Serenbe

It happens every two years. My sister plans a weekend not too far from the Atlanta airport for us to get together with our kids and grandkids. It’s a great way for the east and west coast cousins to stay in touch and a fine way for Grandpa John and Beba to watch the grandkids morph from babies to children to pre-teens.

The New York Times calls Serenbe,“a utopian experiment in New Urbanism being molded out of Georgia red clay.” There is an urban village but we stay on the farm in the large Lake House and in the smaller Magnolia Cottage which serves as the quiet zone for the older members of our party.

The Lake House on the right and the Magnolia Cottage on the left.

The Lake House on the left and the Magnolia Cottage on the right.

The nice screened in poarch

The nice screened in porch

The pool is a popular attraction when the temperature is in the 90s.

A rare moment when no one is in the pool. Must be lunchtime

A rare moment when no one is in the pool. Must be lunchtime

Oh, wait. There they are.

Oh, wait. There they are.

A couple of more shots from around the property…

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Eating is another popular activity.

Jake, Avery, Huck, Townes, and Griffin

Jake, Avery, Huck, Townes, and Griffin

Bess

Bess

The grownups table

The grownups table

One morning I went for a stroll before breakfast.

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Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vultures

If you just can't get enough of Turkey Vultures, here are two more

If you just can’t get enough of Turkey Vultures, here are two more

The farm provides a morning hay ride for guests. Who would want to pass up a free hay ride?

Head 'em up. Move 'em out!

Head ’em up. Move ’em out!

Abbey

Abbey

Like mother, like daughter

Like mother, like daughter

Townes

Townes and some of his truck collection

A couple of friendly donkeys

A couple of friendly donkeys

Breakfast time

Breakfast time for critters

Hummm. Leg of lamb or a wool sweater?

Hummm. Leg of lamb or a wool sweater?

Gus, the Pot Belly Pig

Gus, the Pot Belly Pig

A llama. OK, you get the idea...

A llama. OK, you get the idea…

Serenbe has a small Saturday Farmers Market with local entertainment.

Townes channeling Townes Van Zandt?

Townes channeling Townes Van Zandt?

Jen, Dave, Griffin, and Huck decided to take a horseback trail ride to a waterfall.

This horse REALLY liked Dave

This horse REALLY liked Dave

Cowgirl Jennifer

Cowgirl Jennifer

Cowboy Dave

Cowboy Dave

Wrangler Griffin

Wrangler Griffin

Wrangler Huck

Wrangler Huck

After all that physical activity, people need a little down time.

Dave and Huck

Dave and Huck

Jennifer and Huck

Jennifer and Huck

Joe and kids

Joe and kids

Avery and Townes

Avery and Townes

Abbey and Bess discussing Tarheel basketball

Abbey and Bess discussing Tarheel basketball

Our definition of 'emergency' was pretty loose

Our definition of ’emergency’ was pretty loose

Just a little power nap

Just a little power nap

And what trip to Serenbe would be complete without a bonfire, S’mores, bubbles, and sparklers?

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My blog consultant says I make these things way too long; nobody wants to scroll down. So, if you have made it this far, permit me to post a couple of food photos. Our last meal was Sunday dinner at the Farmhouse before everyone went their separate ways.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

The kids table

Mostly well behaved children at the kids table

The official family photo from Serenbe 2015

The official family photo from Serenbe 2015

THE END

THE END

 

My Most Expensive Meal Ever

Last weekend we splurged to celebrate Lorette’s first step toward retirement: going from full time to four days a week. We ate at Cafe Juanita in Seattle and opted for the chef’s tasting menu along with the select wine pairings. If you are wondering what a REALLY expensive meal looks like, take a gander at the following photos. Then be sure to read my comment at the end.

