Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Barcelona to Abu Dhabi: We Revel in Barcelona

We know we are getting old, no matter how young we feel. We delight in our hotel room, modern, not the kind of hotel I would normally choose, but this was chosen for us, and . . . it has a young vibe, a modern vibe, and Barcelona has that same vibe, so we decide we are going to be just fine. It is ALL done with electronics. Dim the lights, use a remote. Close the curtains, use a touchpad. Call the desk on a mobile phone provided. It’s a little intimidating because it’s not the way we do business.

The artwork was all very abstract, but the next day after we visited Sagrada Familia, the abstract became concrete, as we recognized details of that exquisite, imaginative structure.

This little couch cracked us up. Just about a foot off the ground, very low, we couldn’t imagine it was comfortable or how we would get up once we sat down. Actually, it was both comfortable enough and easy to get up from.

Once we would have headed straight out to begin our Barcelona adventure. Now, we settled into our hotel and took a brief nap, then headed out around sunset to explore a little of Barcelona. Our hotel, the Hotel Almanac Barcelona, is very modern and wonderfully located near many of Barcelona’s attractions. Tonight, a Saturday, we headed to La Boqueria, a huge market on La Rambla, a major pedestrian street, full of nightlife. 

We knew we needed to stop at the Carrefour on La Rambla; Carrefour carried just about anything, and we found what we needed – manicure scissors, a corkscrew, and three bottles of wine. We resisted Barcelona chocolates and other delicacies; our cruise ship is said to cater to foodies. Carrefour was full of local people grocery shopping, so much fun to see what they were buying. The check-out line went almost the full length of the store, but it moved surprisingly fast and we were out, with everything we needed, in no time.

I don’t have a lot of regrets, but I regret not buying a few little boxes of chocolates to sample, and to share with family on our return. The boxes were so interesting and could be used in a lot of ways.

I’m sure there are Spanish supermarkets that will do the job, but we have a comfort level with Carrefour from several other places we have lived and knew we could quickly find what we needed. I got such a grin out of the children’s games on sale – we know these games, AdventureMan has played all of these with our Grandchildren – Connect 4, Battleship and Monopoly. We love strange Monopoly sets, and have them from the WWII Museum, from Pensacola, and from Doha (!)

There were crowds of people in the streets, from the language we could hear, mostly local (it is November, a wonderful time to be here.) It was girls-night-out, guys night out and date night, with families and friends’ gatherings thrown in – Barcelona was one big party. 

La Boqueria, a large open market with booth after booth of specialties,  was colorful and exciting. There are a few places with chairs and tables, a few with bars, but mostly there is a lot of takeaway food. One was a paper cone of the famous jambon Iberica, a very tasty, thinly sliced ham.

AdventureMan bought a fruit drink with coconut, then I bought a spicy meat empanada, which we shared and decided it was delicious. Then we both bought raspberry-blueberry-(something) drinks, which were also wonderful, blended but full of pieces of fruit and it felt like drinking vitamins, only delicious.  Then AdventureMan bought a mixed vegetable empanada, which we both found boring, and I bought a pumpkin empanada, which we both thought was also boring. So much fun, so colorful, noisy, and exciting. 

We were amazed at how many delicious foods and drinks we tasted, and how little it cost us. When you travel, you aren’t always so hungry at the appropriate meal times, so we were delighted to be able to sample and snack for our first meal in Barcelona.

We loved the look of these delicately sliced potato snacks, below. Aren’t they beautiful?

We wandered and got a little lost on our way back.

We don’t speak a lot of Spanish, or Catalan, so we would ask “La Rambla?” and throw out our hands with a look of “Where is it?” on our faces and people would point us in the right direction.

Once back at La Rambla, we quickly found our way back to the hotel, and headed up to the roof bar for a drink and to look out over the city.

This was a perfect way to end one very long, exciting day.

Now that we don’t have to pack for the airplanes, we are reorganizing our bags and looking forward to Monday when we will go aboard the Nautica and unpack for the next three weeks. 

Somewhere, in the next twenty-four hours, I lost / misplaced / or someone took my little AirTag, tucked in an outside pocket on my duffel bag. I never missed it until we were almost home, and I discovered it is traveling the world without me!

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Food, Hotels, Photos, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Breckenridge, 2 Perspectives

We love The Lodge at Breckenridge, and we love the beautiful room overlooking the valley where Spring is clearly coming.

We decide to dine at the Lodge restaurant. We have a wedding anniversary coming up in June and we might as well start celebrating now 🙂

We share a charcuterie board to start.

I have the Caesar salad for my main course – and I am delighted when it arrives with a real anchovy on top. I haven’t seen an anchovy on a Caesar salad since Doha.

AdventureMan has the Elk Tenderloin, and generously shares a slice or two with me – it is delicious.

I’m pretty sure we shared a dessert, too, but I can’t remember. I had a local port, AdventureMan had a Bordeaux and we floated to our room.

The next morning, we slept in a little – and awoke to five inches of snow. We could hear other doors onto balconies opening and people saying “Snow!”

We got through the mountain pass, and safely into Colorado Springs where we had a wonderful visit with my youngest sister and her husband in their mountain eyrie. We watched episodes of Joe Pickett (we didn’t even know the series, however short-lived, existed) and then they introduced us to Longmire. Her husband played some blues and boogie for us, and we all belted out “The Train They Call the City of New Orleans.” It was a great visit.

June 13, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Out of Control

It gets worse. The flooring people, after one week, still have not arrived. They are in communication with us, and their crew is on another job where they found some problems that need to be fixed before they can complete the work on that job. It is taking time.

