuff 😜), lizards and all kinds of other stuff. Then he would slow down or stop so that us photographers could get the pics we were after. (BTW: I am so sorry I did not get a photo of Gladys or Cheech—my bad.)

We were out touring with Gladys and Cheech for 3.5 hours and other than my knees giving me problems from sitting for so long we had a great time and saw a bunch of great stuff as you will see in the photos. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Our second excursion a little later in the day was a short but very nice trip on a glass-bottom boat. Having never been on a glass-bottom boat before I thought maybe I could get some great underwater photos without going underwater. And our guide and skipper Kim took us out to the coral reef around a large island called Little Bonaire that is just off the main port. While we were able to see some very pretty fish, the only photo I could even slightly make work is the one of the turtle you see below. The other pics are from the boat ride but just not the underwater parts.

To sum all this up, I would say the one thing that most impressed me about Bonaire is that they have not succumbed to the usual cruise-type shops. No Diamonds International, etc. Also, both guides we had were so in love with their island and the things their government (which is funded and supervised by Amsterdam—Bonaire being a Dutch protectorate) is doing for their people, their environment and the flora and fauna of the island. It I also impressive that 70% of the island’s power (even powering their desalinization plants) is from wind. And they hope to be 100% renewable within 5 years. Not only that but everyone there has health care, an education, a guaranteed retirement…all things that every human should have a right to.

I sometimes detect that a type of regional divide is setting in, and there is a lack of real Caribbean connection among the islands, and I am concerned about this.  —Anthony Carmona

Puerto Plata…was really hotta and other things

Can’t remember the last time I wrote two posts in one day but I thought that since we are on a sea day (for the non-cruisers that means no stops today) and have three ports in the next three days (Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba), I would get yesterday’s stop out of the way today, while I have some time to write. But I don’t want to overload you so I will post it tomorrow (which for you might be today).

Yesterday we were in beautiful Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic (DR). Kathleen and I have always been under the impression that we had been to the DR two other times because we had stopped at a small port called Labadie while on a Celebrity ship. Turns out we had the island (Hispaniola) right but the country wrong. Labadie is in Haiti so this was our second visit to the DR. But we had never been to this side of the country before.

The ship actually docks at Amber Cove which is just 13 kilometers west of the city of Puerto Plata. Amber Cove is a port developed by the Carnival Corp for all the ships under that umbrella to dock for this city. Imagine if Disney created the Caribbean without rides…you get Amber Cove. Lots of shops, pretty grass, clean and spic and span surroundings.

We were only in Amber Cove long enough to jump on a bus with our guide Rrrrafael 😜. He really, really rolled that first R. We were doing a tour (along with the Sail with Seth crowd) called “Flavors and Traditions of Puerto Plata: In partnership with Food and Wine magazine.” I am not sure why it has this title because we saw no one or heard nothing from Food and Wine magazine. What we did do was:

  1. Took the bus into Puerto Plata while Rrrrafel told us all about the city and the Dominican Republic.
  2. Stopped at the town square and walked around while Rrrrafel told us about the buildings and traditions of Puerto Plata.
  3. Went to a cigar factory/showroom where I was told that one person got to roll and smoke his own cigar. Being highly allergic to cigar and cigarette smoke/smell, I (and the rest of our pod of four) stayed outside while this part of the tour took place so I can’t say for certain that’s what happened.
  4. Went to a chocolate factory to see how chocolate was made and taste hot chocolate (like we were cold 😜) and a tiny brownie. Personally I consumed neither. Not a big chocolate guy. But I was told both were great.
  5. Had lunch at an outdoor restaurant where they had set up a buffet of rice, beans, chicken, tortilla chips, salad and your choice of water or soft drink. It was very “nice.” Not bad, not great. just “nice.”
  6. Toured the grounds of the restaurant where there were koi ponds, artwork and a variety of flora including orchids.
  7. Went to a rum distillery where we saw a film about how rum is made and how great that distillery is and then we got to taste some rum. Eight different kinds but if you poured them all in the same glass, you might have an ounce.

