I Miss My Seattle

You may not know this but I have a website called “My Seattle.” Originally I put it together because we had so many of our traveling friends coming here to go on Alaska cruises that asked for recommendations I decided to put them all in one place. I love Seattle. When I list my favorite cities it has always been in my top five (at least it used to be).We choose to live in a Seattle suburb. One of the things we have loved about the 22 years we have lived here (Kathleen has been here even longer than I have) is being so close to the city. In fact for more than 20 years Kathleen commuted to an office that was about 5 blocks from the Space Needle. I am a Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariner fan. I am sure I will also be a Kracken fan as well. We love going into the city to eat at our favorite restaurants, to see theater, to go to concerts and so much more. That’s why this post makes me sad. Very sad.

You see, my Seattle is currently gone. What is left is an awful place that is both disgusting and dangerous.

Last week two of our friends from cruising were in town to take an Alaskan cruise. Before they came the posted on a thread we converse on from time to time that is on Cruise Critic. When they posted they were headed our way we told them we would love to see them and go out to dinner but we also told them to be VERY aware of what is going on in downtown Seattle and to take care when going anyplace on foot. They replied and asked for a much more in-depth about what to avoid and if their hotel and the restaurants they planned to eat in were OK to get to. Luckily they were but even better we decided to pick them up and get them out of the city for one dinner at least at one of our favorite seafood places in Bellevue (across the lake), Seastar. As we drove them back to their downtown Seattle hotel the sun was setting on the city. With the Olympic mountains as a background, the lights of the city looked like a fairyland. And from that distance it is. But you get close up, it isn’t.

So what’s wrong? The city has become a haven for drug users and the mentally ill with no real policing going on. One of the best ways I can tell you what is happening is to quote a reader-written Op/Ed from The Seattle Times:

“I am watching a block of downtown Seattle die. From my office on Third Avenue between Pike and Pine streets, in recent weeks numerous tents have been erected. More keep coming. No one has come to remove them. Daily, I observe people passed out on the street with needles in their arms. I must watch my step to avoid human excrement.

We have 30 employees in our firm. They do not want to return to work because they fear getting off the bus. Our offices have been burglarized four times in 12 months.

I am not conservative. Homelessness has complex causes and must be addressed through a variety of means. But allowing tent dwellers and drug users to occupy a city block is not acceptable. What message does this send to the businesses on the block and tourists who visit our city? Our company will not renew our lease if this persists.

Two blocks from Pike Place Market, where Wild Ginger previously welcomed diners pre-theater or symphony, now only remains graffiti, trash, drugs and tents. Are we willing to let what appears to be less than 300 people destroy a block of economic activity in our city? Apparently, we are.”

For those of you from out of town, the block he is referring to is on the main route from the downtown hotels to the world famous Pike Place Market. It just isn’t safe to go there. And I totally agree with his point of view.

This is what Seattle is up against. An ultra liberal city council has allowed the city to get to this point. The mayor is fed up and decided not to run again. The very capable police chief resigned. More than 200 Seattle police officers have left the force since the summer of 2020 and NOT been replaced. Those that are still here feel like they have been handcuffed themselves. Shops and restaurants in downtown and the Pioneer Square area report calling police after thefts from their establishments or to handle threatening behavior by mentally ill or drugged up people are being told, “We decline to respond,” when people call 911. There is video of a mentally ill man jumping on cars and breaking car windows with the police standing right next to the cars and they can’t do anything because they have been ordered to cease and desist if it is only a property crime.

To me, that means you are not safe in downtown. And even if you were safe in downtown it can be a disgusting place to go. An Instagram account called Seattle Looks Like Shit documents the kind of things that are going on in the city. It’s just sad. Warning, if you look at it, you may get grossed out by the videos and photographs of people urinating, defecating and shooting up on the streets but it will show you how bad it really is. It’s so sad. Many of the photos on the account were taken this week.