Honestly, sometimes all you can do is laugh. We had to move to the Airbnb because with all our bedrooms being re-floored, we have no place to sleep in the house; our beds are all broken down to store in the family room. Our cats are confined to the living room, which, fortunately, they like well enough, as well as cats like changes of any kind, as you who have cats will know.

We are reasonable people. We know that if it were us whose floors were problematic, we would want the company to fix the problem and finish the job, even if it meant taking longer than planned.

As people who are spending time and money to stay in an Airbnb while NOTHING is getting done, it is frustrating and chaotic, and expensive. We were so careful putting things where we could find them, except we can’t always remember those special places where we put the things.

And, of course, the unexpected struck. A funeral, for a good friend and mentor, at which I will be a reader, and for which any appropriate dress is hidden in the far back of my living room, behind bookcases and mattresses and stacked furniture.

After scrambling through different channels, trying to get to my “dressy clothes I won’t need rack” in the way-back, I discovered that I could make do with something on my accessible rack in the living room.

One last little whine. The temperatures have suddenly risen; the temperatures are tropical and laden with moisture. It is hot. It is humid. Our comfortably cool weather has disappeared, reappeared, and then disappeared again as a cold front moves back and forth over Pensacola, shifting our temperatures from cool and dry to hot and humid.

There is a bright silver lining to this cloud of December mishaps – As part of my job in the church, I co-ordinate with a delightful young woman who did the same exact thing, cleared out four bedrooms to have wooden floors put in, but she and her husband did it with children! They ran into the same problem, staying in an Airbnb, the job was delayed, and they ended up staying in a total of three Airbnb’s because the ones they had booked were booked again and there was no room for extensions due to the flooring company mishaps.

“It’s a drag,” she told me, “but you will be so happy with those beautiful floors.”

She is right. She made me laugh. She was exactly the right person in the right place to help me put perspective on all this and to laugh. Her situation was so much worse, and she survived.

The cats have adjusted well to their lives confined to one room in the house. The beta male, Uhtred, who has not realized that he is now bigger (and smarter) than the alpha male, Ragnar, has found a safe place where Ragnar can’t get him and has also figured out how to open the folding door, even with its slider to prevent being opened. He is smart, and persistent, and loves to open doors. so far, we have him contained.

The right dress will show up for the funeral. It’s not about me, anyway. There is a pin I need to wear, and I know exactly where it is, in a box at the bottom of a heap of boxes I can’t access. The hamster brain keeps running on its hamster wheel, and I have to take a breath and realize that most of what I worry about will resolve itself without my getting wrapped up in anxiety.

Limbo is never a fun place to be. We want this to be over, we want to put all our furniture back, to sleep in our own house, to have our things put away in logical places where we can find them when we need them. We trust this company and want to work with them; we believe they are doing the best that they can in troubled times. We are in a good place; no immediate vacation plans, no children, not a lot on our schedule, and our Airbnb has been very gracious about extensions. I’ve given up thinking I’ll be able to have this all done, everything put away, for Christmas.

We are not comfortable being out of control. We are experiencing the discomfort of rolling with the unknown. On some level, I believe it to be a reminder that mostly control is an illusion, and that we are often oblivious to the tumult and chaos all around us, disruption can blindside us at any time. I know there is a lesson in humility involved, and I suspect another lesson in letting go and going with the flow. Like Uhtred, I persist in trying to free myself, I keep pulling at that door.

December 10, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Home Improvements, Hotels, Living Conditions, Moving, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open, Day 13, Bozeman and the Museum of the Rockies

We have space! I am up early, and I can brew a pot of coffee while AdventureMan sleeps in. We are not in a hurry, the Museum of the Rockies won’t even open until 9:00, so we can take our time. We like museums, and we really like the Museum of the Rockies. Last time we were there, they had a visiting exhibit on Genghis Khan; this time they have an exhibit called Vikings Begin, and I love all the new things we are learning about Viking culture and explorations. We have a quick breakfast downstairs, grab what we need and head out. 

Usually when we get to a museum we are early and there are few people. This time, there is a bus load of people who look a lot like us. They seem to be Montanan, maybe not from Bozeman, but maybe a church group or an affiliated group of some kind, around our age, all of them. There are also a few families with children. Not a big crowd but a healthy number of people.

We go through the Viking exhibit, which is exquisite, but small. I watch a couple of the videos, blown away by how far the Viking trading ships went, from deep into current day Russia to the coastal areas of North America. 

We go through the early western exhibits, then split off, AdventureMan to spend time with the dinosaurs, and me to see a planetarium presentation on the northern skies. I love this show; it focuses on what our early ancestors saw from different countries, they show us the differences between what people see in Bozeman, at 45° latitude, New Orleans, at 30° latitude, and Northern Europe and Alaska, at 60° latitude. 

I had a little time after the show to visit the gift shop, which had many empty shelves, which they were busy replenishing. As I checked out, I asked “didn’t you used to stock more of just about everything?” and she told me that they were even pulling stock from old exhibits to display as the containers were not arriving with new stock. This is another recurrent theme, here, in Pensacola and just about anywhere we travel, problems with the supply chain. This COVID has put a huge kink in the old normal, and we are going to have to find new ways of dealing with changes brought about by both COVID and climate change.

Our lunch was hilarious. The Museum of the Rockies is close to down town Bozeman, so we found a parking place and walked around until we found something that looked like it would do. It was called the Main Street Over Easy, and you go through a door and down a hallway to find it. We arrived just at change-over time; the place was packed with breakfast eaters just finishing up, and we were shown to a table and given breakfast menus.

