Lummi Island 2016

Last Christmas my present was a long weekend at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island in Puget Sound to be taken at some future date. Well, that date finally arrived last week.

Getting to and from the island is by ferry.

Missing the last ferry by two minutes put us in excellent position for the next one!

Missing the last ferry by two minutes put us in excellent position for the next one!

 

The ‘little cottage’ Lorette had reserved turned out to be a spectacular house right on the beach.

Steps leading down from the road

Steps leading down to our weekend getaway

Living room

Living room

Dining room with a view

Dining room with a view

The cocktail deck

The cocktail deck

And the view from the beach

And a view from the beach

 

The beach was sandy in places and rocky in others. Here are some photos from one of my morning walks.

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The Willows Inn has become a destination for foodies and tables are booked months in advance. So it was a good thing we made our reservations for Friday night back in December! There isn’t a menu. People just show up and enjoy what the nine chefs have prepared that evening from locally sourced ingredients. In our case, there were nineteen different things on the tasting menu. Here’s a sample:

Dinner starts on the deck before moving into the dining room. the first alcohol pairing was a Rhubarb Cider

Dinner starts on the deck before moving into the dining room. The first alcohol pairing was a Rhubarb Cider…

A crispy crepe with golden char roe...

…and crispy crepes with golden char roe…

...which went with Black Cod Doughnuts...

…and Black Cod Doughnuts…

...and crispy kale leaves with black truffles

…and crispy kale leaves with black truffles.

Inside, the utensils are an eclectic combination of items collected from all over. Here’s a spoon that once did service with the US Navy and a sampling of the other courses.

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Smoked King Salmon belly

Smoked King Salmon belly

Lightly-cured Rockfish in a broth of grilled bones

Lightly-cured Rockfish in a broth of grilled bones

Wild herbs on Chicory leaves

Wild herbs on Chicory leaves

Smelt with green seeds

Smelt with green seeds

Sidestripe Prawns

Sidestripe Prawns

Smoked Mussels

Smoked Mussels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Petrale Sole with crushed Lovage

Petrale Sole with crushed Lovage

Lamb tartare

Lamb tartare

Wild island berries

Wild island berries

 

Saturday we went on a cruise with Outer Island Expeditions to look for wildlife. With lots of sun and little wind, we couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to be out on the water.

The boat picked us up right on the beach

The boat picked us up right on the beach

We cruised around several of the San Juan Islands looking for wildlife

 

An Orca, also known as killer whales, but Orca sounds nicer

An Orca, also known as killer whales, but Orca sounds nicer

More Orcas

More Orcas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagle

A Bald Eagle

Seals

Seals

 

Last night back at the house: steaks on the grill and a nice Cabernet to watch the sunset.

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As you can see by that calm water, there was very little wind which is pretty rare. The next two photos are from Sunday morning as we were packing up to leave.

More like a lake than an ocean

More like a lake than an ocean

No so great for sailing but terrific for kayaking

Not so great for sailing but terrific for kayaking

 

Last shot: The ferry back to the mainland, sea spray and all.

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Boston 2016

Ah, the life of an old retired guy. Lorette had a conference in Boston and needed someone to handle her luggage. So, while she was getting smarter, I got to (mostly) play tourist.

The highlight for me was to reconnect with several guys from my Officer Candidate School (OCS) class at Fort Benning back in 1968. Several classmates have been instrumental in tracking people down and putting together reunions. When Jack McMackin learned that I was going to be in Boston, he organized lunch at a local restaurant with several of the guys who live in the area.

Ron Holmgren, Jack McMackin, Dan Mabesoone, and Rocky Stone

Ron Holmgren, Jack McMackin, Dan Mabesoone, me, and Rocky Stone

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency which is only a few blocks from Boston Common.

The Central Burying Ground was established in 1756

The Central Burying Ground was established in 1756

Before Lorette started her course, we had some time to explore so we took the T from our hotel a couple of stops to the North End.

North End architecture

North End architecture

Paul Revere Statue with the Old North Church in the background

Paul Revere Statue with the Old North Church in the background

Most recently, the North End has been an Italian neighborhood so where did we stop for lunch? A sushi restaurant.

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If you have read many of my blog posts, you know there are going to be food photos!

If you have read many of my blog posts, you know there are going to be food photos!

The last time we were in Boston I bought a t-shirt at the Black Rose Pub. The shirt is now ready for the rag bag so I was on a special mission to track down its replacement.

The Black Rose

The Black Rose

Just happened to be here the day before St Patrick's Day

Just happened to be here the day before St Patrick’s Day

Boston has many fine restaurants and we did our best to sample as many as possible in the short time we were there. We had eaten at Sorellina on a previous trip and I remembered this interesting backlit wall.

A restaurant photo with no food in sight

A restaurant photo with no food in sight

I’m pretty sure we had oysters every day. So rather that post a picture of them all, here we are at Townsman with a pretty unique sampling of about everything that comes from the sea.