It is tough for Kathleen and I since we don’t live in Seattle where we can vote and have input. Yes, there are a few problems here in Redmond but they are nothing compared to what you will see in Seattle. Thousands of homeless many of whom are major drug users (the city attorney will NOT prosecute drug laws other than the sale of large quantities) or mentally ill are just camped out on the streets. Some in areas directly adjacent to schools. There have been school events cancelled because the city could not guarantee the safety of the kids participating. Many of the homeless have been offered shelter but refuse to take it because it means giving up their drugs. And things just keep getting worse. There were two other articles in the Seattle Times this very morning detailing basically the same thing. We see those articles and the reports daily. One week in late August there were 16 shootings in Seattle alone. Things are crazy here. We want them to get better but until we do, I wouldn’t come this way. I miss my Seattle.

The two elements the traveler first captures in the big city are extra human architecture and furious rhythm. Geometry and anguish.  — Fedrico Garcia Lorca

 

 

Rick Steves guides us to lunch

Been severely tardy getting a post out lately but blame my daughter. For now I only have a finite amount of time for writing and for my birthday in December, my daughter gave me a one year subscription to StoryWorth. It is a very cool website that sends me a question to write about every week for one year. These are questions about me. For instance, since the first of the year I have written about what vacations were like when I was a kid, what my grandparents were like, something in my life that really surprised me, etc. At the end of the year they will print a book of everything I have written for my grandkids to know more about their grandpa. Kind of a history of me and my family. So each week I have been writing about my favorite topic, me 😜 and neglecting this blog.

Which brings us to another episode of Jim & Kathleen’s favorite food experiences. This time it comes with a big endorsement of the Seattle Area’s greatest travel expert, Rick Steves. If you love travel like we do, you have undoubtedly heard of Rick. When we decide to go someplace in Europe, we read Rick’s book about the city or country first. When we first started going to Europe we carried the books with us. Now we get them on Kindle so we have them on our phones. You can even download guided tours to use on your phones as well.

Lunch in Versailles

Don’t get me wrong. We don’t just follow Rick’s advice 100% of the time. For instance, we don’t always agree with Rick on lodging. Rick will stay in hotels with shared bathrooms—we won’t. We are just too old for that 😜. But when it comes to sightseeing, Rick gets it. If you ever decide to tour the great art museums of Europe, you would be crazy to do it without a copy of Rick’s book, “Mona Winks.” We have used it in the Sistine Chapel, the Louvre, the Ufzizi and others. He even puts a note in the book that you should tear out the chapter and carry it with you into a particular museum because the book is too big and heavy to lug around. And then when you get home, you send him the chapters you tore out and he sends you a new book. Pretty cool!

Rick also “gets” food. At least the kind of food we like. Food that is all about the region we are visiting. In that respect Rick is responsible for two of our very memorable food experiences, both at lunchtime, one in France and one in Italy.

Let’s start with France because that food experience happened first. We were on our second trip to Europe, on a two week ground trip that started with six nights in London, three nights in Scotland and five nights in Paris. While we were in Paris we did all the touristy things, the Louvre, Montmartre, Notre Dame and other Parisian must-see spots. One thing we wanted to do was take the train to Versailles to tour the palace and the grounds.

 

The palace is amazing. (That’s Kathleen at right, inside the Hall of Mirrors.) But when we went to see the grounds, it was FREEZING! It was a really cold day in November and we saw a little of the gardens before we decided we had to find some place warm to get lunch. We went into the village of Versailles and looked around and we were about to succumb to one of the touristy spots selling the touristy kind of  “French food” you would expect to find in a tourist village. But these places looked cheesy and they had people standing at their doors trying to get people to come in and eat. Not an optimum experience.

We suddenly realized that the Rick Steve’s guide we had with us not only had a section about the palace and gardens (that we had used to tour those places) but recommendations for where to eat. We knew that Rick would never steer us wrong on food so we looked up the downtown village of Versailles and he gave a strong recommendation to a tiny place (whose name I can’t remember—this was in 2003) on the main square of the town. The biggest endorsement was…this is where the locals eat. So off we went and had a culinary and cultural adventure.