The first course wasn't even on the menu but those are salmon eggs with an edible flower on top

The first course wasn’t even on the menu but those are salmon eggs with an edible flower on top and Prosciutto in the background

This would have been an interesting photo of the bread... if it had been in focus

This would have been an interesting photo of the bread… if it had been in focus

Australian +7 Wagyu Carne Cruda with Lardo Crostini

Australian +7 Wagyu Carne Cruda with Lardo Crostini

Octopus with Chickpea, Salsa Verde, and Smoked Bone Marrow

Octopus with Chickpea, Salsa Verde, and Smoked Bone Marrow

Local Porcini: Roasted with Thyme, Raw with 30 month Aged Parmigiano Reggiano, and Cream Porcini Soup

Sylvia's Spot Prawns with Favas, Fennel and Smoked Salad Onions

Sylvia’s Spot Prawns with Favas, Fennel and Smoked Salad Onions

Risotto Manteca with Carmelized Strawberry and Reduced Brodo topped with a 36 year old Balsamic Vinegar

Risotto Manteca with Carmelized Strawberry and Reduced Brodo topped with a 36 year old Balsamic Vinegar

Guinea Hen with Seared Foie Gras, Crisp Veal Sweetbreads, English Pea Crema, Morels and Pickled Turnip

Guinea Hen with Seared Foie Gras, Crisp Veal Sweetbreads, English Pea Crema, Morels and Pickled Turnip

Not pictured is the before-dinner cocktail of a rare Sweet Vermouth with a twist of orange peal and generous pours of wine to perfectly pair with each course. Maybe that’s why I missed taking photos of dessert which was:

* Vanilla Panna Cotta with Cardon Blossom Honey and Vanilla Salt

…. and ….

* Chocolate Bonêt with Coca Crumb, Rose Langues de Chat and Blue Elderflower Cordial.

As I said at the beginning, this turned out to be the most expensive dinner that I have ever had. The service was knowledgable and professional without being stuffy. The chef was obviously talented in selecting, preparing and presenting the dishes. As I think back on the experience, I’m glad I took some photos in order to retain the memory of a remarkable meal.

However, I can’t help but think about a term I remember from economics, Marginal Utility, which is defined as the additional satisfaction or benefit (utility) that one derives from buying an additional unit of a commodity or service. In this case, how much more satisfaction did I receive from enjoying this very expensive meal than I would from a meal at half the price? Or even from my own homemade Mac and Cheese straight out of The Joy of Cooking?

I’m not sure where the answer lies but since this meal was to mark the end of a full-time paycheck, I guess I will be looking for satisfaction in a lower stratosphere from now on!

Three Retired Amigos

Jeff, Max and I are retired. Several months ago we decided to start a ‘Boys Day Out’ to explore the local landscape. So far this has included visits to the Museum of Glass, the western art collection at the Tacoma Art Museum, America’s Car Museum, a retirement planning seminar, and the opening of a new Whole Foods Market. Here’s a report on last week’s adventure.

Karpels Manuscript Library Museum

Jeff and Max at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

David Karpeles made his money in California real estate and started collecting documents in the ’70s. By 1983 he had one of the largest private document collections in the world and decided to distribute them to museums he established in eleven cities across the United States. This is truly an eclectic assortment. For example:

* The original etchings from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist

* The official report of the Titanic rescue by the captain of the RMS Carpathia

* A paper tape of the first message sent by Morse Code

* The navigator’s log of the Enola Gay when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima

* The written confession of Japan’s War Minister, Tojo, who ordered the Bataan Death March

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Just across the street from the Karpeles Manuscript Library is the W W Seymour Conservatory, a Tacoma icon since 1908, and one of only three Victorian-style conservatories on the West Coast.

Max and John at the Seymour Conservatory

Max and John at the Seymour Conservatory

Jeff and Max admiring the tropical foliage

Jeff and Max admiring the tropical foliage

Hungry fish

Hungry fish

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Not native to the Pacific Northwest

These adventures always involve food. As you can imagine, looking at documents and admiring tropical vegetation works up quite an appetite. Next stop, the Parkway Tavern.

My favorite neighborhood watering hole

My favorite neighborhood watering hole

Where beer pull handles go when they die

Where beer pull handles go when they die

A mushroom swiss burger. Not pictured: a pint of local IPA.

A mushroom swiss burger. Not pictured: a pint of local IPA.

Still time for one more stop so we head for the Foss Waterway Seaport. The Seaport is in a century-old wheat transfer facility, one of two remaining wooden warehouses originally built as a mile-long complex in 1900 to accommodate square-rigged ships that frequented the port during the early years of Tacoma’s history.

The Tacoma was part of Puget Sounds Mosquito Fleet

The Tacoma was part of Puget Sounds Mosquito Fleet

Jeff and Max

Jeff and Max

One of the many displays showing the nautical heritage of the area

One of the many displays showing the nautical heritage of the area

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Boston

Ah, the joys of being the retired tag-along spouse of someone who has to be in meetings all day. So while Lorette was getting smarter, I was free to explore the city.