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The only negative of the trip was that on Day 1 of her conference, Lorette developed symptoms of a detached retina. After consulting with the experts back home and deciding that this was something that needed immediate attention, we discovered that the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital was a ten minute Uber ride from our hotel. Lucky to have an Emergency Room specializing in eyes so close! So, ER visit, laser surgery, and back to the hotel, all in one morning.

Just making sure it's the LEFT eye!

Just making sure it’s the LEFT eye!

Assistant Surgeon at the ready

Assistant Surgeon at the ready

One of the things on my bucket list was a visit to the USS Constitution. The museum was interesting but, unfortunately, the ship is undergoing a multi-year restoration.

The USS Constitution as she normally looks

The USS Constitution as she normally looks

The USS Constitution as she looked when I visited

The USS Constitution as she looked when I visited

While Lorette was in her conference, I had the opportunity to take a food tour of the North End. (Remember that was the Italian neighborhood where we ate sushi earlier.) Lots of little bites here and there as well as some history and architectural highlights.

An Italian deli

This Italian deli smelled wonderful

A help-yourself tub of octopus

A help-yourself tub of octopus

There is more than one kind of Prosciutto

There is more than one kind of Prosciutto

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A cannoli helps restore calories lost from all that walking

A cannoli helps restore calories lost from all that walking

Polcari’s Coffee was started in 1932

Polcari’s Coffee was started in 1932

And what would Italian food be without wine?

And what would Italian food be without wine?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And how much are you willing to spend?

And how much are you willing to spend?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the tour I decided to swing back to one of the restaurants we had passed for a little lunch.

Trattoria Di Monica

Trattoria Di Monica

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

House made pasta with scallops

House made pasta with scallops

The weather was fine the entire week we were in Boston. However, as we flew out, the forecast for the next day was for six inches of snow. Nice timing!

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And because I put a link to my blog posts on Facebook, and whereas Facebook does not let me choose a photo as the ‘key’ photo, and whereas Facebook seems to always put the last photo in the post as the ‘key’ photo, and whereas I want control over that decision, I now therefore designate the following photo as my choice for the ‘key’ photo.

Ron Holmgren, Jack McMackin, Dan Mabesoone, and Rocky Stone

Ron Holmgren, Jack McMackin, Dan Mabesoone, and Rocky Stone

Arizona 2016

My daughter, Jennifer, is a huge Seattle Mariners fan. In March she got tickets for a couple of spring training games in Arizona and invited me to go along. So, in addition to watching some baseball, we visited the Desert Botanical Garden, Sedona, an ancient Native American archeological site, and the old mining town of Jerome.

Landed!

Landed!

Our Saturday game didn’t start until 1:00 PM so we used the morning to stop by the Desert Botanical Garden. If you are ever in Phoenix, I’d put this place on your ‘don’t miss’ list.

The day we were there was Artist Day so there were artists everywhere

The day we were there was Artists Day so there were artists painting en plein air

A big change from the rainy Pacific Northwest

A big change from the rainy Pacific Northwest

A "crested" Saguaro cactus

A “crested” Saguaro cactus

Saguaros may live for more than 150 years and grow to be over 40 ft tall

Saguaros may live for more than 150 years and grow to be over 40 ft tall

We were there for lots of blooms

We were there for lots of blooms

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These birds must have tough feet!

These birds must have tough feet!

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George's favorite rock

George’s favorite rock

Next stop: Peoria. Seattle Mariners vs. LA Dodgers

Capacity crowd for a sunny Saturday afternoon game

Capacity crowd for a sunny Saturday afternoon game

One Mariner fan; one Tarheel fan

One Mariner fan; one Tarheel fan

Would like to claim that we caught a fly ball but it was actually the kid sitting next to us

Would like to claim that we caught a fly ball but it was actually the kid sitting next to us

Saturday night we had dinner with some Phoenix nieces and a nephew.

John, Angie, Jason, Amanda, Riley and Rowan

John, Angie, Jason, Amanda, Riley and Rowan

No tickets for a Sunday game so we drove up to Sedona for breakfast.

Hot air balloons along the way

Hot air balloons along the way

The Coffee Pot Restaurant

The Coffee Pot Restaurant

Need to come back to try the other 100 omlets

Need to come back to try the other 100 omelets

Reading up on vortices so we can explore them around Sedona

Reading up on vortices so we can explore them around Sedona

The red rocks around Sedona make for some spectacular landscapes. Here’s a panorama taken with my iPhone at the Airport Mesa Vortex.

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A Japanese tourist experiencing the energy of a vortex

A Japanese tourist experiencing the energy of a vortex

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Lying on a rock looking up at the sky

Lying on a rock looking up at the sky

On the way to Jerome, we stopped at Tuzigoot, a Native American village of the Sinagua people who lived here between 1000 and 1400.

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The original pueblo had 87 ground floor rooms

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We hit Jerome and discovered the Jerome Grand Hotel, a former insane asylum.