When we walked in the door, the smells were amazing but the place was JAMMED! In fact there were only two chairs left open—right in the middle of a long communal table. Each side of the table must have seated 20 people and the two chairs were across from one another just about in the middle of the table. We looked at each other and thought, “What the heck!.” We were cold and starving and this place was warm and the food smelled amazing. I don’t remember exactly what we had but I do remember it was awesome. And the people on either side of us were very friendly. It was a wonderful lunch.

Lunch in Sienna

Six years later we were on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean and we had docked in Livorno which is the port for Florence. Since we had been to Florence before we decided to hire a guide and head to the hill town of Sienna. We consulted our buddy Mike, the god of shore excursions and he hooked us up with a driver and guide named Marco that he had used before and really liked. So we were really looking forward to an awesome day. We had prevailed upon some of our Cruise Critic roll call friends to join us as well.

We should have known that there would be a problem when Marco did not meet us but instead we were met by Francisco. Marco was supposed to be taking us himself as we had been told he spoke excellent English and lived in Sienna. Francisco, although a very nice man, barely spoke English and with me sitting with him in the front seat trying to translate, we headed off to Sienna.

We still had hopes that we would be met by Marco once we reached Sienna but that was not to be. After the two hour drive (during which Francisco got lost twice), upon entering Sienna, Francisco drove up a one way street in the wrong direction and when a car came down the other way, he had to back up almost all the way out of the city. He then hollered out the window, “Excuse me, how do I get to the Duomo?” But the real kicker came when we arrived in Sienna and Francisco told us he would meet us to take us back to the ship at 3:30, handed me a copy of Rick Steve’s Tuscany and said Ciao!

We were astounded. We had contracted for a guided tour of Sienna and we got a car and driver who barely spoke English and who got lost both coming and going. But we made the most of it. We grabbed the Rick Steve’s book and walked the city.

No one else in the group wanted Rick’s book so Kathleen and I took it and headed out to see Sienna.

All in all it was great day as the rain stopped and the city and its Duomo were a truly amazing sight. The Duomo has incredible etched and painted floors that are kept covered for most of the year. But at the end of August each year, they are uncovered for only two months. We arrived six days before they were to be recovered so we got to see what many never do in Sienna.

We had a great time following all Rick’s advice about what to see…but then lunch rolled around and we knew we would be OK because we had Rick along. Sure enough, we opened the guide and found a wonderful little restaurant below ground level that we never would have seen just walking around. Not only was it gorgeously decorated but the food was amazing. I think the best way to describe the experience is that it was unexpected on a lousy day. Again, I can’t remember what I had but I know one of the best things that happened on that entire trip was that lunch.

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch. —Orson Welles

Back to travel—Cities I love-part one

We have been having amazing weather so I have been out walking a lot the last couple of weeks. On my walks I try to come up with something to write and since it has been so long since I posted something good, fun and non-virus related, let’s get back to travel.

I have been seeing a ton of list making on social media: best albums, best songs, favorite food, etc. To be honest, I love lists. If you look up at the top of this page, you will see four menu items. One of them is Lists. Check it out sometime. It’s all the lists I have posted since I started this blog in December 2018.

Cities I love in North America

So, when I was out walking yesterday I was thinking about my favorite cities. For my purposes today, I am going to just list our favorites in North America (I’ll be back soon with the rest of the world). We have been to many of America’s great cities, big and small. We have liked all of them but the ones on this list are ones we have either been to more than once or would like to go back to someday. I am going to list them, not in the order of how much we like the city but in distance from home which means we start with…

Seattle SkylineSeattle, Washington

Yes, I know we live here but it is a city we love. A little less than I did a few years back but I still love the place. We live about 15 miles east and before Kathleen retired she worked right downtown (for most of her career) about two blocks from the Space Needle. At that time, one of us was in the city almost daily. We did theater, concerts, spent the night at hotels after those concerts and above all went in for some amazing food. Seattle has so many incredible restaurants and we love trying them. I should point out (as I have posted here not long ago) the city is no longer as safe as it once was and we think twice about when and where we go in the city. That’s sad, but I still love Seattle. I even have a completely separate website (My Seattle) that I created for friends coming here.