A lady at the next table said “At the risk of being intrusive, they have a lunch menu. Just ask for it.” She was right. We asked for the lunch menu and we got it. The server, who was a delight, said “Here’s the menu but today we don’t have any burgers.”

Not a problem. I ordered a French Dip and a salad, AdventureMan ordered Fried Fish sandwich with salad. I don’t know how long it took to get them; we were engaged in conversation with the lady who was from Whitehall, between Butte and Bozeman. We were as interested in her, and her views, as she was in ours. We both have governors who have forbidden schools to mandate masks. (Upon my return from Montana to Florida, both our son and his son tested positive for COVID and are currently still in quarantine.)

Love all this space
Getting organized for flight back to Pensacola

We headed back to our hotel to strip our bags, re-pack, and in my case, iron my little linen dress for the next day. We rested up, then headed out for dinner, again at the Blacksmith Italian. 

We had a booth in a side room, more quiet until a large family arrived to celebrate a special occasion, and that was fun, too. 

AdventureMan ordered the Caprese Salad and the Charcuterie board has his entree. The Caprese salad was wonderful, the tomatoes had taste and the cheese is house-made. I ordered squid ink noodles with shrimp and crab, very tasty, spicy, just the way I like it. Our last night in Montana, so we split the Tiramisu, which is really enough for four people, loaded with a rich whipped cream on top and a taste of liqueur moistening the ladyfingers. We shouldn’t have, but we enjoyed every bite. 

Caprese Salad – a WOW
Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp and Crab
LOL, the Charcuterie platter with nothing missing 🙂
This bread was delicious!
Tiramisu!

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 11, Mammoth Hot Springs to The Tetons and Jackson Hole

It is COLD! It is sunny! It is gorgeous! It is one of the prettiest days of our trip as we leave Mammoth Springs. I make AdventureMan stop several times, trying to capture how beautiful is the frost in the shadows between Mammoth Springs and Old Faithful. 

I’m trying to show you frost in the fields . . .
Can you see the white frost?
There it is! It shows up better in the shadows! (AdventureMan is very patient with me)
It is August 29th, and this field is still with thick white frost!
The heat of the volcanic fissures show up particularly well on cold days

We come to a traffic clog – buffalo crossing. We are patient, it is entirely possible on this route that these are people who have never seen bison before. They are jumping out of their cars and seem a little wild with excitement. 

I can never get enough of Roaring Mountain. AdventureMan is being a good-sport; see the halo of light spotlighting him?

We crossed the Continental Divide at least three times.

The drive is just breathtaking.

Lewis Falls

Around noon, we leave Yellowstone and are immediately in the Tetons, which we begin to see to the West.

We find the Flagg Ranch Lodge on our right, just in time for lunch. It is a lovely lodge, but you can see that the season is already lagging; the express shop is open but the gift shop is closed.

See the Pay Phone?

AdventureMan stops to get a map of the area and I see an oddity, a pay phone. When was the last time you saw a working public pay phone? After lunch, we try to call our son and discover we are in an area with zero bars. Now the pay phone makes all kinds of sense.

I have soup, and the Prismatic Salad, AdventureMan has the Pig Whistle Salad, and lunch is delicious. We talk with our servers; one is a trucker who works during the season with his partner at Flagg Ranch. Off-season, they go back to California.

Great Prismatic Salad
Pig Whistle Salad

We stop several places to take in Lake Jackson; we can see it has been greatly depleted by the drought, but also replenished somewhat by the heavy rains tamping down the forest fires. Near Lake Jackson, the air starts to get a little hazier from forest fire related particulate matter. 

Look at those gorgeous blues and greens!

The Tetons are grand. Impressive. Awe-inspiring. We can’t get enough. 

Coming in, we are directed by the Bossy Lady to Moose Wilson Road, isn’t that a great name? There is a large parking lot, and multiple signs warning people that this little dirt road is only for cars, no getting out of cars, no walking and no stopping. There is a ranger in the parking lot – in fact, every time we take this road, which is like four different times because the Bossy Lady sent us over this road to get to different places. In spite of the signs, inspire of the ranger presence, people were . . . stopping. Getting out of their cars. Walking. This is a protected wildlife track, bear, moose, deer. 

Alpenhof Hotel

We arrive shortly at The Alpenhof, in Teton Village, and our room is ready. It looks very German to me, but it is actually very Swiss, German Swiss I suppose. Our room makes me smile; it has so many familiar German touches. It is a nice large room, opening out to a balcony shielded by fresh smelling pines. We can hear the funicular in the background, squeaking now and then as the little carriers round the bend coming down and going up. 

Great reading lights 😉
Funicular going up mountain

We walk around, take a sweet nap and have dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. AdventureMan and I met in Germany; we still have a weakness for German food. Reservations are strictly required, we must be masked, and we see people turned away who do not have reservations. 

As we are waiting, a couple comes in and asks the Maitre d’ if they have “Sloshies.” The Maitre d’ says no, but they can find them in the Bodega at the nearby filling station. The couple tell us that Jackson Hole is famous for “Sloshies” and exit to go find them. They also start a tirade against masking, social distancing and young people who won’t work because they are getting unemployment. If you’ve ever worked with the poor, you know that unemployment doesn’t do it. It is just a supplement.

