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.
Seattle from a distance as we left on a ferry.
Mount Rainier from the stern of Celebrity Solstice.
Celebrity Solstice moored at Pier 91 in Seattle.
Downtown Seattle in the winter. This photo was featured in the Seattle Times.
The Space Needle as seen from Chihuly Gardens and Glass
Mount Rainier from the 520 Floating Bridge.
Took this in mid-June after visiting the grandkids. We were on the ferry coming in from Bremerton.
The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle. —from the theme song to the 1960’s television show, “Here Comes the Brides.”
I have been putting this post off for a while. I have known since we got home from our Pacific Coastal cruise in mid-May that I needed to finish my Pacific Coastal story. Here’s a quick synopsis for those who have forgotten where we are. We took Celebrity Millenium from San Diego to Santa Barbara, Catalina, and San Francisco (where Kathleen broke her elbow), and that’s where we left off.
Our next stop was Astoria, Oregon. This was the only stop we had booked a ship’s tour—Shot in Astoria. We (Kathleen and I) had just been in Astoria last summer with the kids and grandkids, so this tour sounded interesting. It was a tour of all the spots in Astoria where they had shot popular films.
You may not know this, but in the mid-eighties, Astoria was a primary filming site for Hollywood movies. The biggest to be filmed there were Kindergarten Cop, The Goonies, parts of Twilight, Point Break and one of the Free Willy movies. So we drove around in a big old bus and saw the sights of the films (the only one I could remember anything from was the hotel in Kindergarten Cop. I will take a lot of abuse for this, but I have never seen The Goonies. Not my kind of movie.
Suffice it to say that the tour was pretty good, the bus was comfortable, and we got to stop at the Astoria Column, where you have great views. Afterward, we hit the Fort George Brewery for lunch, which was outstanding. Then back to the ship, and I was off on a photo walk. My best stuff from Astoria is below. 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.
Early in the morning on our way into Astoria.
Had a great sunrise
In every direction
Framed by the supports for the deck above our verandah.
This is the Columbia Bar…
…where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean.
It is very difficult to cross and the site of many shipwrecks.
The view from the base of the Astoria Tower.
The school from Kindergaren Cop.
Outside the ship. I liked the pattern
The Astoria–Megler Bridge…
…it connects Oregon and Washington.
An interesting, off-shore sculpture.
The Fort George Brewery
I promise (really, I mean it because we are finally settled in) to finish this trip soon. Really.
It’s not a tumor!” —Arnold Schwarzenegger as Kimble in Kindergarten Cop
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.
Early morning in the City by the Bay
Standing in one spot on the aft deck of Millennium I took these shots.
We were directly in front of Coit Tower.
Looking to the left down the Embarcadero
Looking towards the business district.
The Ferry Building
The sun coming up over Treausure Island.
Alcatraz at first light.
The second group is from my mid-day Photowalk.
Looking across to Treasure Island under the Bay Bridge.
A speed boat crosses under the Bay Bridge.
My view back towards the Ferry Building and Millennium.
An intersting art placement in the bay side park.
I posted this as a travel shot of the day. Looks to me like a guy who lost his boat.
This busker on the Embarcadero was thrilled to have his picture taken.
The last few are from our sail out, which took us under the amazing Golden Gate Bridge.
A tour boat heading right towards the ship as we left the dock.
Thousands of seagulls came to feed.
A wide shot of San Francisco looking back.
Looking forward to Alcatraz.
The Golden Gate on the San Francisco side
Sailing out under blue skies/
From one side (north)
To the other south
See how close the ship gets to the bridge
Looking at the bridge in one direction…
And then another.
And looking back at the city.
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
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.
The view off our verandah early in the morning.
The California sea lions at Pier 39.
Fun to watch…
But a lot less of them than on previous visits.
Just a fun shot.
Just off Pier 39. Really liked this shot.
The smells were amazing.
St. Francis Cathedral
Across the street a band was playing in front of a just-opening Italian restaurant.
You know I love shooting pics of performers.
Inside the Cavelli Cafe
Our intrepid guide Isabella
The stairs I was the only one to climb.
To get this view.
And this one combining the new with the old.