Downtown VancouverVancouver, British Columbia

After Seattle, the city we have spent the most time in since we started traveling together is Vancouver, BC. We made our first trip back in 1998 when Kathleen took me there for a wonderful birthday weekend. Since that time we have been back more than 50 times. We have gone less since 2005 when we met our best friends Bob and Judy who live in Chilliwack, BC, about 120 km east of the city. Before we met them, we probably went to Vancouver three or four times a year, but since then, maybe only once a year. But every time we go, we love it. I LOVE taking photos there. Many of my favorite photos in the last few years were taken in YVR (the airport designation for Vancouver and a common nickname). We will go back many times in the future and I encourage you—if you have never been there—go! Stanley Park, Vancouver Theater Sports, Granville Island, Gastown, Robson Street are all things we love and that you should not miss. Oops! I almost missed our favorite Italian restaurant—CinCin. We went there for our 20th anniversary last August and have eaten there at least 10 times. A great restaurant.

Panoramic view of the downtown San Diego skyline, CaliforniaSan Diego, California

Growing up in Southern California I spent a lot of time in the LA area (heck, I was born there—in Lynwood–near Compton) and Kathleen is from the Bay Area, right across from San Francisco but for some reason it turned out that our favorite California city is San Diego. I think the first time we went there together was for a business meeting I had to attend. We loved it. It’s a big city that’s really a bunch of small towns. From the Gaslamp District to Old Town, from Coronado Island to downtown, we love the whole place. Even losing our friends who live there…we still love it and look forward to going back. Great restaurants, nice hotels (even though we got kicked out of our room the last time because the Secretary of Homeland Security wanted three whole floors) and we have had pretty good luck with AirBnBs as well. Of course there is the world famous zoo and wonderful Balboa Park that surrounds it. One of my favorite things about San Diego is its waterfront. We have sailed into and out of San Diego harbor a number of times and it’s a great place to start or end a cruise. Besides as everyone knows, the weather is always perfect.

Sunset in Santa FeSanta Fe (and Albuquerque), New Mexico

Once we leave the west coast, our next stop is New Mexico. Yes, we know we skipped Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas but even though we seem to visit them regularly, if you told me I could never go back, I would neither cry or die. If you ask me where I want to go between coasts in the USA, the first place that comes to mind is Santa Fe. We have only been to New Mexico twice but both trips were favorites. The last trip was the best! Besides Santa Fe, we also got to see the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (worth the entire trip) with good friends and then spend four days in Santa Fe. If you have followed my posts for awhile you know we love food and we have done food tours and cooking classes with the Santa Fe School of Cooking while there and loved them. Lastly, if you visit, DO NOT MISS Meow Wolf. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that’s beyond crazy and a lot of fun.

Toronto city skyline at night, Ontario, TorontoToronto, Ontario

One thing I pondered when I added Toronto to this list was this—do we really love the city or am I just listing it because we get to see our friends Tim & Perry when we are there? No, we love the city and Tim and Perry are just a big bonus. We have visited three times and loved all of them. I love walking in the Beaches area where Tim and Perry live (on the shores of Lake Ontario), they have amazing food all over the city (especially when you have two foodies to take you to find that food), a super art festival called Nuit Blanche that we got to attend and some beautiful places to see within a short distance (Niagara Falls, Port Hope, the Thousand Islands). We have even flown out of the coolest airport in the world (Billy Bishop International Airport) on the coolest airline in the world (Porter Airlines). You should try both. Billy Bishop is on an island right in downtown Toronto and Porter Air is a HUGE throwback to the 1960s and gold age of air travel. The flight attendants still wear pillbox hats and they serve you actual food.