Entrance to the restaurant, appropriately named 'Asylum'

Entrance to the restaurant, appropriately named ‘Asylum’

Just in time for Happy Hour

Just in time for Happy Hour

And who would have thought that a restaurant in the middle of nowhere has a wonderful kitchen and an impressive wine list!

Signature soup

Signature soup

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

And a 90+ Australian Shiraz

And a 90+ Australian Shiraz

Last day. Spent the morning searching out notable coffee establishments in Phoenix. Then, an afternoon game before flying back to Seattle that evening.

Seats right behind home plate

Seats right behind home plate

Hey, that's us on TV! Four rows up on the left side of the isle.

Hey, that’s us on TV! Four rows up on the left side of the isle.

Another great trip. Only downside was that our plane was several hours late leaving Phoenix. Then when we got to Seattle, the Jetway wasn’t functioning properly so everyone had to deplane down stairs from the rear of the plane. At least it wasn’t raining!

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Wintergrass 2016

We have been attending the Wintergrass Music Festival for nine or ten years now, first when it was in Tacoma and for the past seven years, in Bellevue. If you are thinking about sitting outside on a hay bale watching the local bluegrass group, think again. The Bellevue Hyatt Regency bends over backwards to make this a first class, enjoyable experience for everyone.

Better accommodations than a tent

Better accommodations than a tent

Warm and dry in February

Warm and dry in February

Four stages

Four stages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each year the festival hosts about thirty bands. Wintergrass  started out with a primary focus on Bluegrass but has evolved over the years to include a wide variety of traditional and roots music as well as groups with an international flavor.

Noam Pikelny near the end of his One Man, One Banjo, One Joke Tour

Noam Pikelny near the end of his One Man, One Banjo, One Joke Tour

Trout Steak Revival from Denver

Trout Steak Revival from Denver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite things about the Hyatt’s location is that my favorite dumpling restaurant, Din Tai Fung, is right across the skybridge. This year one of Lorette’s knitting friends, Dorothy, and her husband, Bill, joined us for the weekend. It was only fair that we made stopping here a priority.

Hot and Sour Soup and shrimp dumplings

Hot and Sour Soup and shrimp dumplings

Dorothy and Lorette

Dorothy and Lorette

Bill and John

Bill and John

Quite a few of the people attending bring their own instruments so there are impromptu jams everywhere.

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No age limit for getting in on the fun

No age limit for getting in on the fun

Bill with his banjo and Dorothy with her autoharp join a jam session

Bill with his banjo and Dorothy with her autoharp join a jam session

 

There are a lot of restaurants in the neighborhood with happy hours. We found that was an inexpensive way to get some good grub between shows.

A Martini and cheeseburger. Why not? I'm on vacation!

A Martini and cheeseburger. Why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who says seared Ahi doesn't go with Bluegrass?

Who says seared Ahi doesn’t go with Bluegrass?

Yet another advantage of living in the Pacific Northwest: steamed mussels

Yet another advantage of living in the Pacific Northwest: steamed mussels

Characters welcome…

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This guy was playing for a beer

This guy was playing for his beer

If you want to check out a new instrument, this would be the place

If you want to check out a new instrument, this would be the place

Dorothy trying out a new autoharp at the booth of the guy who made hers

Dorothy trying out a new autoharp at the booth of the guy who made hers

And here it is... the ubiquitous sock picture (with the guy who made Dorothy's autoharp

And here it is… the ubiquitous sock picture (Lorette with the guy who made Dorothy’s autoharp)

Oh, right, we were there for the music. Here are just two of the many acts we were able to see over the weekend.

The Bombadils from Montreal were one of my favorites

The Bombadils from Montreal were one of my favorites

And back for their fourth year, Väsen from Sweden

And back for their fourth year, Väsen from Sweden

That strange looking instrument is a nyckelharpa in case you were wondering

That strange looking instrument is a nyckelharpa in case you were wondering

And so ends another weekend of good music and good food with good friends.

View from our hotel. You can't see Russia from here but you CAN see Seattle.

View from our hotel. You can’t see Russia from here but you CAN see Seattle and the Olympic Mountains.

 

 

Victoria, BC

A 70th birthday present from my son and daughter: a long weekend in Victoria with just the three of us. The trip started with a two and a half hour ride on the Victoria Clipper from downtown Seattle to Victoria’s Inner Harbor. What a comfortable way to travel!

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George and John

No need to fasten seatbelts

Jennifer

Lots of room to move around the cabin

Lots of time for a friendly card game

Time enough for a friendly card game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer reserved this town house through AirB&B.

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Our first day in Victoria mainly involved checking out various food options.

Chinatown for dim sum

Chinatown for dim sum

Beer and poutine at the Beagle Pub

Beer and poutine at the Beagle Pub

The owners here obviously didn't hold the Maple Leafs in high regard

Different pub but the owners here obviously didn’t hold the Maple Leafs in high regard

The Victoria Public Market is a good place to forage for dinner stuff

The Victoria Public Market is a good place to forage for dinner stuff

Not to overdo the gastronomy thing, but…..