Laundry on the edge of Chinatown.
Looking into Chinatown from Little Italy.
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.
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
This has been a really fun cruise when we aren’t on board the ship. So let’s be positive to start with and tell you all about the great food tour we took in Santa Barbara.
We had booked all but one of our shore excursions with private companies. And strangely enough, we are doing Food Tours in four of the seven stops. Santa Barbara was the first where I found a fabulous food tour company called Eat This/Shoot That. The idea wasn’t that you had to kill your own dinner but that you would shoot pics and post them to Instagram or Facebook of all the amazing food you were eating on their tour. Of course, you were supposed to eat them after you shot them and in two cases I completely forgot to shoot first and by the time I remembered, there were just the remains.
I found this tour company in an online search. (When in doubt, Google) and they normally did not due tours on weekdays except in the summer. But I persuaded the manager (Kayla–who was awesome) to do a tour if I could find enough people off our Cruise Critic Roll Call. Since they only take eight people on their tours, I thought that would be easy and it was. In fact, so many people were interested they ended up booking another tour after hours off the ship as well.
Santa Barbara is a tender port and that means waiting for the tender (in this case a little more than an hour) and then a 15-minute lifeboat/tender ride in and then we walked to where we were meeting the tour.
Our tour guides Christine and Bella were fantastic. I could list all the restaurants for you but I think I will just caption the photos. So see the great food we got below.
Suffice it to say, I would do that food tour again in a second. My brother and his wife were so impressed with one of the places, they are already making plans to drive up to Santa Barbara. The other places were equally as good. Here’s the list of places we went. You can see their pics below (don’t forget that you can click on the first one and it will open and then use your arrow keys or swipe to see the rest):
SB Bier Garten
The Valley Project
Figueroa Mountain Brewery
Cutler’s Artisan Distillery
McConnell’s Ice Cream
Our first stop was at Santo Mezcal where we sampled two ceviches and some incredible charred serrano salsa
The halibut ceviche with mangos seemed to be the biggest hit.
The octopus ceviche was fine but the octopus was sliced a little too thin. The veggies were excellent.
On to the SB Bier Garten where we feasted on pork schnitzel poutine. A little heavy but very tasty. We also got to sample some excellent beer.
Our guide Christine showed up a beautiful mural depicting Santa Barbara’s history in a modern motif.
Next up was The Valley Project, home to Kunin wines. Their manager told us all about the Santa Barbara wine country
The Kunin wines were delicious.
They had an amazing mural on the wall of the entire Santa Barbara wine region.
Next was Mony’s Taqueria where we tried out some chicken street tacos.
They were so good I forgot to shoot the picture until this was all that was left.
I actually missed taking pics of two other establishments, The Lucky Penny where we had pizza and Figueroa Mountain Brewery where we sampled beer. Got a phone call about our mortgage and lost track of it.
Next to last was Cutler’s Artisan Distillery where we sampled a number of liquors
Finally McConnell’s Ice Cream which has been a Santa Barbara instituion for many years.
Back on the ship, sad things continued…
First, I need to do a bit of a retraction. In my post on Wednesday, I mentioned that I thought that Celebrity had created a third (basic) level of the internet that they were giving away for free. After some discussion with one of their tech support people it turns out that is wrong. They have always had two internet offers: Surf and Stream. Surf got you e-mail, websites, texting, etc. Stream got you just that. You could stream movies, do FaceTime, etc. The tech support guy tells me that they just renamed Surf to Basic and Stream is now called something else but darned if I can remember what. Either way, they still have the same programs they had before.
So having been on my other Celebrity cruises with the “Surf” internet package, I can remember that it was NEVER this slow. His answer to me was that Celebrity began giving away their FREE basic package to everyone but what they did not do was increase their bandwidth. So now we have almost 1500 people with internet on all day long. And if someone opens a web page on their device that has ads (let’s say) and they leave it on that page and walk away (like in their stateroom) then that continues to take up bandwidth as ads are refreshed on that page.
