Wensleydale, Ilkley and back to Leeds to meet a special lady

Our last full day in Leeds was all about getting home and getting ready to head to Dublin tomorrow. When I posted last night we were on our way out to dinner at the Wensleydale Heifer. Their food is the main draw to the inn. It makes it a destination and the reputation for food is well deserved. I wish I had taken more photos but you will have to settle for dessert photos.

After a very filling dinner it was off to bed, a good night’s sleep and then I had my encounter with the Wensleydale Heifer shower. Our room came with a spa jacuzzi tub (that if you tried to fill it with hot water, would have taken more than an hour—worst water pressure ever) and a shower in that tub. No matter how I tried, I could not get that shower to turn on. Tried for more than an hour. Of course I did try to call the front desk to ask them what the trick was but that’s when I found out that no one is at the front desk until 8:00 am. Seriously, no night manager.

Finally at 7:30 I went down and found a very nice lady who was cleaning the lobby and she told me to look for a black cord on the opposite side of the bathroom and to pull it. If I did that the shower would come on. Seriously? How were we supposed to know that. At first I thought it was a British thing but Paul and Gail said they had never heard of it. Just crazy. Thankfully we did finally get showers (still worst water pressure ever!) Other than this one thing, the hotel and especially the restaurant were outstanding.

After a large and really great breakfast we were headed off to Leeds by way of some of the narrowest roads we have ever driven on. It was crazy. Paul did an amazing job of getting us back. We had considered a stop in Grassington but when we got there it was POURING rain and we decided to forego a stop.

It was on to Ilkley where we stopped for our last proper Yorkshire tea at the Ilkley Bettys (remember, no apostrophe) and one last Fat Rascal. After that (since the sun had finally started coming out and the rain had stopped) we decided to walk around Ilkley before heading back to Paul and Gail’s.

When we arrived back at their place we got to meet the best (and definitely the cutest) person we met on this trip, their adorable granddaughter, Jemima. We have never met such a smart and creative six year old (in case Maylee reads this, remember you are only five) and she was a true charmer. And Paul and Gail are obviously very proud and loving grandparents (another thing we have in common).

I am finishing up early tonight because we are going to dinner in a few minutes and then we will come back, watch a little more Britain’s Got Talent and then off to bed as we have to leave for the airport at 6:00 am to fly from Leeds to Dublin. See you there.

You have to accept the storms and the rainy days and the things in life that you sometimes don’t want to face. — Bai Ling

In Hebden, Haworth and Saltaire, hurricanes hardly ever happen

But it does rain. Please excuse the My Fair Lady reference in the title but hey, I’m in the UK. What did you expect. Yesterday was all about driving around and seeing West Yorkshire. I am going to do most of the describing of what we saw in the photo captions so check there.

It was a better day than I hoped for because other than a couple of hours in the morning we had a pretty nice day of clouds but no rain as you will see from my pics…which yes, I did retouch a little.

The official name of the first place we went was actually Hebden Bridge, a really nice little village with a steam train, a Sunday market and a…wait for it…bridge. We actually saw a lot of bridges and to be honest, we just weren’t sure which one was the actual Hebden Bridge but they have a lot of nice ones. Especially over the canal that winds it way through village. We walked around  a bit and then had a nice lunch in Hebden Bridge before driving on to tour Haworth.

Haworth’s claim to fame is that the Bronte sisters (please forgive the lack of an accent mark on Bronte but I can’t figure how to do that in WordPress) lived there while writing their books. I was the sacrilegious member of the group as I have never read any of their books and/or seen any of the movies made from them. Shame on me. It’s a really quaint little town that’s built on a pretty steep hill. Reminded us of the French Riviera village of Eze (missing another accent mark). We climbed the entire hill and stopped in a bunch of really cool shops, bought some chocolate (after being accosted by their pusher in the street 😀 giving out free samples). She was very persuasive and we had to take some back to Paul and Gail’s house because there was a distinct lack of sweet treats there…Gail had only made four desserts for dinner 😀.

After grabbing the chocolate, we finished our climb and then turned around to head back to the car when we discovered that we were all quite thirsty and needed to stop for a quick cup of tea. I could get used to this stopping for tea thing. It provokes some very nice and convivial conversation that you really can’t have while walking or driving. We have done it two days in a row and it’s a habit I wish we could pick up. This time, we played it smart and didn’t buy anything to go with it so just tea.