The Boston Convention Center

Boston Convention Center, site of the three-day conference

First stop for me: Boston Common, America’s oldest public park.

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Tadpole Playground

Tadpole Playground

Grown up tadpole

Grown up tadpole

Massachusetts State House

The ‘new’ Massachusetts State House, completed in 1798

Monument to the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, the first African American regiment formed after Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation

Monument to the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry, the first African American regiment formed after Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation

I had the opportunity to have lunch with Pam Hoyle, a friend from high school who lives in Boston, and catch up on the past fifty years. So how did I manage to not get her photograph? Rest assured, she is not in the photo below.

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We ate at a place called Carrie Nation Cocktail Club where I got to try another Lobster Roll.

A lobster roll BLT

A lobster roll BLT

One of our stops was the Granary Burying Grounds, founded in 1660.

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Some of America’s most notable citizens rest here.

Paul Revere

Paul Revere

Sam Adams

Sam Adams

Irish Famine Memorial along the Freedom Trail to commemorate the 1845 Irish potato famine.

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The Old State House built in 1713 to house the colony’s government.

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The Institute of Contemporary Art was close to our hotel and provided an interesting diversion with its eclectic galleries.

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A collection of 36 horn speakers made from newspaper and dryer lint and numerous tube amplifiers playing a fifty minute piece by violinist Andrew Bird

A collection of 36 horn speakers made from newspaper and dryer lint and numerous tube amplifiers playing a fifty minute piece by violinist Andrew Bird

I bought a pass for the T, Boston’s Metro, and spent some time just riding around. Couldn’t get the Kingston Trio singing the Charlie on the MTA song out of my head. A couple of random photos:

The Red Line station at Park Street opened in 1897. Could use a little sprucing up

The Red Line station at Park Street opened in 1897. Could use a little sprucing up

The Silver Line goes by the cruise ship terminal

The Silver Line goes by the cruise ship terminal

Snow shovels at a Metro station on May 1

Snow shovels at a Metro station on May 1

And speaking of snow, there was still some around from the winter’s record of 8 feet.

Snow pile still melting

Snow pile still melting

The John F. KennedyPresidential Library and Museum is definitely worth a visit.

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A campaign poster from 1960

A campaign poster from 1960

Part of the 'Main Street USA' exhibit: an appliance store from the era

Part of the ‘Main Street USA’ exhibit: an appliance store from the era

On January 20, 1961, Kennedy became the youngest person, at 43, to be elected President

On January 20, 1961, Kennedy became the youngest person, at 43, to be elected President

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That is a lot of windows to keep clean!

That is a lot of windows to keep clean!

Exterior of the building designed by the architect I.M. Pei

Exterior of the building designed by the architect I.M. Pei

View of Boston from the library

View of Boston from the Library

And for a bit of culture, we attended a concert of the Boston Symphony in Symphony Hall which opened in 1900. Wonder who else sat in our seats over those 115 years?

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Lorette checked to see if the orchestra had any flute vacancies

Lorette checked to see if the orchestra had any flute vacancies

Our flight didn’t leave until 6:00 PM so we had time for one last taste of New England.

Wellfleet oysters

Wellfleet oysters

And the last lobster roll of the trip

And the last lobster roll of the trip

Despite the livery on our Alaska Airlines plane, our pilot was able to find Seattle with no apparent difficulty.

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Cape Cod

Lorette had a medical conference scheduled in Boston for the last part of April so we decided to travel several days early and explore Cape Cod, a place neither of us had been to before. For the most part, the weather was sunny and brisk. The restaurants and other businesses that had been closed for the winter were just beginning to open for the season but the hoards of tourists that descend on the Cape in the summer had yet to arrive so we had the place virtually to ourselves.

After landing at BOS in the evening and staying in the city the first night, we headed out after an amazing Sunday Brunch at the Seaport Boston Hotel. First stop was Plymouth and the National Monument to the Forefathers, an 81 foot monument completed in 1888.

National Monument to the Forefathers

National Monument to the Forefathers

The monument honors the ideals of the Mayflower Pilgrims. It is thought to be the world’s largest solid granite monument and is the third-tallest statue in the United States. It was the site of the first sock picture of the trip.