Dining Room: The Alpen Rose
I really liked this beer, like beer with fruit on a hot summer day in Germany

We are seated, and the menu is lovely. We both decide on salad and a Jaegerschnitzel. If we had known how large they were, we might have thought to share one, but we didn’t, and in truth, while they appeared huge, they were pounded thin, and deliciously prepared with a wine-mushroom sauce. We each ate our entire schnitzels with no problem. We also shared a dessert they called Heisse Liebe, (Hot Love!) but we used to eat along the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg and it was called Heiss und Eis, vanilla ice cream with a hot sauce made of fresh raspberries and a little liqueur poured over the ice cream. Divine. Heaven. 

We took another walk around the village and called it a night, glad we also have reservations the next night at the same restaurant. 

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 8, Roaring Mountain, Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful

This is the book we use that tells us everything we didn’t know we didn’t know.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been traveling a week, and only have a week to go. We are having so much fun, and time is skimming by.

Today we drive south. We are up early, to avoid the crowds. Too late, there is already a line for coffee. They have delicious biscotti; huckleberry for AdventureMan and Cinnamon for me. It is cold, so cold I put on my levis for the only time on this trip. We are headed to one of my favorite places, the Norris Geyser Basin.

We beat the tour groups for the only morning

On the way, we stop at Roaring Mountain, another of my favorite spots. It is a cloudy day, but that is OK at Roaring Mountain, a sulpherous, misty site full of fumaroles, holes out of which pour hot steam. In the cold morning air, the steam shoots out, and then billows dramatically around the mountain. 

Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Emerald Springs

The Norris Geyser Basin had two great hikes, and the parking lot has what we call Rock Star Parking when we get there, very few people. 

We love this hike. The first attraction is Steamboat Geyser, which is unpredictable but is always looking promising when we see it, burbling up with little bursts of geyser enthusiasm. Along the track are many geysers, but also bubbling pits and brilliantly colored springs of boiling water. All the steaminess is exaggerated in the morning cold. We can’t believe it can be this cold in mid-August. 

Steamboat Geyser at Dawn
It’s inviting, and deadly

AdventureMan tells me – and this is really true – that a man fell into one of the springs at Norris Basin, and died, and that his body dissolved in the chemical rich pool. He didn’t die on purpose, but, like many tourists, he wanted to take a dip. His sister says he tripped over his own flip-flop, fell in and died a terrible death, boiling to death. Aargh. 

Rockslide en route holds us up a couple minutes while blockage is cleared
Firehole River and Falls, a great side route

We head on to Old Faithful. There is a long boardwalk there I have never walked, and we have little hope it will be uncrowded. We decide to have breakfast first, and discover the dining room is not open, does not seem to be serving meals at all. The grill is open, all grab and go, so we pick up breakfast and for me, coffee, and ask if we can eat on the terrace. They tell us yes, so we head upstairs, and there is a lovely spot with a bench and two tables overlooking Old Faithful, so we set up there and have one of the most unexpectedly lovely breakfasts of our trip. 

Old Faithful Inn
Last time we stayed here we were in the room in the upper right corner

We could watch Old Faithful erupt from our front row seat, but we decide to leave our location for someone else, and to hike out to another vantage spot good for watching the eruption. It is a great walk, we find a good place and just as I am about to walk to the prime location, a family stops there and claims it. We sit nearby, and a bison comes near. The family can’t resist, they decide to follow the bison, so we get the place after all. 

We sit, and an EcoTour comes and joins us. We get the advantage of all this knowledgeable young guide’s experience just sitting there and listening. As we are listening, a Park Ranger comes hustling up to try to keep people from getting too near the bison. It seems to be a never-ending battle; people seem to think this is like Disneyland and nobody gets hurt. Wrong. People get hurt all the time. These are WILD animals and they are becoming less and less afraid of human beings. That is a bad thing, and can become disastrous. 

The Bison is in the upper right quadrant of the photo

AdventureMan took the guide aside after Old Faithful did its thing and tipped him, told him to have a beer on us because we benefitted from his discussions even though we weren’t a part of his group. We love young people who love their jobs and do them so well. 

We learned that early-mid morning is a great time to visit Old Faithful. There were people, but not so many, even in this near peak of summer visitors.

What we noticed is that there were no buses full of Chinese. No buses full of Japanese. No large groups of visiting Indians. No large groups of students. No European youths. We met one French-Canadian biker along the Firehole Falls road; he had started at the Canadian border and said he had 20,000 more miles to go. The bikers in Yellowstone and Glacier earned our unalloyed admiration – they were riding up very long high hills with gear. They had their sleeping bags and small camp stoves and their clothing. I cannot imagine how they persisted, but they almost all looked strong and wiry and like they were loving every minute of their biking experience.

We got in over 12,000 steps today. AdventureMan is happy.

We went into Gardiner for dinner, to the Wonderland, a restaurant we discovered the last time we were in Yellowstone, a couple years ago. We were astonished – we went early. Almost every table was full! They did have a table for us, and we were very grateful. I had trout with aioli sauce, AdventureMan had elk chili (it was sprinkled with powdered sugar, and was sweet!) with their famous jalapeño cornbread. Wonderland was hopping busy; we were so impressed with the way the team all worked together. While the servers were taking orders, others would be taking plates away, filling glasses, bringing food from the kitchens – everyone helping each other. It was awesome to behold. 