Aerial panoramic sunset view of Charleston, South CarolinaCharleston, South Carolina (and Savannah, Georgia)

Even though these two cities are in different states, they is only about a two hour drive between them through some really cool country. And both of these cities exude Southern Charm. Why we even saw a performance by “the Southern Charmer” in Charleston. The entire area is known as the “Low Country” and when we visited we found that their reputation as amazing food towns was well deserved. There are also lots of things to see (old plantations, giant oak trees, Fort Sumter, Hilton Head beaches) and do besides eating…but I liked the eating best. That and the awesome photos I got on my early morning photowalks. I would go back to both cities in a minute but if I had to pick one thing to go back for, it would be the chicken and waffles at The Early Bird Diner just outside Charleston on the road to Savannah. They were absolutely amazing. I can still taste them in my mind. You can read about our trip to the Low Country on our website.

New York City skyline from roof top with urban skyscrapers before sunset.New York, New York

I debated about adding NYC but we have so many memories there and I would go back at the drop of a hat that I just couldn’t leave it out. We have been three times and I may be getting too old for the craziness but when last we were there in the fall of 2018 I did have some great experiences. New York is not a place I need to tell people about. Either you already know or you don’t care. I will mention some of my favorite spots and memories which include walking The Highline at dawn, taking an old yacht on an architectural tour around the island of Manhattan, doing a tour of the area around Ground Zero, taking a food tour of Greenwich Village and of course theater. We have seen so many great plays on Broadway that it is hard to remember them all. And the food…don’t get me started. Too much variety, if that’s possible. New York is not a city I can’t wait to go back to but I would be really sad if you told me I couldn’t go back there.

That concludes my list of North American cities I love…and would go back to. I would LOVE to hear from you about the cities you love in the comments below. Make your own list. Pass mine around. See what people think and where they would go if they could go to any city on the continent. In the next post (or the one after that) I will list my favorites from around the rest of the world. Watch for it.

When you tour as much as I do, you’re always on the road, and you tend to gravitate toward cities where you’re like, ‘Every time I’m in that city, the shows are fun.—Tom Segura

 

This makes me sad…and mad!

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 11.56.46 AMPlease excuse me if I get up on my soapbox. And yes, this is about travel…you (and others) traveling here. Our city (Seattle) is not doing very well. The article above is a prime example. Not sure if you heard about this on your hometown news but in the last three days there have been three shootings in downtown Seattle. Two of them within a block of each other. This wasn’t in a “bad” part of Seattle, it was right at what many of us consider the center of Seattle. A block from Westlake Park and Westlake Center. That’s the heart of our downtown.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle. One of my many other websites is called “My Seattle.” I created the site about 10 years ago because so many of our cruising friends come here to sail to Alaska and they were always asking me for recommendations. Sadly, my recommendation to them now is…don’t come. You don’t know how much that makes me sad to write. Or come here but stay out of downtown.

I have a PDF flyer I put together for clients and friends about all the reasons I think that when you take an Alaskan cruise, you should sail out of Vancouver. There are lots of reasons I say this; sailing the Canadian Inside Passage, not losing a day due to your “by law” stop in  Victoria and others. Now I have to add this to that flyer: It isn’t safe to stay or tour downtown Seattle. Sorry, it just isn’t.

Its not just these shootings. We have a homeless problem here. It’s bad. (Want to know how bad? Watch this special done by KOMO, one of our local TV stations.) Please don’t get me wrong, I believe that people who are homeless should have opportunities to find a permanent place to live. I believe those people who want help are getting help. But we also have a population of homeless that does not fit that description. They are homeless by choice. Maybe it’s addiction, maybe it’s mental illness but they don’t want to live in a way that conforms to the rest of society. But it’s not just that they are homeless. They are aggressive in their panhandling and demeanor to the point that King County (where Seattle is) had to close two of the main doors into the county courthouse because of the confrontations happening outside those doors every day.

The original historical area of Seattle is Pioneer Square. That’s where we started. If you have been here you may have taken the Underground Seattle Tour, or walked from downtown to a Mariner or Seahawks game, then you were in the Pioneer Square area. The panhandling and confrontations are the worst down there and it’s been a few years since I have felt comfortable going to that part of town except at midday.