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One can’t be in Plymouth without seeking out The Rock. So, here’s a rock with 1620, the year the Mayflower landed, inscribed on it. However, the first written reference to this particular rock was in 1715 so the rock is more of a symbol than a real part of history.

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

Debunking myths tends to work up an appetite so we found a harbor side seafood shack recommended by several locals.

Wood's Seafood

Wood’s Seafood

In search of the perfect lobster roll.

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The Captain’s House Inn in Chatham was our home for four days.

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Wild Pigeon

Wild Pigeon

Complete with a cozy fireplace

Complete with a cozy fireplace

A different breakfast each day

A different breakfast each day

For me, a highlight of the trip was a visit to the Cape Cod National Seashore.

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Nauset Light

Nauset Light

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Guglielmo Marconi erected a large antenna array here and completed the first transatlantic wireless communication between the United States and Europe in 1903.

Built in 1902; abandoned in 1920

Built in 1902; abandoned in 1920

Back in town, there is a terrific little museum called the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center. In 1914, Marconi built a high powered wireless station in Massachusetts. The receivers were in Chatham and the transmitters were forty miles west, in Marion. The station was paired with a station in Norway to provide wireless communication between the two continents, using Morse code. During World War II the station was taken over by the Navy and played a roll in tracking German U-Boats in the Atlantic. A visit here really made the movie, The Imitation Game, come to life.

A code breaker

A code breaker

OK, the next photo is cheating. It’s a photo of a photo. But I need to include it since it beautifully conveys the scenery around the cape with the many bogs.

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As you can tell by the next photo, it could be windy and cool, even with the sun shining.

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Which is a good reason to find a cozy spot for some clam chowder and another lobster roll.

Warming up by the fire

Warming up by the fire

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder

This one was more like lobster salad on a roll

This one was more like lobster salad on a roll

Chatham turned out to be a great home base for exploring. The next photos were taken right in town.

Chatham Lighthouse,  established in 1808

Chatham Lighthouse, established in 1808

Part of the National Seashore near Chatham

Part of the National Seashore near Chatham

Seals snoozing on the beach

Seals snoozing on the beach

And to end this post, a few pictures of perhaps one of the best meals we had on the trip: Twenty Eight Atlantic at the Wequassett Resort.

View as the sun was going down

View as the sun was going down

A cucumber Martini to start

A cucumber Martini to start

Appetizer

Appetizer

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Goodbye, Cape Cod, it was fun getting to know you!

Lorette back at the Captain's House

Lorette back at the Captain’s House

Planes, Trains, Boats, Automobiles… and a Bus

A while back, I was reading through some travel-related emails and came across a discounted three-day cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver. It was one of those wild hair kind of ideas and we decided to make it into a long weekend getaway. So, here’s the story of taking as many modes of transportation as possible in four days.

First off, we had to get to Los Angeles to start the cruise. To my pleasant surprise, Alaska Airlines has $125 fares from Seattle to LA.

At SeaTac

At SeaTac

I couldn’t resist a photo of Mt Rainier as we take off and head south.

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As for the automobile part of the trip, a taxi from LAX to the cruise ship pier.

taxiCheck-in

We were on the Grand Princess, capacity: 3,100 passengers. I never got a good photo of the entire ship from a distance but here are some interior pictures.

Cabin D717

Cabin D 717

The ship is 950 feet long which makes for some long interior corredors

The ship is 950 feet long which makes for some long interior corridors

The cruise ship terminal is part of the Port of Los Angeles, a major west coast cargo operation. Here’s the view from our balcony.

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We set sail (I suppose that is an archaic nautical term since we really didn’t have any sails) about 5:00 PM. So as to not mess with tradition we went topside for the sail away party.

a Mojito and a Margarita seemed to be the appropriate beverages for the occasion

A Mojito and a Margarita seemed to be the appropriate beverages for the occasion

So long, Los Angeles

So long, Los Angeles

A police escort to make sure we didn't change our minds and try to return to the pier?

A police escort to make sure we didn’t change our minds and try to return to the pier?

Clearing the harbor entrance and heading north

Clearing the harbor entrance and heading north

Sunset on our first evening at sea

Sunset on our first evening at sea

With no stops between LA and Vancouver, our focus turned to what was available on board the Grand Princess. We quickly discovered that there were numerous bars and multiple dining options.