Trout with mashed potatoes and aioli sauce
Elk chili with jalepeno corn bread

Back at our cabin, coming back from a post-dinner walk, we looked up the hill behind our cabin and there was a huge bull elk! It had a huge rack of horns, and looked so noble as he sauntered along the hill. Word spread quickly and people grabbed their cameras, mostly cell phones, and ran out to the street to catch a photo of this magnificent animal. He was far enough away that the few people who gathered didn’t bother him, he barely noticed our existence, and we were very quiet and respectful. I didn’t have my camera, only my cell phone. I took pictures anyway. Nothing could capture the full grandeur of this creature, but we all clicked away in sheer astonishment and admiration. There are hundreds of female elk and little elk calfs around, but this is the only bull elk I ever saw in Yellowstone. 

Bull elk behind cabins
Such a thrill I had to put in two photos

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 6, Helena to Livingston and Chico Hot Springs

Breakfast was lovely. There were beautiful hot scones waiting on the table for us, light and fluffy scones, not the crusty tough kind. The hostess, Pat, baked them herself, as well as the breakfast frittata, served with sausages and hot pots of coffee and cream. It was a great way to start the day. 

Carolina B&B Breakfast Room
Coffee and Tea Service
Sun Porch/Reading Room
Carolina Frittata, Sausage and Fruit
Pat’s Famous Scones

At breakfast we met Dave and Carol, from Everett, WA, who were married five years ago at The Carolina and who come back every year to celebrate their anniversary there, they love it so much. 

We drive towards our next stop, Chico Hot Springs, but we stop once again in Townsend. We have been looking for a car wash, our time in Glacier National Park has left us mud-stained and mud splashed; we have dead bugs on our windshield and every time I lean on the car to take a photo, I end up with mud on my legs.

We have MUD everywhere

We really like Townsend. We love the sign in the car wash. I love that while I am reading some Montana mysteries, Townsend is mentioned here and there, and I have a photo of the Commercial Bar, notorious among alcoholic cops and people who start drinking early in the morning. 

The Great Wide Open
“You know those are not real horses don’t you?” No. I didn’t recognize it was an art installation.

It is a beautiful day. 

On every trip, I try to schedule a wild card. A wild card means I don’t really know if we are going to like this or not, it might be out of our comfort zone, but we might also stretch and find we enjoy it. I had found Chico Hot Springs in Paradise Valley, another place frequently mentioned in Montana detective series, and had reserved a rustic cabin, which happened to be all they had left that looked like what we might like. I was making reservations early in December, so I thought it odd that so much was already reserved.

So on our drive, I experience a few little anxieties, like did I make sure this “rustic cabin” has it’s own bathroom? What if it has a musty smell? What if this is some kind of tawdry experience that we might find distasteful?

We stop in Livingston en route; we want to visit the Railroad Museum and to have lunch at the Murray Hotel, where we had reservations last year we had to cancel when COVID overturned everyone’s lives.

Livingston, MT
Murray Hotel, where we would have stayed

The railroad museum was fabulous. AdventureMan loves history and loves railroads. I found some really cool movies, one in particular, Invisible Boundaries which tracks Yellowstone’s Great Animal Migrations. The film was gorgeous. Some of was filmed from helicopters, some by an independent filmmaker who trekked with wildlife specialists and a wildlife artist. The film is lush with color and action; the still shots and the artwork are breathtaking. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

The Cashier at the Railroad Museum told us many people come to Livingston to visit Dan Bailey’s, famous for angling outfitting

We had thought we would eat at the Murray, but saw Fiesta de Jalisco and had a craving for Mexican food, so we ate there. It was another restaurant which was careful – seating was separated, people were masked (not while eating). Best of all, the food was really good. I had a chicken mole’ and AdventureMan had a tamale and taco. 

“You have to see the rest room!” AdventureMan tells me

(We were greatly surprised that in all the tourist spots, prices were so reasonable. We think Pensacola has a reasonable cost-of-living; the places we found in Montana and Wyoming – OUTSIDE the national parks – were not more expensive than Pensacola.)

We walked after lunch, and found a cute gift shop where I asked if they had any cherry juice from the Flathead valley, and the woman running the shop looked at me and said “We don’t have it here, but I think I know someone who does” and called a friend. “Yes! She has it!” she told me, so we walked to the Copper Moose where we found the cherry juice and all kinds of wonderful Montana specialties, and some great conversation. We love bringing back local treasures to our family when we travel, and we found some really great treasures at the Copper Moose. We bough the large bottle of cherry juice; we should have bought two bottles, we love it so much. It is tasty, without being too sweet. It mixes well with water or with gin or tonic or seltzer. We were looking for a liqueur to pour over ice cream, like Chambord, but we never found it.

Chico Hot Springs was just a short drive down Paradise Valley from Livingston. Chico Hot Springs was really fun. Our cabin was not ready, but they checked us in, gave us wrist bands to use for the hot springs, and towels and said they would call when the cabin was ready. Just as we had parked, our cabin was ready, so we quickly drove up the hill to our cabin, dropped our gear, (checked to make sure there was a bathroom, and there was) and headed back to the springs.

C.J.Box, in his Highway Series, refers to the old Chico Springs as a former Sanitarium.

AdventureMan had told me he would just sit in the sun; not me! Hot Springs are natural! They have minerals! We used to live in Wiesbaden where people came from miles away and paid a lot to “take the waters.” I hadn’t been in ten minutes when AdventureMan came and joined me. I was delighted. It’s out of his comfort zone. We need experiences out of our comfort zone, we are still capable of growth and new experiences.

After a short while, we headed back to the room for a short nap before dinner. I caught up on my trip notes while AdventureMan went deep into sleep. By dinnertime, we were both relaxed, refreshed and ready.