That was the tour folks. To me it was a typical overview of a city tour, Rrrrafel did a great job and because we were with Seth, we had some good old fashioned fun. And I loved it because I got to do my second favorite kind of photography (after general travel photo), street photography. I love taking pictures of interesting people with interesting faces or doing interesting things. I think I like to do this because I spent more than 50 years doing high school and college yearbooks as a student, a teacher and a rep for Jostens Yearbooks. I can’t sell them or use the ones I take in any commercial way because I would need a release from the people I shot. Still, I love taking them. My daughter tells me, “Dad, when you die I will look at these and wonder who the heck they are and should I save them because they might be family?” So I also take them to bamboozle her.

Here are some quick examples of what I mean. The captions will tell you a little more about street photography.  Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

After people see my street photography stuff, they often ask if I ask permission before I take the picture. I don’t. Mostly because they have no idea I took their photo. In all the pics above I was more than 100 feet away using a very long (300mm) zoom lens so they had no clue I was taking any photos of them. I do have a rule that if there are street performers and I shoot their picture, I always tip them. It’s the right thing to do. If I don’t have money for tips, I don’t take the picture.

Here are the rest of my Puerto Plata pics. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

When you see a panoramic photo in my shots, it is actually not done with my iPhone set on Pano. I take these with my Nikon. When I say I take “them” with my Nikon, the photo above that shows two ships (Nieuw Statendam and Rotterdam) on opposite sides of the pier is actually made up of 26 individual photos I took while standing in the same spot and turning my body almost 360 degrees. The two ships were actually parked at the pier right next to each other like you can see in the next shot. Then I open those 26 pictures (most of my panos are much less photos–the last one only has 16 photos) in Photoshop and merge them together. They create huge pictures that I could print up to billboard size. I have always loved taking them.

PS: Sorry about the headline. I couldn’t resist.

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.  —Dorothea Lange

 

Surprising Grand Turk and some other stuff

After missing our first port (which should have been HAL’s private island, Half Moon Cay) due to weather conditions and not COVID, our first stop became Grand Turk Island. Grand Turk is the Turk part of Turks and Caicos. This was our first time on this island so we had no clue what we were in for.

On past cruises we hardly ever do ship’s shore excursions but using HAL’s Have It All program, we not only received a drinks package, two nights in specialty restaurants and complimentary Wifi but we were able to sign up for some HAL shore excursions for free. With that said, we chose “Charming Grand Turk by Open Air Tram.” This was just one of those overview tours where we would see the island and hear from a guide who would tell us a little about the island, their country and its history.

Sometimes things go wrong on a cruise and you just hope it’s not a big deal. This turned out to be one of those times. We had arrived at the correct time for the afternoon tram ride and after they signed us in they told us that the morning tram group had not come back yet and we would have to wait 15 minutes. No biggie. But the 15 minutes turned into 30 and then almost an hour. The shore excursion team offered us a full refund or we could wait another 15 minutes. In fact the tram never showed up (they might still be there 😜). Some people chose to take refunds and headed back to the ship. We had decided to wait the full hour and then take the refund.

But when an open air bus (not our tram) came in after their second tour, the HAL shore excursion people asked the guide if he would take us. We were totally impressed with their efforts and he agreed to tour us around. We were thrilled because he had a higher and larger open air bus than the tram would have been, which made it much easier for me to get the photos I ended up with (that I am thrilled about). The shore excursion manager did her job that day, totally coming through for us. Not only that, when we got back to the ship and checked our accounts we found that she had reimbursed us for the entire tour because it was late and we handled it so well. Going above and beyond—HAL’s service is blowing us away.

Once we got out on the road with our guide Nate we knew we were in a very fun tour. He was hilarious. He had two teenage girls working with him and they took great care of us as we drove all over the island. We learned a lot about Grand Turk and its history (for instance, did you know this where John Glenn landed after his first orbit of the earth?). Nate was also great about stopping for photos. I am going to tell you a little more about Grand Turk in the captions of the photos below. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my pictures on a phone. Please…

Not sure what more I can tell you about Grand Turk but I will say that this cruise is almost making me like the Caribbean. (For those new to this blog, this has NEVER been one of my favorite places—too warm, not a beach person, etc.) We loved Grand Turk, we had a great day in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic yesterday that I will write about later this afternoon or later this week and the weather has been near perfect. Yes, it has been hot when we are out and about and I think wearing a mask makes it about 10 degrees warmer but I am writing this on a sea day, sitting outside on our verandah. The temperature is 79 degrees Fahrenheit, the seas are flat as a lake and the breeze is awesome. I could get real used to this, really fast. We are already talking with our buddy Seth about doing another Sail with Seth in a warm climate. We will keep you updated in case you want to join us.