Breakfast at John's Place

Breakfast at John’s Place

Daughter and father

Jen and me

The son

George

We spent the morning at Fort Rodd Hill, one of Canada’s Historic Sites west of Victoria.

This was one of Canada's coastal artillery defense positions from 1878 until 1956

This was one of Canada’s coastal artillery defense positions from 1878 until 1956

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These people hadn't heard that their post had been decommissioned

These people hadn’t heard that their post had been decommissioned

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7,662 km to London

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Sentry Geese

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The Fisgard Lighthouse was built in 1860 and was the first lighthouse on Canada’s rugged west coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop was the Hatley Castle and Gardens, now on the campus of Royal Roads University.

The castle commissioned by one of Canada's coal barons and was completed in 1908

The castle commissioned by one of Canada’s coal barons and was completed in 1908

Even in winter, the gardens are a nice place to visit.

Signs of spring

Signs of spring

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Snowdrops

This wisteria was probably planted in 1908

This wisteria was probably planted in 1908

Peacock

Peacock

Papparazzi and Peacock

Papparazzi and Peacocks

Landscape with George

Landscape with George

Landscape with Jennifer

Landscape with Jennifer

Last stop of the day was at French Beach Provincial Park.

Looking out at the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Looking out at the Strait of Juan de Fuca

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Our town house was only a couple of blocks from Beacon Hill Park, a 200 acre park in the heart of Victoria, so the next morning we headed over to check it out.

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Interesting statuary

The Moss Lady

Lots of ducks

Lots of ducks

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More ducks

Yet more ducks

Yet more ducks

Yet even more ducks

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A Giant Sequoia

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Peacocks roosting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadians are so polite

Canadians are so polite

A classic

A classic parked on the street

Sunday afternoon we drove up the Route of the Totems to Duncan, home to 39 totem poles located throughout downtown.

A sun break along the way

A sun break along the way

A photo of a trash can on another trash can along the highway

A photo of a trash can on another trash can on the highway

Starting along the Totem Trail in Duncan

Starting along the Totem Trail in Duncan

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But if you thought Duncan was a cool place because of all those totem poles, just wait…

Duncan is also home of the world's largest hockey stick!

Duncan is also home of the world’s largest hockey stick

Monday, our last day. The Clipper doesn’t leave for Seattle until 5:00 PM so we had time for one more educational activity.

The Victoria Bug Zoo!

The Victoria Bug Zoo

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Who knew that scorpions floresce under UV light?

 

On our way to the pier, we passed the Parliament Building.

The BC Parliament Building

The BC Parliament Building

And just as we were getting on the Clipper, this happened…

Giant bugs escaped from the Bug Zoo

Giant bugs escaped from the Bug Zoo

Whew, barely made it on board with our lives!

Thanks, Victoria, for a great weekend

Thanks, Victoria, for a great weekend

 

Thanks, Jennifer and George, for a great 70th birthday present!

 

 

 

Guayabitos 2016

We enjoyed it so much last year, we decided to do a repeat. This time we invited friends, Patti and Jeff, who were both in need of a relaxing getaway, to come along. After a nonstop flight from Seattle, Guayabitos is about an hours drive north of Puerto Vallarta.

Patti and Jeff at SEA with the official pre-departure beverage

Patti and Jeff at SEA with the official pre-departure beverage

Most of these photos could have come from last year’s collection but that’s what I like about the place: elegant yet affordable simplicity that doesn’t change much from year to year. Charlie and Mona are amazing hosts.

Casa de Ensueños (House of Dreams) from the beach

Casa de Ensueños (House of Dreams) from the beach

The beach from the living room

The beach from the living room

View from our veranda

View from our veranda

However, this year there was one significant change.

Cooper

Cooper

New best friends

New best friends

Breakfast, which is different each day, is included in the price of your room.

One day Charlie bought homemade tortillas from a lady that sells them in front of the church

One day Charlie bought homemade tamales from a lady that sells them in front of the church

I do believe that these are the best tortillas I have ever had!

I do believe that these are the best tamales I have ever had!

Also included in the price of your room is happy hour on the veranda at 5:00 PM each day.

Margaritas and conversation

Margaritas and conversation

The beach is a great place for a walk before breakfast.

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Hey, look guys, breakfast!

Hey, look guys, breakfast!

A fisherman's early morning catch

A fisherman’s early morning catch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our favorite places for lunch was Karla’s, just a short stroll down the beach.

Ahhh. cold beers with feet in the sand

Ahhh. cold beers and warm sand

Lorette

Lorette

Jeff

Jeff

John

John

Lunch

Lunch

After a discussion on the relative merits of tequila one day, Charlie conducted a blind test to determine if there was a perceptible taste difference based on cost.