View toward mountains
Dining Room at Chico Hot Springs

Reservations were a must. The Hotel had contacted me a couple months before and notified me that because of COVID, and employee shortages, and a requirement to socially distance, and the high volume of people wanting to eat in their dining room, if we wanted to eat there, we really needed to make a reservation, which I had made. 

We had an isolated table. Everyone there did. We had a delightful server, Purity, who really knew the menu and the wines. I discovered they had a very large wine tasting room just off the nearby bar, with a lovely selection of amazing wines.

Everything I ordered was off the evening specials menu – they had me at Butternut squash soup and Alaskan halibut. AdventureMan had Prince Edward Island Mussels and the Alaskan halibut, we both had white Bordeaux to drink and ended the meal by sharing a creme brûlée. The meal was magnificent, one of the best on our trip, probably because the wine was so perfect with the meals.

It was nearing sunset. We decided to take a drive along an unpaved road leading out of the hot springs area down into a valley area. We saw a mother deer with two fawns, and we watched the sun set behind a mountain. When we got back to the cabin, there was a fowl – a grouse (?) without fear, waiting to greet us. AdventureMan said he heard coyotes yipping nearby during the night; I slept through it. Our cabin was isolated from the main part of the hot springs complex, and very quiet. We had a wonderful sleep in this rustic cabin. 

One of the things AdventureMan says he loved about these rustic cabins was that they had great lights for reading. We don’t understand why hotels and inns have beautiful nightstands, and even maybe beautiful lights, but the bulbs are puny and they don’t put out enough light by which to read. Chico Hot Springs rustic cabins had good lighting to read by, and lots of hooks to hang up our clothes. We also had all the privacy in the world; the rustic cabins were relatively remote. 

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Food, Geography / Maps, Health Issues, Hotels, Local Lore, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 7, Mammoth Hot Springs and Yellowstone National Park

Chico Hot Springs is a mere 40 minutes from Gardiner, our favorite town just north of Mammoth Hot Springs where we will be spending the next four nights. We head straight for Tumbleweeds, a bookstore that also is semi-bakery and has breakfasts and lunch. But, as it turns out, only Thursday – Friday – Saturday these days, so we have to find someplace else. There is a long line outside the Antler Grill and there is something of a line at the Cowboy Bar and Grill, where we have never eaten but would like to give it a try.

There is a sign on the door saying help wanted, and several people seated outside. We missed those clues. We got inside, and the only person we could see who looked like she worked there totally ignored us. The sign said “please wait to be seated” so we waited. And waited. And waited a little more. It could have been annoying, but we had seen this same situation in Glacier and had a good idea what was going on. 

Eventually, the waitress – who was also cashier, and hostess, asked if we wanted to be on the wait list, and we said yes. She called the names of the people outside, and then, at the end, called our name, too, so we only had to wait about 40 minutes. 

For me, it was worth it. I ordered something called the sausage scramble, and one of the choices for sides was “greens.” I am wired to have a hunger for greens, so I ordered greens and I also ordered a side of jalapeño huckleberry sauce to go with my egg scramble. 

Breakfast actually came fairly quickly, even though everyone else in front of us got served first. The cook was quick and the server was also quick. My “greens” turned out to be a nice big bowl of mixed greens, covered with sunflower seeds, which I love, and dressed with an orange vinaigrette that was out of this world. It might have been that I was really hungry by then, but I remembered that bowl of salad as one of the best taste-treats of the trip. I also really loved the jalapeño huckleberry sauce.

AventureMan had the bacon scramble and focaccia bread, and the bread was also delicious. Things had slowed down and we had a chance to talk with the cashier/waitress/hostess and discovered she is Jamaican, a business student, and in a couple weeks she will be back at university. She is doing this as a summer job, and has worked very hard all summer, short-handed the entire time.

The hardest working people we found as we travelled were foreign workers and people as old as we are.

We shopped for dinner at this traveler friendly Gardiner Grocery Store
All traffic stops for bison

By this time it is maybe ten-thirty, we drive into Mammoth Springs and we don’t even stop because there is no way our cabin will be ready. We head straight out to one of our happy places, Lamar Valley. Near Tower junction there is a group of bison blocking traffic, just tarrying along, and people are going wild taking photos. We are patient, and head first for Roosevelt Lodge, which has never been open when we have visited Yellowstone previously. 

Probably the best Bison shot I’ve ever had, and it’s through a side window, no composition, just pure luck.

Nice clean restrooms. Roosevelt Lodge has the reputation of being a good place to stop for lunch, but they are not serving meals. They have a Grab n Go sign, and then entire lobby area is EMPTY. We headed on to Slough Creek, one of our favorite spots to tarry, and Lamar Valley.

There are restrooms at the entrance to Slough Creek, but we pass them by. We know there is also a restroom at the end of the road, but today we get a thrill – at the end of the road is a gate. The gate is open. There is no sign saying Do Not Enter, so that means you can enter, right?

The truth is, probably 90% of the people who visit Lamar Valley never go down this bumpy unpaved road to Slough Creek. Even fewer know that through the gate is the entrance to the Slough Creek Campground, one of the sweetest, most private camping areas in Yellowstone, right on the bank of Slough Creek. 

There is a hiking trail which goes beyond the campground. We hike out for a while, and we spot otter! Off in the distance, we spot a couple men riding out on horses, maybe they are rangers, although there is also a horse rental operation back at the area where we went through the gate. 

The are is so beautiful, so quiet and so peaceful that we settle for a while and watch the otter play, and the water ripple by in the large creek. We talk a little with people coming to camp there. There is also a nice clean restroom there, actually several in different parts of the campground. It is a serene and awe-inspiring place to just be.