One more thing to mention about the Sail with Seth part of our cruise. This morning he arranged a special Coffee with the Captain just for the group and the captain verified that there are 895 passengers on board and a little more than 800 crew members. That means we have almost one crew member per passenger. No wonder the service is so awesome!

There’s definitely healing properties to being in proximity to the ocean and that breeze. There’s something about that Caribbean climate and humidity.   —Johnny Depp

2021 Top Ten (could be anything)

Over the last few days I have written about my five best food experiences of 2021, my 10 best photos I took in 2021 and my five biggest downers of 2021 so today, let’s get to the good stuff to close out the year. So here are the 10 best things I loved in 2021. BTW: Unlike my photos which I numbered, this group is in no particular order (except the NUMBER ONE which is down at the bottom).

Walking all year

It’s funny that I am choosing to write about this first. I guess it’s because I haven’t been able to do it for a week (as of today) and that’s killing me. Too much ice and snow outside keeps me indoors. I am going stir-crazy but I know if I slip and fall then I might not be able to walk for weeks. It has been a big part of my life this year. So far in 2021, I have walked 1,466 miles (that’s 2,359 kilometer for our Canadian viewers). If I had just kept going and not come home I could have walked to my childhood home in Palm Springs and then to my brother’s place in San Juan Capistrano. Or I could have walked back and forth to our friends in Chilliwack, BC almost six times. Can you tell I love my walks? (BTW: I know how far I have gone because I use the wonderful app, Map My Walk from Under Armour. )

Going to Southern California twice to see Jamie and Steve

This was supposed to have been the year that the four of us went to Europe (for the third time) together and did a bunch of other stuff. But we “made do” with visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Southern California…twice. Great weather, lots of fun, family, food and superb activities organized by Jamie made these visits at least a good substitute for Europe. Not really, but we did have fun. We even went to the historic Musso and Frank Grille in Hollywood for dinner.

Stopping to see Mike and Meeting Cathy in June

We had so many schedule changes for our Galapagos trip in July that we were thrilled when it all finally worked out and we ended up  flying through South Florida to get to Ecuador. Thrilled because this gave us a chance to add on a couple of days to see one of our best friends and fellow Martini Mate Mike and to meet the new love of his life, Cathy, in person. We had an outstanding time, Mike even got up at 2:00 am to take us all the way to the Miami airport (WHAT A FRIEND!) and we LOVED Cathy. So it really stands out as a highlight for us. Even better, we get to see them again (I really hope) in three weeks.

Getting to go back to Canada in September

Over the last 15 years we have spent a lot of time in British Columbia. Specifically Chilliwack, BC. That’s because that’s where our friends Bob and Judy live. And in case you missed it, since the start of the pandemic, Canada had closed their border. That meant that even though we could FaceTime to talk, we hadn’t seen them in person from the day we got back from our Mardi Gras cruise (March 2o, 2020) until we finally got to get tested, get the Canadian entry app, show our Nexus cards and get in to see them in September. That’s a long time not to see someone you are used to seeing at least every other month. If all works out and it doesn’t snow again, we may go up again next weekend!

Going to Seaside with family in August

Every summer (or at least three of them) we have rented an AirBnB type place with our grandkids (and their parents). This year we went to Seaside, Oregon. I can’t tell you how much I cherish that week with them. We play games, go to the beach, local attractions, make meals together and watch special movies in the evenings (Star Wars!!!). Can’t wait until August 2022 to do this again.