After tea it was on to a rolling excursion through Saltaire, a mill town that was really cute and quaint. We were cutting down on the walking today due to my cold, my knee, Kathleen’s back, Kathleen’s leg and now Gail’s foot which she apparently hurt while she and I were off delivering invitations to their friends and relatives all over their neighborhood to their 40th anniversary coming up next month. We kind of looked like the walking wounded coming down that hill. Paul was the only one walking without a limp.

After Saltaire it was back to Leeds to tour the parts of it that can be seen from a car. We drove around and around the city center and are going back to see the parts that are inside the no-cars circle. A very cool city but I would get lost in it, in no time.

Then it was back to Paul & Gail’s where my cold got to me and napped for a an hour or so while Kathleen read and surfed and Paul and Gail made us a marvelous dinner. After that Gail and I spent the better part of an hour trading recipes and getting her Paprika 3 recipe app set up on her phone before it was off to bed for us early risers and a little more TV for our late-to-bed Brit buddies.

Calton, Stirling, Lomond and Kelpies

For our last full day in Edinburgh we left Edinburgh. We had pre-booked an all day coach tour to see Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and the Kelpies. This involved being about three blocks up the Royal Mile to Highland Explorer Tours at 8:15 am, boarding a 32 passenger Mercedes bus with 14 other travelers and spending the day on the road. A quick mention that I was kind of dreading the bus ride as I was sure I would get crammed into a tight seat and with my knee it was going to be a painful day, brace or no brace. But lo and behold, the bus was half empty and Kathleen and I had the entire back row to ourselves. And since there was an emergency exit there, I could completely stretch out my legs, YEAH!

Before we did that I went out again at dawn (or just before) to take a Photowalk and shoot some more sunrise pics, this time on Calton Hill, the third highest point in Edinburgh. It was worth it as it wasn’t near as difficult as Arthur’s Seat but it gave me a chance to shoot some more great sunrise stuff.

After breakfast we were off on our tour. The first stop was to see the Kelpies. If you haven’t seen the Kelpies, check out my pics. It is a GIANT equine sculpture (the largest in the world we were told) that honors Clydesdale horses that used to pull the barges on the Scottish Canal which runs right next to the Kelpies. They are incredibly impressive and a photographer’s dream. We spent about 30 minutes there before we were off to Loch Lomond, Scotland’s biggest lake. We saw a part of it but not all (that would have taken too long), had a nice cup of coffee and then it was off to Stirling Castle.

On the way I have to say that the is country is SOOOOOOOO green. Green and lush. Check out my countryside pics and know that I did nothing to enhance them. They are amazing.

Stirling Castle (according to our superb and hilarious driver/guide James) is even better than Edinburgh Castle and I think he is right. Part of why we liked it better was Frank a Stirling Castle tour guide, who took us on an amazing tour that was one of the best tours I have ever done. Just outstanding. Pictures say it better than I can describe. I think you may recognize Frank as I am pretty sure when he was a lot younger, he played Dobby the house elf in the Harry Potter films 😀. He was stupendous as was his castle. Topped the tour off with lunch and a bus ride back and then packing. We have a 8:00 am train to York tomorrow morning where we will be picked up by the amazing Paul and Gail, our Martini Mates. We are staying with them at Castle Howard and touring what Paul calls, God’s Country—Yorkshire. Can’t wait.

One last thing before I throw in the photos. We are finishing up this trip a week from today in Dublin where we will meet up with my brother Steve, his wife Jamie, our niece Cassie, her cousin Analee and Jamie’s sister and her husband Pam and Dave. And two more special people, our buddies Bob and Holly who are enroute to Dublin as I write this. I mention this as Bob does a blog as well and he blogs as he travels. I want to recommend it as he always takes great pics and sometimes movies. You can find it by clicking here. It’s always a fun read so try it out.

Don’t forget you can always see the pics as a slide show and as soon as Flickr gets their act together and fixes their uploader, I will have more pics in my Flickr feed (see the column at right.)

I have rarely if ever found anyone out of whom I could not extract amusement or edification. —Sir Walter Scott (seen in the Waverly Rail station while walking today)

We walked and walked and ate and ate

IMG_1781
My walking day
IMG_3861
Kathleen’s walking day

Don’t you love trying to get back on schedule after you change a bunch of time zones. I do…NOT! Awake this morning at 1:00 am, laid in bed until 2:00 and then gave up and came in the living room (I love AirBnBs for this very reason…we have a living room) and posted and did some other stuff before noticing the sun was going to come up at 4:44. So I was dressed and out walking at 4:30. I love taking early morning golden light photos and I was thrilled to get some great ones. Walked a little over five miles all over Edinburgh’s new and old towns. And as you can see, by the end of the day, I had walked even further.