A Grey Goose Martini with a twist for her...

A Grey Goose Martini with a twist for her…

...and a Hendricks Martini with olives for him

…and a Hendricks Martini with olives for him

Dinner at the Crown Grill

Dinner at the Crown Grill

A few scallops

A few scallops

This was probably a veal chop

This was probably a veal chop

If it's too difficult deciding on which dessert to order, your server will bring you a sampler

If it’s too difficult deciding on which dessert to order, your server will bring you a sampler

It seemed like every time we left our cabin, George, our attendant, would freshen up the place. Sweet Pea, the traveling bear, became part of the evening turn down service.

A well traveled bear

A well traveled bear

One of the onboard activities was a cooking demonstration by the ship’s maître d’hôtel, the head chef and the head pastry chef followed by a tour of one of the kitchens.

Whipping up a little Tiramisu

Whipping up a little Tiramisu

One of the five or six kitchens onboard

One of the five or six kitchens onboard

Food art

Food art

A watermelon in an earlier iteration

A watermelon in an earlier iteration

By day, the Crown Grill was turned into an English Pub.

Steak and Kidney Pie anyone?

Steak and Kidney Pie anyone?

No shortage of beer here

No shortage of beer here

When we booked the cruise, we didn’t know that Canada’s schools would be on break. The indoor pool seemed to be a magnet for the younger set.

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Princess Cruises features Movies Under the Stars with a big screen on the top deck by one of the outside pools. Movies are shown throughout the day. This might be a cool feature if the ship were in in a tropical zone but not so much when it happens to be cruising up the west coast in March with a temperature of 55 degrees. Nevertheless, it was free and some passengers couldn’t resist.

Outdoor movie screen

Outdoor movie screen

Bundled up people watching outdoor movie

Bundled up people watching outdoor movie

The sun sets on our first full day at sea…

Sunset 2

After some serious research, we determined that the best bar on the Grand Princess was the Wheelhouse, located amidship. It scored top honors for the friendliness of the bar stewards and the nautical ambiance.

Chetan from India

Chetan from India

The principal researcher

The principal researcher

The rest of the research team surrounded by nautical ambiance

The rest of the research team surrounded by nautical ambiance

The other specialty restaurant on the Grand Princess is Sabatini, an Italian eatery. We tried it the second night and liked it so much we made reservations for the last night as well. A big reason, in addition to the food, was our waiter, Vitaly, from Ukraine.

Vitally with crawfish

Vitally with crawfish

A little seafood appetizer

A little seafood appetizer

Lorette goes for the Burrata appetizer

Lorette goes for the Burrata appetizer

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream.

In case you’re not familiar with Burrata, it’s a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream.

Tiramisu. From today's cooking demonstration?

Tiramisu. From today’s cooking demonstration?

Saturday sunrise.

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Looking east

Looking north

Looking north

Looking down

Looking down

The of the ship’s TV channels monitored our progress. Here we are passing Florence, Oregon. Sam, we waved as we sailed by but you must not have seen us!

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Lorette took her flute along and managed to get in a few practices. I took my gym stuff along and managed to get in one workout in the ship’s fitness center. Here’s a photo of Lorette practicing in the Princess Theater. There are no photos of me working out in the fitness center.

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And now for some random shots from around the ship…

This is the Piazza-style Atrium which usually had entertainment as well as a number of food and beverage options

This is the Piazza-style Atrium which usually had entertainment as well as a number of food and beverage options

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The Pizzeria turns out some mighty fine hand crafted pizzas

The Pizzeria turns out some mighty fine hand crafted pizzas

The Wine Bar

The Wine Bar

The International Cafe was well stocked with sandwiches, salads...

The International Cafe was well stocked with sandwiches, salads…

...and pastries

…and pastries

Clear sailing on the Pacific Ocean

Looking north toward British Columbia

Looking back toward California

Looking back toward California

We had a balcony like one of those below. Except on the starboard side. And aft. (See how much lingo I picked up in only two days!)

We had a balcony like one of those below. Except on the starboard side. And aft. (See how much lingo I picked up in only two days!)

Alas, all good things must end.