But that problem has rapidly moved north into downtown. Walking from downtown to our biggest tourist attraction, Pike Place Market is not something I would do today. You see to get from most of the downtown hotels to the Market, you would probably walk through the intersection where last night seven people were wounded and one died in what was probably (they haven’t officially said yet) a gang shooting. This wasn’t even late at night. It was at the height of rush hour. I would love to say it doesn’t happen that often but as I mentioned, there have been three shootings in the last three days within blocks of each other and more in the last few weeks not to mention knifings and other attacks.

Even if no one is shooting, it can be scary. Kathleen and I have been walking to restaurants or the theater and had vagrants yell and scream at us. Some want money, others are mad at the world. Most that scream at you are mentally ill and there have been so many attacks, you just don’t know what is going to happen. Sadly we have season tickets to a theater that is right in the middle of it. The season start in March and the only reason we are keeping the tickets is that we can park in the theater’s underground parking and not leave the building.

I am not going to go into why I think this is happening. That has been debated over and over again for the last few years. Watch the special on KOMO that I linked and you will get some idea. But I do have a solution. It’s what New York City did to clean up Manhattan about 20 years ago. Travelers didn’t want to go downtown in NYC and the city decided that had to change. Now, I have no problem walking the sidewalks there. I have a lot more problem walking the sidewalks in most of downtown Seattle. What’s the difference? Cops! And lots of them. If you have been in downtown Manhattan in the last few years you may have noticed that almost anyplace you are on a sidewalk, you can stop and look around and probably see at least two police officers. Sometimes more. Seattle needs to do that. NOW! Hire more officers and put two at every intersection in the downtown core. It’s not going to take that many. Downtown isn’t that big. At least the areas that currently need policing. The city says it has been doing “emphasis patrols.” Moving cops driving around. This (IMHO) is not what we need. We need street cops, who can enforce the law with the backing of the city, on foot, at every intersection.

In the meantime, my best advice if you come here is: Stay out of downtown. Especially anywhere in Pioneer Square or in the Pike/Pine corridor from 6th Avenue to Western. Unfortunately if you are sailing out of Seattle on Norwegian Cruise Lines, your ship docks just below that area and if you come here you will want to explore. But if you do, be VERY careful. Please. We now avoid this area like the plague.

What we all want is public safety. We don’t want rhetoric that’s framed through ideology. —Kamala Harris

20 Years—we can’t believe it

IMG_2067Can’t believe it. Today Kathleen and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage by taking a two day trip to Vancouver, BC. We have visited here many times in those 20 years as it is one of our favorite cities. We were here last in 2017 with our British buddies Paul and Gail. Before that my brother Steve, his wonderful wife Jamie and our niece Cassie were here in 2015. We used to come here a lot more often before 2006 when we switched out British Columbia focus from Vancouver to Chilliwack because we always had so much more fun with Bob and Judy.

We drove up yesterday (Tuesday) and had a wonderful dinner at Edible Canada on Granville Island and then saw an improv show at Vancouver TheatreSports League (VTSL). We have been going to VTSL for almost as long as we have been married. It’s an awesome improv spot that has in its founding members Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles of Whose Line Is It Anyway? The show was outstanding. We laughed our asses off.

This morning I went out for one of my early morning photo walks. I have done a bunch in Vancouver and it never disappoints. Saw a couple of cruise ships (one Princess and one Holland America’s Volendam) and thousands of teenage girls line up at 5:45 am for a huge warehouse sale. Just crazy.

After breakfast at our hotel (the Wedgewood—where we have never stayed but we LOVE it) we went to see the Vancouver Aquarium. We can’t believe we have come to YVR so many times and never seen it. It is truly amazing. Then it was a nice drive around the Stanley Park, stopped at Prospect Point to take pictures of the Lions Gate Bridge and have lunch at a superb little bar and grille place there.