As we headed back into Mammoth Springs to sign into our room, we passed a large group of cars parked desperately along both sides of the highway, watching a tiny bear walk along a path on a nearby hill. We understand this might be the only bear these people ever see, and we also wish they would be more respectful. Stay in your cars! Don’t whistle or call to the bear trying to attract his attention! Let the bear just do his bear thing. We drove by as quickly as we could, we just wanted to get away.

AdventureMan is edgy, he wants more walking. I assure him tomorrow will be full of walking. We check into our cabin, and AdventureMan insists it is bigger than the last cabin we had. I don’t think so. I think they moved some of the furniture out and it seemed more spacious, but it looks the same size to me. All these cabins were built about the same time, probably a WPA project. We have a bathroom; some of the cabins don’t. They use the group toilet and shower facilities in the cabin area.

As we walk around the cabin area, we see that many of the cabins are empty, which is puzzling, because when I reserved, back in December, the cabins were mostly sold out. We speculated that it was again, a demographics problem, too few people willing to take a chance of remote working conditions during COVID. People our age are retiring and, like us, traveling. Younger people may not want to expose themselves, or don’t have child care so that they can work. As we got to know the housekeepers, they confirmed our suspicious. This was the hardest they have ever worked, too much work to do, cleaning, laundry, maintenance of cabins, and too few people to do the work. 

We drove to the upper terrace road near sunset, and walked to Canary Springs. It was a beautiful time of day to be there for some dramatic photos, but not so dramatic as the cold mornings, when the steam would billow out of the hot springs.

Dinner was on our front porch, with a view of the Mammoth Springs terraces. We had picked it up in Gardiner at Gardiner groceries, where they had wonderful sandwiches, wraps and all kinds of condiments. I had my chicken wrap with Salsa Verde, and it was delicious.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 4 Many Glacier

Many Glacier

Today we head for Many Glacier, another reason we love staying on the East Side of Glacier National Park. It is a beautiful drive, sunshine and shadows, rays and clouds, at the same time.

The drive was a symphony of blues and greens, mountain, valley, lakes and sky. As a quilter, I am color-sensitive, especially to greens and blues, so this drive was thrilling to me, just experiencing all the varieties of blues and greens, and mixtures of blues and greens accented with blacks and greys.

Begin early morning drive to Babb / Many Glacier Road

Entrance to Many Glacier

Many Glacier Lodge Interior

We find a really good parking place and head for the lodge; I separate from AdventureMan to find the ladies room, which is down one of two intertwining staircases.

Excursion Boat

Many Glacier Lodge is beautiful. I have a real weakness for the old, sturdy, long built lodges, but many times the rooms small and the spaces crowded. Many Glacier Lodge had a couple tour groups waiting to catch the excursion boat, and many die-hard hikers, headed for the beautiful hikes available. It turned cold, and an icy rain began to fall heavily. Even though I was raised hiking in rain, I don’t much like it, especially when I end up cold and wet. I have turned into a total wuss. 

We took our time driving back and began to look for a place to have brunch. We had thought the Lodge, but it did not offer breakfast to people who were not guests. In Babb, nothing was open. In St. Mary’s, nothing was open. In Browning, nothing was open, I had an idea in East Glacier, but it was also closed. 

Looks delightful, but closed

Nearby was the Whistle Stop restaurant, and this is not untypical of our entire trip, when we stepped up to the counter to be seated, the lady told us it would be a wait, they could only serve so many people at a time with their limited staff and breakfast was just finishing and lunch was about to begin.

And, again, it was a demographic. The cook staff seemed to be mainly men in their thirties and forties; the waitstaff seemed to be women in their sixties and seventies. The young people are non-existent. We wait, first in line, as couples and groups come in behind us and get on the list. “Why wait?” you may ask. We scoped out the options, from Saint Mary’s to Browning to East Glacier – everything we found was closed this Sunday morning; The Whistle Stop is open. It’s the only open restaurant we found. 

In spite of being on the Blackfeet reservation, in spite of the sign on the door, the staff is not wearing masks.

After half an hour, we were seated.

Now the good news. The food we ordered turned out to be really good, and even better, they had wonderful pies.

I had a zucchini soup that knocked my socks off. I ordered the salmon dinner (you can take the girl out of Alaska, but you can’t take the Alaska out of the girl) which turned out to have a LOT of food – corn on the cob, rice, and a baked potato. After the soup, which was really really good, I could only eat a little of the salmon, so I took the rest with me in a box to warm up for dinner. AdventureMan had a salad and chili, and he ordered a stuffed baked potato to-go which he could warm up for dinner. Their stuffed baked potatoes had a whole menu of items to choose from; AdventureMan choose chili, cheese and sour cream and couldn’t finish it at dinner. 

Zucchini soup
The pies were really, really good

Next to us in the restaurant sat Paul and Bonnie, from upstate New York, continuing their quest to visit every capitol in every state of the United States. They had just come from Helena, to which we are headed the next day, so we had a great conversation. They had not yet visited Alaska or Washington, so we were able to give them some hints, too, mainly about the Alaska Maritime Highway System, which is our secret to visiting the real Alaska.

Next door to Whistle Stop is a laundry where you can also shower; we saw this arrangement often

We take the afternoon off. AdventureMan is coughing, and the one thing we really do not want to do is to get sick. We have books with us, we have our cozy cabin, we are happy to catch up on rest and relaxation. We have dinner ready to warm up. It’s a great day.