So the real story here is not that they created a newer, slower level of the internet but that they gave everyone internet and didn’t increase what they were giving away. Not only that, when I told the tech support guy that I couldn’t do Docusign documents (because the connection would time out) he suggested I upgrade to Stream (or whatever they are calling it now—the fastest one). So I did. Here’s what I got:
If you look back at my last post you will see that my speed with the basic program was .04 for downloading a page and .02 for uploading (like I do with this blog). For comparison, today we are in San Francisco and I am using my T-Mobile iPhone as a personal hotspot and here is what I am getting right now:
Seriously, my cell phone brings down data at more than 30 Mbps and the best Celebrity can do with their top internet offer is 1.05? We know of a lot of people on board who are flying back to the USA from Vancouver. Many of them purchased an e-Med kit because there is a required COVID test before you can reenter the USA. Those are monitored tests that are performed in a video chat online. These people are expecting to use Celebrity WiFi to do that test. GOOD LUCK! Thank goodness we are driving home.
Let’s talk food. We are eating breakfasts and dinners in one of their restaurants called Blu. It is for people (like us) in Aqua class staterooms. We eat breakfast and dinner there pretty much every day. And while the food has been fine and the service excellent, we are supposed to be on what is called anytime dining. Yet when we got on the ship we were told that could we please plan on coming to Blu between 5:30 and 6:00. Others were asked to come after 7:00. So without knowing in advance, we were back in early/late seating.
The food in the other venues we have eaten in is just sad. Especially the buffet. Cold pizza, sad salads with strange dressings (the Italian dressing is bright orange???). One sad thing is that Thursday was Cinco de Mayo. Now, I know it’s not a real holiday in Mexico but I would have expected something in the buffet for lunch. There were: chips with cheese on them. And some fajitas. But don’t ask for salsa—they don’t have any. It was just sad.
And I have been a little under the weather so I skipped Blu on Thursday and went up to the buffet to get a salad and a couple of pieces of pizza. Again, salad was weird and the pizza was cold. And I was hoping one of the servers would come around and asked if I wanted a cocktail or a beer or some wine. But no, I was there for 40 minutes or so and not one person approached me. Before everyone had a drinks package you had to swat those people away like flies. You were constantly being asked if you wanted a drink. Now since everyone has “free” drinks, no one asks anymore. This was truly aggravating when I could see about six or seven of the staff standing in a corner talking. As I told someone yesterday afternoon, “This is not the Celebrity I remember.”
Lastly, some of my readers will remember the good old T-Pool. For those who don’t know, this is an indoor pool on the Millennium-class ships that is in the shape of a cross. It is not for swimming. It has two big benches you sit on and jets push water up from underneath them. It is total relaxation and we have always loved using these pools.
Well, no longer. No more bubbles and the water was hotter than hell. Hotter than the two hot tubs that sit alongside it. The temps used to be just above body temp so it was really wonderful to spend some time relaxing in the pool. Now that is not the case. Most people we saw could not stand the heat and, like us, were out in about 5 minutes. They also have big faucets that pour water down into the pool that our buddy Bob (hi Bob) used to love to stand under. I think if he did that today, he would be boiled in minutes. We asked a pool attendant about it and were told that he had no clue there were jets under the benches or that the pool could be at a different temperature. Again, it’s just sad.
The next day on the cruise we had a stop on Catalina Island and I will do my best to get that up soon.
There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
–George Bernard Shaw
I bet you thought I died…or worse. But we are still here. And tomorrow, we leave on a two-week vacation that will find me posting a whole bunch. First, we are headed to Southern California to spend the night with my brother and his family in San Juan Capistrano. Then Tuesday, we head further south to San Diego, where we board Celebrity Cruise Line’s Millennium for a cruise back up the coast to Vancouver, BC.
On the way, we have stops in Santa Barbara, on Catalina Island, two days in San Francisco, Astoria, Oregon, Seattle, Victoria and finally Vancouver. And of course, I will be writing all about it and posting photos, so watch for my daily posts. I am happy this cruise has a couple of sea days, so I will do some posting and photo processing on those days. Hope you enjoy coming along.
But the real reason I haven’t posted in more than a month is that we are moving. And so we have been doing all the things you do to get your house ready to sell and dealing with all the fun of buying a new one. So I hope you will excuse my absence, but now it’s time to travel again. See you soon.