Almost everyone could pick out the moonshine tequila (in the jug on the left). Otherwise no correlation between cost and perceived quality.

Almost everyone could pick out the moonshine tequila (in the jug on the left). Otherwise no correlation between cost and perceived quality.

And one more thing included in your stay: games.

Mexican Train in Mexico

Mexican Train in Mexico

Cooper thinks that Guayabitos is a pretty cool place to spend the winter.

Charlie and Cooper

Charlie and Cooper

Cooper, the water dog

Cooper, the water dog

Toward the end of our stay, there was a regional volleyball tournament just down the beach.

Jeff

Jeff

one way to work up a thirst for una mas cerveza

One way to work up a thirst for una mas cerveza

We missed the full moon by just a few days but the ‘almost full’ version was still pretty spectacular.

The reflection of moonlight on water: moon river, moon wake or moon glade?

The reflection of moonlight on water: moon river, moon wake or moon glade?

When the moon got really close to the horizon, the atmosphere caused it to glow red

When the moon got really close to the horizon, the atmosphere caused it to glow red

Well, that’s it for another year….

View from the living room at dusk

View from the living room at dusk

Sunset over Jaltemba Bay

Sunset over Jaltemba Bay

Cuenca, Ecuador

After our seven day cruise around the Galapagos Islands, we flew to Guayaquil where we were met by our guide, Javier, for the drive from sea level, over a 13,500 foot pass in the Andes, to Cuenca, elevation 8,315 feet.

Sunset above the clouds in the Andes

Sunset above the clouds in the Andes

Home for this last leg of our Ecuador adventure was the Hotel Santa Lucea. Many boutique hotels in Ecuador occupy former houses from the colonial era which were built around large interior courtyards.

Street view

Street view

Interior courtyard with the hotel restaurant

Interior courtyard with the hotel restaurant

One of the sitting rooms

One of the sitting rooms

Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city with a population of 330,000, making it far smaller than Quito or Guayaquil. UNESCO declared the center a World Heritage site in 1996. Here are some photos

View of the city from the hill of Turi

View of the city from the hill of Turi

School kids on a tour

School kids on a tour

A view of the New Cathedral

A view of the New Cathedral with domes of sky-blue Czech tile

Panama hat are actually made in Ecuador. Homero Ortega is one of the best

Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador. Each one is woven by hand. Homero Ortega has a nice museum and factory tour.

They all start out looking like this

They all start out looking like this

Javier with some examples of the finished product

Javier with some examples of the finished product

The Parque Calderón with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (also known as the New Cathedral) on one side

The Parque Calderón with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (also known as the New Cathedral) on one side

Construction began in 1885 to replace the Old Cathedral on the other side of the park

Construction began in 1885 to replace the Old Cathedral on the other side of the park

The Old Cathedral was started in 1557, the year Cuenca was founded. Now deconsecrated, it is a religious museum and concert venue

The Old Cathedral was started in 1557, the year Cuenca was founded. Now deconsecrated, it is a religious museum and concert venue

Happened to catch a parade honoring one of the church's black saints

Happened to catch a procession honoring one of the church’s black saints

Ecuador's climate is ideal for growing flowers year round

Ecuador’s climate is ideal for growing flowers year round

Most of the indigenous women we saw wore hats.

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I don’t think we ever had a bad meal in Ecuador.

Lunch at El Jardín. At the table next to us were two American couples who had recently moved to Cuenca

Lunch at El Jardín. At the table next to us were two American couples who had recently moved to Cuenca and made a pitch to us to do the same

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City Hall at night

City Hall at night

We spent one entire day with Javier exploring the countryside around Cuenca.

Hat, check; water, check; camera, check!

Hat, check; water, check; camera, check!

Ecuador's mountains and valleys make for some beautiful landscapes

Ecuador’s mountains and valleys make for some beautiful landscapes

San Bartolome is a little village known for its guitar makers

San Bartolome is a little village of guitar makers

All made by hand

All made by hand

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Chordeleg is a small town known for its jewelry making

Chordeleg is a small town known for its jewelry making

Lorette doing her best to support the local economy

Lorette doing her best to support the local economy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This market in Gualaceo had some interesting food options.

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Unfortunately (or fortunately), we skipped the market and had lunch at a nice country inn just outside of town.

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A couple more people photos.

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After lunch we had a fascinating tour of Ecuagenera, a company specializing in the propagation and growing of orchids which are shipped worldwide.

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One of the owners took time to walk us through the operation

One of the owners took time to walk us through the operation

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Next stop was La Casa de la Makana, an artisan weaving workshop.

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Lorette found her happy place

Lorette found her happy place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in town, we visited the Museum of the Central Bank Pumapungo which had excellent displays of Ecuador’s diverse indigenous cultures.

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One of the more interesting exhibits was the eerie tzantzas (shrunken heads) from the Shuar culture of the southern Oriente!

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We were wondering why the museum had Central Bank in it’s name until we came to a small exhibit in the basement. Because of extreme inflation, the Sucre was replaced with the US Dollar as Ecuador’s official currency in 2000. Therefore, no need for a central bank so the building became a museum.

When the conversion took place, the exchange rate was 25,000 Sucres to 1 US Dollar

When the conversion took place, the exchange rate was 25,000 Sucres to 1 US Dollar

Behind the museum are the Pumapungo ruins dating back to the 15th century Incas. When the Spanish arrived and started building modern day Cuenca in 1557, most of the Inca stones were removed to construct churches.

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Finally, here are some architectural photos taken from the top of the hop on/ hop off bus our last day in Cuenca.

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I mentioned earlier that we didn’t have a bad meal in Ecuador and Cuenca was no exception. So to end this post and wrap up our Ecuador adventure, two photos of our last meal.

Decisions, decisions!

Decisions, decisions!

Great sushi!

Great sushi!

 

Galapagos Islands

After three nights in Quito we boarded a plane for the Galapagos Islands, about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. The archipelago consists of six larger and several smaller volcanic islands lying on or near the Equator. Home for the next seven days was the Silver Galapagos, an expedition ship of the Silversea Cruise Line.

Silver Galapagos

Silver Galapagos

Charles Darwin spent six weeks here in 1835 studying the wildlife and, as a result, wrote The Origin of Species which became the foundation of evolutionary biology. I dare say that the Silver Galapagos was a bit more upscale than Darwin’s HMS Beagle.

Every activity involved transport by Zodiac.

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Photo courtesy of Marlene who came all the way from Switzerland to take it

Landings were either ‘wet’ or ‘dry.’ our first adventure was a dry landing and a hike to the top of Bartolomé.

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The Galapagos Park Service has installed a boardwalk and stairs to reduce erosion.

388 stairs

388 stairs

Panoramic view from the top

Panoramic view from the top

Sometimes we just explored the coastline by Zodiac.

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I believe that this formation is called Bishop's Rock

I believe that this formation is called Bishop’s Rock

At a landing at Tagus Cove on Isabela Island, a Galapagos Hawk didn’t appear to be perturbed by these strange creatures invading his territory. The ‘graffiti’ in the background is from sailing ships that have used this cove for shelter since the 1800s (but is no longer allowed).

Galapagos Hawk

Galapagos Hawk

Some other critters we saw on the hike…

With a nice view back toward our ship.

Darwin Lake, a perfectly round saltwater lake

Darwin Lake in the forground, a perfectly round saltwater lake

A sea lion waiting for us at the end of our hike

A sea lion waiting for us at the end of our walk

Even though the cruise dates didn’t exactly coincide with my birthday, the crew must have known. So after our morning adventure, we came back to find this courtesy of our cabin stewards, Enrico and Xavier.

Complete with treats, music and disco ball

Complete with treats, music and disco ball

We had a small veranda which was perfect for relaxing between adventures.

Knitting a Seahawk shawl

Knitting a Seahawk shawl

Wine with a view

Wine with a view

There were several opportunities for snorkeling. The ship provided wet suits and we took our own masks and snorkels. In all, we had four of those waterproof one-use cameras. Unfortunately, none of the pictures turned out very well but here are a few just to prove we did it.

Floreana Island was a ‘wet’ landing.

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An adult and a juvenile Blue Footed Boobie

An adult and a juvenile Blue Footed Boobie

Galapagos Flamingos

Galapagos Flamingos

Hike down to a deserted beach

Hike down to a deserted beach

The beach was definitely worth the walk

The beach was definitely worth the walk

Nice spot for a self-indulgent photograph

Nice spot for a self-indulgent photograph

The food on board was quite good with an interesting Ecuadorian influence.

Emma, the Head Chef

Emma, the Head Chef

If you have made it this far, the rest of the blog is all about the critters. First set, the Galapagos Tortoises which are found nowhere else in the world.

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After giant tortoises, the next most unusual species on the islands is the Marine Iguana. As fierce as they appear, they didn’t seem to want to eat any of us.

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This next photo is a nice transition from reptiles to birds.

Coexistance

Coexistence

and of course Sea Lions…

And, finally some Sally Lightfoot Crabs…

I can’t imagine a better spot to celebrate my 70th birthday!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Next stop: Cuenca

Next stop: Cuenca

 

Quito

Our trip to Ecuador began with a couple of days in Quito before flying out to the Galapagos Islands for a seven-day cruise. Here are some photos from the first part of our Ecuador adventure.

Quito sits at an elevation of over 9,000 feet above sea level, making it the second highest capital in the world (behind La Paz, Bolivia at 11,913 feet). The city is surrounded by several volcanos: Pichincha to the west (15,000 feet), Antisana to the east (18,700 feet), and snow-capped Cayambe to the northeast (18,725 feet). The latter is the highest point in the world crossed by the Equator and the only point on the Equator with snow cover.