I want to take a moment here to brag about Kathleen and her walking yesterday. She did more than 7.3 miles and more than 16,688 steps. WOW! I walk miles and miles each week but this is really something for her. Those are our respective walking tallies for yesterday above. Hopefully we wore off some of the food we ate.

I have to admit to you faithful readers that I started this post last night at 9:00 pm or so when we came back from our food tour. Between the long day and the great food and drink, I fell asleep right at the end of the first paragraph. It’s now almost 7:00 am on Thursday and I have already climbed Arthur’s Seat (more about that tomorrow) and I am working on this before I go get breakfast.

After my early morning walk, we had planned to go down and tour Holyrood Palace. On both our previous trips we had skipped the Palace for some reason. But when I had walked there on my pre-dawn photowalk, I discovered the the Lord High Commissioner of some such was in residence until Sunday and that the Palace was closed to tours. Damn! Guess we will just have to come back to Edinburgh again.

So after a quick breakfast, we walked up the Royal Mile and grabbed our Saturday rail tickets at Waverly Station and did a quick “Rick Steve’s Wee Tour of New Town.” It’s a tour from his Edinburgh Highlights book. We could have skipped where we ended up going on the “Wee Tour” as we wound up walking much of the same route on the food tour later but we had a nice morning. Made it back to the Canonsgate area in time to grab lunch at the Tollbooth Tavern where we had eaten three years ago. Still great food and great beers. It ought to be for a place founded in 1820. You would think they would have their act together by now. 😜

Then it was back to home for a short nap before our 5:00 pm food tour. We had booked this through a company called Eat Walk Tours and we met our guide Anastaziya (Scottish of Russian heritage) at our first restaurant at the base of the castle in the Grassmarket area. Anastaziya was AWESOME! It was her first tour (she had been on a bunch but this was her first one as a guide) and aside from having to check her notes from time to time, she was wonderful. Our tour was called the Old/New Town Tour and it did just that. Took us through the Old Town, around the Royal Mile and then over to Princes Street and the New Town. Along the way we stopped for five bites and three drinks and had a lot of splendid conversation. We were amazed that we were the only people on the tour, which I guess is a big benefit of booking on a weekday, so we got very special treatment.

The food and drink started with smoked salmon (farm-raised Atlantic, no further comment needed) and our next tastes included mash potatoes with some braised beef and blood sausage (good) that was accompanied by some outstanding raspberry gin and Prosecco (great). Then on to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society where we sampled a private label Scotch along with the haggis we had been expecting all day long, served with neeps and tatties. It was surprisingly good. Then on to what looked like from the outside to be a faux-Tudor cheesy, bar. Once inside it became a gorgeous and classy wine bar and quickly became my favorite stop of the day. The food included a plate of cheese, cured meats, carmelized onions accompanied by oatcakes and some wonderful bread. All that washed down with a super good Scottish lager. We finished at a very stylish place for dessert where we enjoyed an upscale version of a traditional Scottish desert—Cranachan. It’s raspberries, whipped cream and chocolate. Wonderful.

That’s our first full day and it was full. Weather was outstanding as it looks to be today. More tomorrow. Here’s some pics but there will be a lot more on my Flickr account linked at right. And just in case you didn’t realize it, you can click any individual picture in the collage and it becomes a slide show.

Eating good food is my favourite thing in the whole world. Nothing is more blissful. —Justine Larbalestier

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

Quick Shots

Viking almost catastrophe follow up

Tonight just two quick things I want to share. The first is an awesome story about Viking Cruise Line’s ship that ran into trouble last week off Norway. If you missed it, I wrote about it late last week. Their crew and the whole company stepped up big time. You can click here to read the article. Worth the few minutes. Warning thought, it is a harrowing account. I would not have wanted to be on that ship. But I would have been thrilled by the way the crew onboard handled things.

Watching a big ship sail down a tiny canal

MeyerWerftAll through 2008 we were anxiously waiting the building and launching of Celebrity Cruise Line’s Solstice. This was not just a new ship, this was an entirely new class of ship. We (Kathleen and I) along with our Martini Mates were booked on Solstice’s 8th cruise in early March. So leading up to the launch we watched her being built at the Meyer-Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. They had web cams all over her and we checked every day to see the progress. We would try to figure out where our staterooms were and how the rest of the ship was coming together. Finally, after waiting for months, they had the “roll out.”