Back to our room so I could process photos and take a short nap (we are kind of old, you know) and then dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the world, CinCin. We have had so many great dinners there since we first went with some of our Martini Mates back in 2005. Tonight was no exception. Truly wonderful Italian food and wine.

More tomorrow when I plan to walk the sea wall all the way around Stanley Park as my early morning photo walk, but in the meantime, here’s some pics I really like from today’s walk and our visit to the Aquarium.

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time. —Julia Child

Incredible Iceland— Reykjavik-Day 2

Most everyone else in our party slept in a little bit after getting back at almost midnight from our Golden Circle tour with Birkir. I on the other hand, love it when a ship overnights in a port so that I can get up early the next day and walk through the city. (One of my best photo walks ever was in Québec last October when we overnighted on Summit). More and more cruise lines are doing this (overnighting in cities) and you can get off and on whenever you want all night long. This was a good day to do that but I really missed that early morning golden light I had when we were in Edinburgh and Dublin.

I got up at 5:00 am and headed out to walk the seaside walkway into downtown Reykjavik but the light outside was already like 10:30 in the morning as you can see from my pics. I got some decent stuff and then headed back to the ship to shower and meet Kathleen and others in our group to take a taxi back into downtown to see some more of the city. My pics and their captions will pretty much tell the tale on that. Don’t forget to click on the first one and view them as a slide show. And if you want to see more, check them out on Flickr by clicking here.

We were back on the ship by 2:00 pm and Reflection set sail for Akureyri at 3:00. It was a pretty great day considering how little sleep was involved. Thursday, I will post all about our travels in Akureyri, in the north. And we cross the Arctic Circle! 

Started shaky but finished strong in Dublin

This morning I was out the door before 5:00 am to walk Dublin streets and take photos. I got a bunch that I really like including a ton of doors to add to our collection. (If you have ever been in our home, you know we have more than 100 photos of doors on the walls.)You will find a lot of my favorites below. But while I was walking alongside the River Liffey I got a  text from Kathleen that she wasn’t feeling well and was going to go back to bed.

We had planned to join the rest of our Bellomo/Dorff entourage on the Hop-on, Hop-off (HoHo) bus but this put a slight crimp in our plans. Instead Kathleen slept (remember when I slept in last week, the day we toured Leeds?) in and the rest of the gang went off to ride the bus and I worked on my photos from the early morning. By 11:00 Kathleen was up and ready to go get some food and then we did a round of the HoHo bus ourselves. We rode all over Dublin (it’s a pretty compact city) before we came back to the house to FaceTime with our kids back in Washington. Had some big news there as they did what they have done before while we have been in Europe, started a big move.

This evening the entire group of us including Bob and Holly met up for a dinner and a show at the Irish House Party. It’s a combo dinner and show and we should have just gone for the show but we did both. Not the best food (kind of Irish cafeteria food) but adequate but the show is outstanding and if you are in Dublin, it’s worth seeing. Just get tickets for the show and skip the dinner.

Tomorrow we still have HoHo bus tickets and a few others things we want to do before we board Celebrity’s Reflection to sail to Iceland on Monday. Here’s the pics and remember, they look better if you click the first one to watch a slide show.

Irish music in the local pubs was my first exposure to musical expression, and I feel like Irish music is very close to musical theater because it is always telling a story. —Rory O’Malley

On to Dublin

After six days in Yorkshire we bid a fond farewell to Paul and Gail. Paul drove us to the airport at 6:00 am (thank you again Paul) and Gail got up to tell us goodbye (thank you again Gail). We caught our 8:22 Aer Lingus puddle jumper flight from Leeds-Bradford airport to Dublin. Arrived 10 minutes early, but unfortunately, our ride to the hotel arrived an hour late. After that snafu, we got a great driver who took us in to the city to our luggage drop where we…dropped our luggage. Then we walked a few blocks to meet our buddies Bob and Holly for lunch at a great little place called O’Neals. A real Irish pub. It was great seeing them again. Bob and Holly, not O’Neals.