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open (Montana and Wyoming) Day 3

Going to the Sun Road

We’ve been in Glacier National Park before, but I have never been here when Going-to-the-Sun road has been open. We tend to travel in Spring, before school gets out and we want to be available over the summer to help with care of our grandchildren. The last time we were here, it was early June, and Going-to-the-Sun road wasn’t open, would not be open until June 20th. Some bicyclists has been caught in a Spring avalanche, and disaster crews were busy trying to find them, and rescue them before they perished. These mountains are nothing to fool with.

It’s a cloudy day, and AdventureMan is grumping at me about getting up so early. I want to be there for the morning light, and we are about 30 miles away from the entrance. We take a twisty-turny road, have a lovely sunrise, then get to the entrance. I had gone to a lot of trouble to get a reservation; Going-to-the-Sun road went reservation only for the summer, but when we get to the gate, there is no one there to look at our pass, so we drive along. There is no rain, but there are dramatic clouds. The scenery is spectacular. We have the road to ourselves, for the most part, up to Logan Pass.

We intended to hike some of the trails at Logan Pass, but at 0753 at Logan Pass, every parking lot is full, there isn’t a parking spot to be had. Just after the pass, which was the only crowded place we found on the entire drive, we stopped at a lookout on the other side. It was very cold, snow was in pockets where little sun reaches and the air had the sharp clean smell of pine trees. We did a short hike starting on a frosty, slick boardwalk to overlook a valley, then headed back. The smell of the fresh clean pine was intoxicating.

We head down toward Lake MacDonald, stopping where we can to walk and to take photos of scenery and waterfalls. It is a spectacular, memorable morning altogether, but we are freezing cold. Clothing that was adequate for the high elevation at the entrance is pathetically not suitable for the high elevation and the bone-chilling winds. We walk anyway. There is snow. It is beautiful.

When we finally get back down to the Lake MacDonald Road, once again, all the parking spots are taken. We love the lodge at Lake MacDonald and had thought to stop there for breakfast on our way to Kalispell, but we could see that would not be possible.

We love Kalispell, Montana, and one of our major plans was to hit the Kalispell Farmer’s Market and pick up some Flathead Cherry Juice, which we love drinking. We had also thought we would see if anyone brews a Flathead Cherry Juice liqueur, so we headed on towards Kalispell with the help of the Bossy Lady.

AdventureMan gets short tempered with me when I am navigating. Sometimes I don’t communicate clearly, sometimes not quickly enough. So for several years now, ever since I discovered Google Maps, I have been getting directions, and putting them on speaker phone. It works like a charm. AdventureMan gets SO annoyed, but not with me, with the Bossy Lady! She doesn’t take any of his annoyance seriously, she just carries on with aplomb. We can laugh about it.

The closer we get to the market, the quieter we get. It started sprinkling on the way to Kalispell, but as we enter Kalispell, it is pouring rain. We carry on to the market, and there are about ten hard-core vendors there, none of which are the Flathead Cherry Juice vendors. 

We visit a couple sports stores in the area, looking for a long sleeved “performance layer” or “basic layer” because AdventureMan just brought one, and it is COLD. We don’t find what he needs. 

We head into Kalispell to dry off and warm up, and find the Ceres Bakery, on Main Street, and it is just what we need. We have gorgeous, tasty pastries; I have a Mocha cafe and a brioche like ball that has cinnamon sugar on the top and a croissant like interior. AdventureMan has a Pain au Chocolat and a cup of hot chocolate. It is delightful, with a mouthwatering display of breads available in addition to the pastries.

The Bossy Lady takes us on some back roads to get us back to Highway 2, which will take us back to the East Glacier Park side. It is very rural, but also avoids all the traffic of the major roads. 

East Glacier Park has a glorious big timber lodge, Glacier Park Lodge, which unfortunately, is not serving meals but doing take out only. Meal options in East Glacier are limited, even the Mexican restaurant is closed until dinner. On our way in, AdventureMan sees a sign for the Isaak Walton Inn and asks me what it is. I tell him I am not entirely sure, but I know it has a good reputation and has something to do with railroads. We decide if they have a restaurant open, we will stop there for lunch. 

Black and White print over our table, loved the First Nation and Snow

The Izaak Walton Inn was an old railroad stop for visitors to the Glacier National Park, famous for it’s atmosphere and food. In this time of COVID, they were still serving meals, although the menu is more limited. 

We are happy to have a booth in an unpopulated part of the restaurant. Our meals are good, above average, not great. No photos, can’t even remember what we ate. As we finish, a large group with a guide comes in to take a large table right next to our booth, so we put our masks back on and exit as quickly and graciously as possible.

We are tired and still wet and cold when we get back to our cabin, but AdventureMan makes a wonderful discovery – the gas fireplace we have not been able to figure out how to turn on is operated by the thermostat on an opposite wall. Now we have a beautiful gas fire and a toasty cabin to warm up in.

For dinner, we go into Browning, on the Blackfeet Reservation, where there are two grocery stores and I find Ramen and AdventureMan finds Campbells Vegetable Soup, which suits us both just fine. The grocery store is clean and well organized, and there is a man at the door, masked, who takes our temperatures as we enter. The Blackfeet Nation is taking COVID very seriously. Did you know of all the ethnic groups, the First Nation peoples have the highest rate of vaccination in the country? We feel very safe staying in East Glacier Park. We have a microwave and refrigerator in the cabin, hot soup is the perfect ending to a chilly day.

Going into Browning

September 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment