Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Covid Conversation

It’s been an interesting week. Last week, there was no swimming. It was a welcome break in terms of sleep; no alarm, being lazy (LOL, being lazy is sleeping until 0600 instead of 0530) taking a walk now and then when I needed movement . . .

It was also handy because at my annual skin scan, my adorable dermatologist wrinkled her brow as she looked at me through her magic magnifier and said “Oh! we need to take care of THAT!” and THAT was prominently on my cheek.

(A brief aside because I cannot resist – when I was shown to the exam room, the tech asked if I wanted a gown and I said yes, and then, not being a smart-mouth but because I wanted to understand, I asked “What is the alternative? Like I stand here naked? Do people do that?” Sometimes I really am a stranger in my own land, and maybe I’ve missed some growing lack of self-consciousness? The tech laughed and said “No, there are people who will NOT take their clothes off!” I tried to comprehend that and totally failed. “So what’s the point of a skin scan?” I asked, “How can they be examined?” The tech said “We pull at their clothes a little and look underneath, but yeh, it’s not complete.” Totally boggled my mind.)

I have never been so happy about masking in my life. Having a big crispy spot about the size of a quarter on my cheek makes me feel like a teen-ager again, like every eye will be fixed on my boo-boo.

With my mask covering my big blotch, I got my second COVID vaccination. Yes, I might be suggestible, and then again, I am not a big baby, but my arm was sore almost immediately. By evening, I had chills so bad I was taking hot baths to feel warm enough. I had a headache just between my two eyes, and I was SO tired. The next day, I felt the same. Finally, the second night, I took an Aleve and slept wonderfully. The next morning, I was fine.

So I really needed the week off from swimming. One funny thing about the COVID vaccination, and again, who knows, it may be in my mind, but all of a sudden I have a sharp sense of smell again. It comes from my father’s side of the family, some of us have it and some of us don’t, but I think it had faded, and right now, it is noticeably back again, and oh, what joy it brings me.

So all the health drama is over now, I am back at swimming, and we continue to have work done to make our house safer and more energy efficient. A roof inspector, seeing our stack of photo albums (labeled Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, etc.) asked us if we had ever been to Alaska, and that started a great conversation, one we are hearing over and over as more people get vaccinated.

“We’ve decided we don’t want to wait any longer. We don’t know how many good years we have left. We are going to travel now, while we can,” he said.

He and his wife want to see Alaska. They want to see France. We had a great conversation, and I sent him some information by e-mail.

COVID has had its gifts, and awareness is one of them. Couple after couple have told us the same thing, this feeling of urgency to do it now, while we can.

We have four trips booked. One, a passage from Japan through Kamchatka and the Aleutians and the Alaskan Gulf, we’ve had booked for over a year. Another is a trip which COVID cancelled, but we want to do it and have scheduled it again. Another is coming up soon, a trip with our family to New Orleans, where we will continue to socially distance in a VRBO near Magazine, near the Audubon Zoo, near the Saint Charles trolley and several of our favorite restaurants with our family, and one back out to Yellowstone and Glacier, staying in cabins, mostly with kitchens. We’re good with take-out; in fact we’ve grown to really like it.

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite

It’s not a hardship for us. We are introverts. We travel quietly. We stop and observe. I take photos. At night, I write reviews and research possibilities for the next day’s route. Part of the fun I have in life is finding really fun places to stay, some of which, like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, or Ahwahnee in Yosemite, (LOL, “Yo! Semite!”) have to book far in advance, like sometimes a year out or more. Right now, several of the most popular cruises are already booked in 2021 and 2022 by people a lot like us, yearning to be back out on the road.

El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon

People in Florida are concerned about another wave of COVID following Spring Break. I am thinking here we are, all eager to get back on the road, us restless Boomers, and we’ve forgotten the pounding compelling imperatives of youth – meeting, mating, maybe even committing. But that’s another conversation . . .

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Last Dinner in El Tovar

Yes, it’s early, and we aren’t all that hungry, but it’s easy and close and it’s the last dinner we will have at El Tovar.

They gave us a beautiful table.

We order, AdventureMan ordering the signature soup and a Salad; I ordered the French Onion Soup and Crab Cakes. I know, I know, I can get great crab cakes in Pensacola, I guess I just wanted to see how they did them. (They did great.)

I forgot to take a photo of dessert! I did take a last evening photo of the canyon.

We are up at six the next morning to get an early start on the next leg of our journey, today to Mesa Verde, Colorado, driving most of the day through the Navajo Nation.

On our way out, AdventureMan stops so I can take a photo of one of the signs – Mountain Lion – don’t you love it?

And one last photo of the Grand Canyon as we depart:

A last note – late April is a perfect time of year to visit the Grand Canyon.

May 7, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Food, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Grand Canyon: Early East Rim, Breakfast at El Tovar and Shuttle along the West Rim

When your day starts at five in the morning, you have a lot of hours in your day!

We were back at the lodge by seven, where there is already a crowd lining up for breakfast. We had such a great dinner the night before, we decide to have breakfast and then take the shuttles along the western rim of the canyon.

The El Tovar Dining room is as beautiful by day as it is by night:

We are on the south west side of the dining room, near a large fireplace and far away from the view, but it hardly matters – the view is there, 24/7, for anyone who wants to visit. We see fabulous plates arriving at all the tables, and we watch a new wait-person being trained in the El Tovar way of doing things. It was great entertainment. Our breakfasts were divine.

AdventureMan’s breakfast:

I had Eggs Benedict, with smoked salmon instead of the traditional Canadian bacon:

We run upstairs to brush our teeth, and then head out to explore the western rim before the train arrives, at 1100, bringing in many more people, even in these early spring months.

The shuttle system is a marvel. Different colored lines have different routes, and there are maps that show what color the bus is that goes where you want to go. We walked to the red bus stops, hopped on, hopped off, hopped on, hopped off, hiked a little, hopped back on, hopped off, hiked a little more, met some great people and had a lot of fun taking photos.

The sun has burned off the clouds, it is still a little hazy but a great, sunny day.

We hit Hermit’s Rest, at the end of the shuttle line, around 11:30, and head back to Grand Canyon village.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Grand Canyon, Arizona and the El Tovar Hotel

Today is a very short drive, 136 miles, and we arrive in the Grand Canyon easily before noon, taking off to take the East Rim Drive to Desert View while waiting for our hotel room in the El Tovar Hotel.

We’ve heard of El Tovar for years. You’ll overhear the following conversation. There may be some variations, but it’s pretty much the same every time.

“Oh! Grand Canyon! Are you staying at El Tovar?”


“Oh! It’s the most wonderful hotel! We loved staying there!”


“No, we tried, but we couldn’t get reservations at El Tovar, they were already booked.”

“Oh. That’s too bad.”

We didn’t want to be on the ‘that’s too bad’ list, so when we decided to make the trip, the first thing I did was to find out when rooms were available at El Tovar. We had planned the trip for October. We postponed the trip until April, to be able to stay at El Tovar. We had a great room, even had a view, but for grins, we asked how far in advance you have to reserve to get one of the rooms with a balcony view – 13 months in advance. Who even knows 13 months in advance that they will still be alive 13 months later?? I guess it’s worth the risk – and if we go again, we will reserve 13 months in advance.

My sister Sparkle has stayed at El Tovar and warned us that the rooms were not luxurious. “They’re sort of spartan for your tastes,” she warned us “Don’t expect too much. You’re paying to be staying in the Canyon and in this revered old lodge.”

The El Tovar Lobby:

We didn’t expect much, and our room was at the top of the stairs. We were concerned about noise, but it turned out to be a non-issue. There weren’t a lot of children traveling at this time of the year, and very few staying at El Tovar. Because we weren’t expecting much, we were delighted. Our room was sunny and bright, the beds were very comfortable, the linens were lovely, the old fashioned bathroom delighted my heart, and there was a funny room – a closet? That had a safe, windows that opened so we could see the view, and if we had had a baby with us, his little crib could have fit into the alcove. There was also a coffee machine, yes, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Although we had been told that wi-fi was only available in public areas, our room must have been close enough, and the wi-fi strong enough, that we had access without leaving our room once we had settled in for the night.

“Be sure to make your dinner reservations six months out,” Sparkle warned, so I marked my calendar and on the day that was six months out, the earliest that the El Tovar restaurant accepts reservations, we called in a dinner reservation, and oh, we are so glad we did.

When we showed up, the first night, for our 6:30 reservation, there was a long line, and people were being turned away, so disappointed. We had a lovely table, with a view, and a waiter, Thomas, who was attentive without being intrusive, knowledgeable about the menu, and took great care of us. It was a lovely evening, and I had another of the best meals of the trip – a Mediterranean Salad with smoked salmon, and the salmon was the smoked chunky Alaskan kind, not the thin strips of Scottish salmon. Oh, YUMMM.

(This was not our table. We had a newlywed couple who came in as we were finishing. Isn’t this a lovely, romantic way to welcome a new bride and groom?)

AdventureMan had the Penne, which he said was also very very good:

We had planned to have dessert, but we couldn’t, we were just so full. The salmon in my salad was so rich and so tasty. We couldn’t eat another bite! And we also wanted to get to bed early, so we could get out by five to catch the sun rising over the Grand Canyon first thing in the morning. Before going up to our room, we tried to make reservations to eat dinner again in the El Tovar dining room, but they only had seatings at 5:15 and 9:30. Oh aargh.

Next morning, we are up and eager to get going, but we have to skirt around the lawn on the way to the car, as there is a herd of elk munching. We don’t want to disturb them and also . . . elk are very large animals. We really don’t want to disturb them.

We hurry to Desert View, at the end of the East Rim trail, only to find that the day has dawned with a heavy cloud cover, and there is no sunrise to speak of. LLOOOLLL! It is also 40 something degrees and windy, really, really cold!

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , | 3 Comments