They call it a roll out because the ship literally has to roll to the sea though some pretty tight places. We watched that journey on webcams and from people posting photos taken along the way. When ships roll out from Meyer-Werft they are quite a ways from the open ocean. It is really quite a site to see a GIANT cruise ship in a tiny little canal floating through farm lands. I bring this up because it happened again this week. It wasn’t a Celebrity ship but a Royal Caribbean ship. Their new behemoth, Spectrum of the Seas, is really something to see. And she was captured in a really cool YouTube video being towed out to sea. You can watch it all by clicking here. It’s one of those things that I find fascinating and you might too. It’s only a little over a minute.

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. — Robert Louis Stevenson

 

Food, Biosphere, Driving & Food

The headline and the pictures pretty much say it all for our last transition day from Tucson to Sedona. Let’s start with the morning food. If you are ever in Tucson and want an incredible breakfast, try one of the three Baja Cafes. Best breakfast we had on the entire trip and a truly cool place to eat. We were headed north out of town and stopped at their Campbell Ave. location early on a Sunday morning. The best way to sum it up is to say they had one of the most amazing dish of smoked brisket machaca huevos rancheros anyone has ever eaten. Not to mention that they give you sooooo much of it that even I couldn’t finish it. Kathleen had the waffle. I know, that sounds boring compared to my amazing meal, but it wasn’t. You see they make their waffles from dough and not batter. It is truly amazing. And the best part of the entire meal was the Snickerdoodle pancake. I need to mention that we did NOT order the Snickerdoodle pancake. About two minutes after our food (that we had ordered) our server came by and brought us this amazing pancake. Now I don’t really like pancakes but this one was amazing. If you are in Tucson, go to this place for breakfast. But get there early or you will wait a very long time on weekends. We got there around 8:00 and got seated right away. By the time we left around 8:45, there was a line at the door. Our server told us that it gets worse later in the morning.

After breakfast we had previously-purchased tickets to see Biosphere 2. It’s about a 30 minute drive north of Tucson. First, in case you are wondering where Biosphere 1 is, look down. You are standing on it. This particular fact was repeated to us a whole bunch of times during our 2.5 hours visiting Biosphere 2 which we found very interesting. One of our fellow travel agents (Thanks Jim M) had recommended it to me about a month before our trip. To be honest, I remembered it from back in the 90s but I had no idea it was north of Tucson but when Jim M told me about it, we decided to buy tickets. I am glad we did.

If you are in Tucson, make sure that you make it part of your plans. Doesn’t take long to get there and the time we spent on the included tour was outstanding. Learned so much about climate change and so much more. Check out their website and stop by if you are in Tucson.

After Biosphere 2 we were off to Sedona. But as we sometimes like to do, we took the back roads. The normal way to get to Tucson from Sedona is to take I-10 to I-17. That route would have taken us on a very boring 4-hour drive. Instead we opted for a 5+ hour drive up Arizona 77, 188, 260 and 89A  through the great communities of Winkleman, Globe, along Lake Roosevelt, through Payson, Camp Verde right into downtown Sedona. Along the way we drove through deserts and mountains. Temps went up and down as we climbed from the low 80s in Globe to the low 40s at 7,000 feet where we drove through about two feet of snow. Quite a day.

And we finished off our day (after having that amazing breakfast and no lunch) with dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in the world, Dahl & DeLuca. We had been there before and had a superb meal. After that we spent that night and the next one at the Sedona Rouge Resort and Spa, which was very nice but reinforced my belief that I much prefer AirBnB rentals to hotels. (More about that later this week.)

So the next day and the one after it were pretty much uneventful. We did a day in Sedona relaxing and then did a drive to Phoenix on the aforementioned boring I-17, and had brunch at the Daily Dose Grille in downtown Scottsdale. We have been there on many Arizona trips before and highly recommend it if you are in the Phoenix area. After lunch we stopped at the most amazing brick and mortar bookstore (yes they still have those), The Poisoned Pen, only a few blocks away. It’s a real, live bookstore and it’s all about mysteries and we are both really into mysteries. Then it was off to PHX for our 3-hour flight back to Everett. A nice get away. Hope you enjoyed joining us (if belatedly) for the trip.

 

Tucson

 

Well I had high hopes of posting everyday on this trip but unlike a cruise, there is no real downtime. If we aren’t touring, then I am driving. When we go on a cruise, the captain drives and I have time to post. Evenings have been full of just downloading and processing photos so those get taken up as well.

Today we are in Sedona and I don’t have anything to do while a wonderful young lady cleans our room. Got a bunch of photos processed and now I can tell you about our adventures in Tucson, where we spent three days.

We got down to Tucson just before noon and met up with Lee who used to live in our condo complex in Redmond. He and I were on the condo board together for a few years. He sold his place about three years ago and moved down here where he bought a beautiful home. We stopped and saw his place and then we were off to lunch with him at a great restaurant called Wildflowers. It’s one of a big conglomerate of unique restaurants that started in Tucson and now stretches all over the place. I did a link to the restaurants because during our stay we would end up eating at three of them and they were all outstanding…and fun. You should check and see if they have one of them near you.

_8100103After lunch we headed into our Tucson AirBnB (I need to do an entire post on why we are now using AirBnBs most of the time) which was in the University district of Tucson. It was a very funky, cool, bungalow and it was huge. One of the best parts of AirBnBs is that you get an entire place for a great price. So we had a living room, dining room, almost gourmet kitchen, TV room, bedroom and bathroom for a lot less than the price of a hotel.

I covered the rest of that day in my last post which you can read here if you like so on to the next morning. Our good friends Bob and Judy from Chilliwack, BC headed down the next morning to meet us and then we were going to take a long “tootle” as Bob calls it (a nice long drive) to Tombstone and Bisbee even further south in Arizona. Bob and Judy arrived around 10:00, we swapped cars and headed south.

_8109956Had a great drive and a great time yakking away at each other for most of it. Just about every topic in the world comes up when the four of us are together. It took us about 90 minutes and we arrived in historic Tombstone, home of the OK Corral. Bob had been there a few years back (I think he said 1984) and back then then did fake gunfights out in the streets. Today they do them all either indoors or in outside areas that you have to pay to see them. I am sure this is because of two things. First to make some money on them them and second because of the proliferation of mass shootings around the world. The idea of having everyone in town shooting at each other is not really a good one.

It was cool and very windy so we decided we weren’t going to stay very long. We had lunch and walked around a little as well as doing a little shopping before we headed further south to Bisbee, a cute little copper mining town and scene of an entire series of books by JA Jance that came up a bunch that day. I just wanted to see all the places I had been reading about for years. Got to take some pics, we stopped at an old copper mine and then headed back by way of Sierra Vista (also in the books).

After a quick stop to get refreshed at our place, we were back out looking for Barrio Historico in downtown Tucson. We didn’t have a clear idea of where it was because the books and websites we had read about it only gave us streets that bordered it, not really great directions. You can’t put a street without a number in your GPS. After driving all over the place and never finding what we were after, we gave up and headed for dinner at another of the restaurants that was part of the Wildflower family, Culinary Dropout. Totally different than Wildflowers in a big way and totally cool. Had a great meal before heading home and sending Bob and Judy off on their way to a hotel and then the next morning, back to Sun City where they are staying with friends.

Our Saturday started with me taking a long walk around the University of Arizona. It reminded me of my walks around Oregon State in Corvallis or Auburn University in Alabama in that it is a actual campus, with a gate and an entrance. It has spread outside of the original place but it still feels like a “real” college as opposed to a commuter school like the one I went to (Cal State Fullerton).

Around 10:00 Kathleen and I decided to take a stab at finding Barrio Historico again because we wanted to see some of the doors we have photographs of in our home. If you have ever visited us, you know that we are cuckoo for door photos (we have almost 50 hanging in our place) and some of them came from this famous barrio. This time we found it and spent about an hour driving through and taking door, window and gate shots. Some of them will be in my Flickr feed later on. My favorite is in the group a the top.

IMG_1645At 11:30 we met my old high school friend Randy again for lunch at her son’s restaurant, Reilly’s Pizza. (That’s her with us at right.) If you are ever in Tucson, it’s right downtown in an old, completely refurbished mortuary. The food is amazing as is the decor and service. Of course it helps if you are eating with the bosses Mom. We had eaten there four years before (to the very day) and had a wonderful lunch and the food was still just as amazing. Truly with a visit to downtown.

After lunch Randy took us to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum high in the hills west of the city. It’s much more than a museum and definitely worth the 30 minute drive and admission price. Not only is it a museum, it is also a zoo, aquarium and more featuring desert animals, fish and birds. We spent almost two hours roaming the grounds and of course with me taking pictures. I have included a few above and the rest are (or will soon be) on my Flickr feed (at right). After a wonderful day with Randy, she headed off to meet her husband for a business dinner and we went to our third restaurant related to Wildflowers, Blanco way up in the foothills above Tucson. Great food, atmosphere and service one more time. The Fox Concept Restaurants are outstanding and we will look for them again as we travel. Guessing we will get to try both of them in San Diego on our next trip down.

And that concludes day two and three in Tucson, the next morning we were up early and headed to Sedona on the backroads with a stop at Biosphere 2. More about that later.

 

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.