Our home base in Quito was the Casa Gangotena Hotel, a meticulously renovated former residence in the heart of Old Town. Casa Gangotena has been rated as one of the best hotels in South America so we started this trip on a very upscale note.

Exterior view

Exterior view of the Casa Gangotena.

Interior courtyard

Interior courtyard.

Ecuador's climate supports growing flowers year-round

Ecuador’s climate supports growing flowers year-round.

View of the Virgin of El Panecillo from the hotel's rooftop terrace

View of the Virgin of El Panecillo from the hotel’s rooftop terrace.

Turn around and the view is of the Church and Monastery of San Francisco,the largest architectural ensemble among the historical structures of colonial Latin America.

Turn around and the view is of the Church and Monastery of San Francisco.

Pigeons in the Plaza San Francisco

Pigeons in the Plaza San Francisco.

Construction of the church and monastery began only a few weeks after the Spanish conquered Quito from the Incas in 1534. San Francisco eventually became the largest religious architectural complex in the Americas at over 8,670 acres.

After a wreath austere entrance...

After a rather austere entrance…

... we entered into a large courtyard with definite Moorish influences.

… we found ourselves in a large courtyard with a Moorish feel.

The monastery is still active

The monastery is still active.

 

Photography wasn’t allowed in the main church so I pulled the next photos off the Internet.

Lots of gold leaf. Must have been pretty impressive to the indigenous people the church was trying to convert to Christianity

Lots of gold leaf. Must have been pretty impressive to the indigenous people the church was trying to convert to Christianity.

A view of the wood tiled ceiling. Again, some definite Moorish influence imported from Spain.

A view of the wood tiled ceiling. Again, some definite Moorish influence imported from Spain.

Quito has a lot of churches. Perhaps the most famous is La Compañía, built by the wealthy Jesuit order between 1605 and 1765.

Ornate exterior of La Compañía.

Ornate exterior of La Compañía.

Just a small part of La Compañía's intricate exterior.

Just a small part of La Compañía’s intricate exterior.

An even more ornate interior with seven tons of gold just on the ceiling.

An even more ornate interior with gold leaf on every surface. (Again, no photography so another grab from the Internet)

Even though Quito is close to the equator, its elevation gives it a temperate climate year round. Here’s Independence Plaza on a sunny day at the end of October.

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Nice day for a concert by the Municipal Police Band.

Nice day for a concert by the Municipal Police Band.

One of the government buildings along the Plaza is the Metropolitan Cultural Center. The building was originally constructed by the Jesuits in the 1600s but when Charles III of Spain banished the Jesuit Order from the colonies in 1767, the building became a public university. Now it houses a museum, library, and rotating art exhibits.

Lifesize reproductions of women from an Ecuadorian village with strong African ties.

Lifesize reproductions of women from an Ecuadorian village with strong African ties.

In real life this lady can dance without tipping the bottle on her head. In real life the guy in the piffle can't dance at all.

In real life this lady can dance without tipping the bottle on her head. In real life the guy in the photo can’t dance at all.

After our tour of Old Town, we drove up to the Pululahua Volcano, the first National Park in Ecuador. The volcano was last active over 2000 years ago and now about forty families live in the crater, mainly growing corn and quinoa and raising cattle.

Shortly after we took this photo, the clouds rolled in.

Shortly after we took this photo, the clouds rolled in.

Lunch was at a restaurant right on the crater rim, named, you guessed it, El Crater Restaurant.

A typical Ecuadorian lunch with fried pork and 'special' sauce, plantains, and hominy which the locals call maize.

A typical Ecuadorian lunch with fried pork toped with ‘special’ sauce, plantains, and hominy which the locals call maize.

Next stop: La Mitad del Mundo or The Center of the World, a somewhat touristy complex that provides photo ops at the Equator. The French sent an expedition here in 1736 to determine whether the circumference of the Earth was greater around the Equator or around the poles. (It’s greater around the Equator by 26.54 miles.)

So close yet hemispheres apart.

So close yet hemispheres apart.

After a day of exploring, it was time to check out the hotel bar. I should have looked at the price of a Martini before ordering since this one was $35. Evidently Ecuador has a hefty import tax on liquor to protect the local beer industry.

My first and last Martini in Ecuador.

My first and last Martini in Ecuador.

And one last shot of the San Francisco Church from the hotel rooftop.

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Our final day in Quito started out with the Casa Gangotena’s complimentary buffet breakfast. If you couldn’t find anything that appealed here, you could order pretty much anything from the kitchen and they would do their best to comply.

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Reading the labels was a good way to learn Spanish

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Pick a table, any table.

The hotel gave us two passes to the Casa del Alabado, a pre-Columbian Art Museum located in a nearby colonial house built in the 17th century. It contains a collection of over 5,000 archaeological pieces, 500 of which are on permanent display. We wound up spending the entire morning there.

The courtyard entrance.

The courtyard entrance.