After that it was back to pick up our luggage and head to our AirBnB where we got settled, welcomed my brother and his family around 4:30 (they were wiped out after flying non-stop from LA) and went out to dinner to Brookwood, an outstanding restaurant that turned out to be right across the street, we watched a little more of Britain’s Got Talent and it was off to bed.

A couple of quick thoughts about Dublin and our AirBnB. Dublin seems more crowded and crazy than Edinburgh and definitely more than wonderfully sedate Leeds and Yorkshire (where of course we were staying in a neighborhood and not right down town as we are here). For instance, we have a very famous pub (Toners) and a couple of bars across the street from us. Normally when I get up to walk in the morning (like today when I am up at 4:30), it’s quiet in the neighborhoods. Not here. There is still a loud crowd out in front of a bar down the street (I can see the bar from our front window). At 4:22 am??!! Do these people ever sleep? Our AirBnB is pretty cool. The host, whose name is Phil, met us and has really taken great care of us. A super guy. We have a big living room, a gourmet kitchen (not that we will cook) and a four bedrooms. Check out the listing at the link above. Another win for us picking great AirBnBs. It even has a bakery downstairs and we will see how great they are later today.

As I was finishing this up at 4:30 am I realized that for the first day in 10 days, I hadn’t taken any photos. Well, I took two. Both out the window from the living room. One of the world famous Toner’s Pub and the other of Brookwood, the restaurant where we had dinner (they make a wonderful lamb) so sorry, that’s all you get today. But as I am going out in about 10 minutes for an early morning walk, you should have much more tomorrow or tonight.

Fabulous place, Dublin is. The trouble is, you work hard and in Dublin you play hard as well. —Bonnie Tyler

We are almost gone

IMG_1736This is a picture I took yesterday because I found these (photo above) when I was looking for something else that I wanted to take with us tomorrow when we fly to Edinburgh. What you are seeing is the SeaPass card (combo room key and onboard credit card for you non-cruisers) from every cruise we have ever taken (except the one on Carnival we don’t tell anyone about). Starting in the upper left with our first Alaskan cruise on the old Holland America Westerdam in 2000 all the way through out Fall Foliage cruise last October on Celebrity’s Summit. Those SeaPass cards represent a lot of great times with a lot of great people.

The trip we leave on tomorrow will include our 26th cruise. Not as many as many of our friends (including our buddy Seth who has taken more than 65 cruises) but we think it’s pretty good. This time we will be adding a SeaPass card from Celebrity’s Reflection headed from Dublin to Belfast, on to two ports in Iceland and then back to Cork and Dublin Ireland before we fly home. Before we ever get to the cruise we will be staying five nights in Edinburgh, six nights with our fellow Martini Mates, Paul and Gail in the Yorkshire region of England and then three nights pre-cruise in Dublin,. Lots of travel and that’s just how we like it.

We invite you to join us as I will try my best to (and since I won’t spend my entire days driving like I did in Arizona) post some pics and notes every day we are on the road. So come back here often and let us know what you think by commenting.

Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.
—Bo Bennett

Just a quick heads up

IMG_4095Starting on Tuesday, you will be seeing a lot of posting on this site as we are off on a one-week trip to Arizona. No, we aren’t there yet. The photo above is from our 2015 trip which is the last time we were there.

We fly out around noon from Paine Field in Everett, WA. This is remarkable because this is only the second week that this airport has been open for commercial flights. Previously it was just used by private aircraft and Boeing as it’s the site of the world’s largest building where they manufacture the Boeing 787, 777, 767 and 747. Pretty much all of Boeing’s aircraft other than the 737 which is made in Renton.

As we tour Arizona, I will be trying to post every night with a little bit about what we are doing and how we are enjoying the traveling. We will be in Phoenix Tuesday and Wednesday, Tucson on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Sedona, Sunday and Monday. We fly back a week from Tuesday.

So, watch for my updates. No cruises this time. Just a great little road trip around the southwest.