Ted Lasso–forever

I know. It’s a television show. But I love television and it is the best television show ever made—in my somewhat humble opinion 😜. There is not a single episode where I don’t laugh, cry and exult in these glorious characters. I have watched each and every episode at least four times and some even more. We watched their Christmas show on Christmas Eve and will every Christmas Eve from now on. I listen to two podcasts about the show every week during the season. I still listen to Brett Goldstein’s “Films to Be Buried With” podcast every week.  I follow all the actors on Instagram. I have downloaded every song Hannah Waddingham has recorded that wasn’t from a West End musical. I watch every YouTube video about the show that YouTube throws at me—and that’s a lot. I have my Richmond FC scarf and I am ready to root for Ted and the Greyhounds again next summer. I am a total fanboy and completely obsessed. The show just speaks to me. When it comes to Ted Lasso, I am never a goldfish (you only get this if you have seen the show—go watch it!).

Getting fully vaccinated and staying that way with boosters

This isn’t the highlight of the year but it led to everything else we did. Do you remember when the vaccine was first introduced and so many people (like us) were clamoring to get our hands on our first shot…and then our second. We got our first one at the end of January and our second in mid-February. Then in mid-July I was in our local Kaiser (our HMO) clinic and they said they were throwing away vaccine every day because it was defrosted and people weren’t showing up to get it. I just don’t understand the anti-vaccination crowd. We know friends and relatives of friends who are part of that group and they are normally intelligent people. Please explain this because I can’t. I just know that I have had three, full potency shots (I take an injected auto-immune drug weekly so I got a full shot for my third and not a booster) and Kathleen is boosted.

Storyworth–all year long

I think have mentioned Storyworth on this site before but here’s a quick explanation if I haven’t. For Christmas 2020 my daughter gave me a one-year subscription to Storyworth. Since then I get an e-mail every week with a single question about my life. Either my past, my opinions or my relationships. Each week I answer the question and they keep them and at the end of the year (now) I order a pre-paid, printed book of all of the stories so that my grandkids can know about their Grandpa and how he got this way 😜.

I am currently in the process of editing my book (that’s the cover above) and I will order the printed version for myself next week. Once I see my printed copy, I will order two more, one for each of the grandkids. This has been a wonderful experience. I have learned so much. Over my lifetime I have been in therapy a quite a few times, but writing these stories had been more therapeutic than any of that. It does get a little dark sometimes but it’s really brought back some good and not-so-good memories. And yes, I guess I am verbose. The average Storyworth book is about 250 pages. I am over 450 at this point. Can you tell I have loved the experience?

Retiring from Jostens Yearbooks after 39 years last June

To be completely honest, this was not supposed to happen until 2022. I love even numbers and I really wanted to get to 40 years with Jostens and my own company, Koobraey Productions. But COVID did this in as well. Yearbooks have been changing every year of those 40 years and I still found things to write and teach about but when the pandemic hit and things were NOTHING like they have ever been before, it was just enough to push me to walk away. Jostens and Koobraey have been a great place to be self-employed for those 39 years and there isn’t much I would trade for the friendships I have made during that time.

It was a career I never expected (I was supposed to be a history teacher) but loved and did quite well with. From the day I started in 1982 until last June 14, I loved a lot of it. The six months since retiring (I am still in my “funtirement” job booking travel with Expedia Cruises) have been so busy I can’t figure out where I used to fit this job into my life.

Going to the Galapagos on Celebrity’s Flora in July

Being honest, this is number one. I mean not only was it the BEST thing we did in 2021 it may be one of the 10 best experiences I have ever had in my life. It is definitely the best trip/cruise/adventure we have ever done. We loved it so much we are going to do it again in 2024 to see the Inner Loop islands. I find it very hard to put into words what this adventure meant to us. Not only was it the first time we got to really travel after the shutdown, it was so much more than I ever thought it would be.

For me, the biggest excitement was the photography. The Galapagos are a photographer’s heaven. After a year of not shooting much of anything other than grandkids (which I love shooting) it was like I got all caught up in a week. Certainly equal to the photography were the amazing people we met on Celebrity’s Flora. There is no way I would go again and not go aboard that ship. It made the trip so very easy not to mention being the best place ever to come back to at night. Every single crew member we met was amazing. The guides, the crew in the dining room, the chef who made me sango, the officers and we were especially lucky to have been sailing the week that Celebrity’s resident scientist, Ellen Prager was onboard. I was never much for science but going to this incredible place and talking to Ellen and the guides she trains really got me excited about it. I leave you with a special gift to close out 2021, a slide show of my best photos from the islands. Happy New Year!

 

Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.

Art Buchwald