A decorative wall as part of the stairway.

A decorative wall as part of the stairway.

Closeup.

Closeup.

The collection includes indigenous artifacts from all areas of Ecuador which date as far back as 4000 BC. Here are just a few examples:

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One of the signature dishes of Ecuador is ceviche, typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers. I was soon addicted and ordered it whenever I found it on the menu. So, I’ll end this part of the trip with a couple of food photos.

Who says beer drinking can't be elegant?

Who says beer drinking can’t be elegant?

Seafood ceviche.

Seafood ceviche.

Interestingly, popcorn and toasted corn kernels are typical accompaniments.

Interestingly, popcorn and toasted corn kernels are typical accompaniments.

Next: The Galapagos Islands.

Oregon Coast

Every couple of years Lorette and her two sisters get together for a little family reunion and allow their spouses to tag along. This time the destination was the Oregon coast. And this time Lewey got to go.

Arch Cape between Cannon Beach and Manzanita

Arch Cape between Cannon Beach and Manzanita

We had a four bedroom, three bath rental right on the beach.

View from the beach

View from the beach

View from the deck

View from the deck

View from the dining room

View from the dining room

That rock just off shore was home to a lot of sea birds.

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Sunsets on the Oregon coast can be pretty spectacular.

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The path to the beach was right next door.

In case of an earthquake, head for higher ground!

In case of an earthquake, be prepared for a tsunami!

Oregon in the fall isn't exactly swim suit weather

Oregon in the fall isn’t exactly swim suit weather

Lewey is happy that he got to come along

Lewey thinks that this is way better than staying home in a kennel

There is Uncle Larry to give out belly rubs...

There is Uncle Larry to give out belly rubs…

...not to mention Uncle Jack

…not to mention Uncle Jack

We ate in sometimes but sometimes we didn’t. Here we are at Norma’s Steak and Seafood in Seaside.

Larry, Linda, Lorette, Diane, and Jack

Larry, Linda, Lorette, Diane, and Jack

Seafood linguini

Seafood linguini

Dungeness crab

Dungeness crab

It’s not a family get-together without a game of Mexican Train.

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There is a lot to explore on the Oregon coast. One day we drove down to Tillamook and stopped along the way for some people photos.

Linda and Larry

Linda and Larry

Jack and Diane

Jack and Diane

Lorette and John

Lorette and John

Another stop was at Cape Meares, an Oregon State Park.

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The Cape Meares Lighthouse was built in 1889 and is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon at only 38-feet-tall

The Octopus Tree, a Sitka Spruce estimated to be 400 years old. No one is sure how it was made to form this way.

The Octopus Tree, a Sitka Spruce estimated to be 400 years old. No one is sure why it formed this way.

Even on a cloudy day the views are pretty spectacular

Even on a cloudy day the views are pretty spectacular

But with a beach right out our door, who wants to spend a whole lot of time driving around? Here are some photos of the beach at Arch Cape that we had almost to ourselves.

It's pretty hard for a Corgi to keep his belly dry when there is this much water

It’s pretty hard for a Corgi to keep his belly dry when there is this much water

Reflections at low tide

Reflections at low tide

Reflections with Lewey

Reflections with Lewey

Wonder if any of these guys could be a descendant of Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

Wonder if any of these guys could be a descendant of Jonathan Livingston Seagull?

Leave only tracks... and maybe a feather or two

Leave only tracks… and maybe a feather or two

Somebody had seafood for dinner

Somebody had seafood for dinner

Most of the shells on the beach were sand dollars

Most of the shells on the beach were sand dollars

Meanwhile, back at the house…

A perfect spot to catch up on some reading (A History of the World in 6 Glasses)

A perfect spot to catch up on some reading (A History of the World in 6 Glasses)

Larry watching the Humpback whales heading down to Mexico

Larry watching the Humpback whales heading down to Mexico

Ahhh, sunset with a gin and tonic

Ahhh, sunset with a gin and tonic

So, what will we make for dinner tonight?

Reservations

Reservations!

Cannon Beach's version of a New England Lobster Roll: A Dungeness Crab Roll

Cannon Beach’s version of a New England Lobster Roll: A Dungeness Crab Roll

Another day, another stroll on the beach with Lewey.

A dog and his beach

A dog and his beach

Had to share it with some seagulls

Had to share it with some seagulls

We walked down to the rock outcroppings we could see from our deck

We walked down to the rock outcroppings we could see from our deck

During high tide, these rocks are covered

During high tide, these rocks are covered…

Mussels appear to like it here

…which makes for good mussel habitat.

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Lewey and I discovered how Arch Cape got its name

Lewey and I discovered how Arch Cape got its name

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A sea anemone in a tidepool

A sea anemone in a tide pool

Whole bunch of sea anemones in a tide pool

Whole bunch of sea anemones in a tide pool

As our time at Arch Cape came to an end, Lewey enjoyed one last sunset.

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My best vacation ever!