Making a right turn into Juan de Fuca Strait on the way to Vancouver

Making a right turn into Juan de Fuca Strait on the way to Vancouver

View of Vancouver from our balcony

After traveling 1,113 nautical miles, we woke up to a view of Vancouver from our balcony

A little knitting to kill the time while waiting to disembark

A little knitting to kill the time while waiting to disembark

Goodbye, Grand Princess, it was a pleasure

Goodbye, Grand Princess, it was a pleasure

And to round out the travel theme of this post, the final modes of transportation to get back home…

The Sky Train from the cruise terminal to Vancouver's main train station

The Sky Train from the cruise terminal to Vancouver’s main train station

The Pacific Central Station where we boarded...

The Pacific Central Station where we boarded…

... the Bolt Bus. A ticket from Vancouver to Seattle cost $13.

… the Bolt Bus. A ticket from Vancouver to Seattle cost $13.

The Bolt Bus let us out at King Street Station in Seattle where we caught the Sounder link back to the airport to complete the loop

The Bolt Bus let us out at King Street Station in Seattle where we caught the Sounder link back to the airport to complete the loop

Last but not least, we picked up Lewey at his kennel for the drive home.

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The End!

Wintergrass 2015

Wintergrass is a music festival that began in Tacoma 20 years ago and moved to Bellevue in 2009. While still focused on Bluegrass, it has evolved over the years to include a variety of Americana, roots, acoustic, and even international genres. Lorette and I started going maybe 10 years ago and have made it an annual event ever since. Here are some photos from Wintergrass 2015: February 26-March1.

First off, the location: The Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Give me a four-star hotel over camping out with porta-potties and mosquitos anytime!

The Hyatt Regency

The Hyatt Regency

Our room was on the 16th floor, facing west toward Seattle, across Lake Washington.

Seattle with the Olympics in the distance

Seattle with the Olympics in the distance

Hey, you can see the Space Needle from here!

Hey, you can see the Space Needle from here!

So let the music begin…

Jeff Scroggins & Colorado... from Colorado

Jeff Scroggins & Colorado… from Colorado

A local favorite, Pearl Django, plays Gypsy Jazz

A local favorite, Pearl Django, plays Gypsy Jazz

I Draw Slow, a Dublin, Ireland roots band

I Draw Slow, a Dublin, Ireland roots band

Wintergrass isn’t just about the music. Bellevue has a host of fine eateries and one of my favorite is…

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We managed to eat here twice during the weekend. Here is some of what we enjoyed.

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Back to the music. Here’s Laurie Lewis and her group joined by Aoife O’Donovan.

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Aoife O’Donovan solo.

Aoife, along with Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz begin their I'm With Her 2015 tour in Sweden April 18 in Sweden

And Aoife (pronounced ‘ee-fah’) with Sarah Jaroz who will join her April 18 in Sweden then on to the UK for their I’m With Her tour. Both women have an amazing range that transcends genres.

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Wintergrass isn’t just about music and dumplings. It sometimes involves cocktails with friends.

The official beverage of Wintergrass

The official beverage of Wintergrass

Pat and Dave

Pat and Dave

John and Lorette

John and Lorette

I’m guessing that most people that come to the festival play an instrument and bring it along. Jams occur almost everywhere. Fortunately, the Hyatt has quiet floors for us non-musicians.

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And where there are musicians, there are vendors selling musical instruments.

Fiddles

Fiddles

Guitars

Guitars

Dobros

Dobros

And of course, banjos

And of course, banjos

One of the four stages is usually set up for dancing. Here’s the G Burns Jug Band from San Diego.

The tuba player also plays the jug

The tuba player also plays the jug

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Each year there is a surprise act: a group that no one really knew much about but that really lights up the audience. This time it was The Steel Wheels from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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And sometimes there is a group that doesn’t resemble anything close to Bluegrass. This year it was Birds of Chicago, described in the program as a band that leaves no genre unaccounted for, no touchstone unturned. Everything from a cappella spiritual and acoustic balladry to country rock.

Birds of Chicago... from Chicago

Birds of Chicago… from Chicago

Wintergrass has a number of programs for young people to encourage a lifelong love of music. One of the highlights on Sunday is when the Wintergrass Youth Orchestra (130 middle schoolers) performs with professional artists from the festival. This year that included Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, Matuto (an Afro-Brazilian-Roots band; Darol Anger, and Mark O’Connor.

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And finally, the weekend ended with a performance by Mark O’Connor and his wife, Maggie. Mark is a virtuoso whether he is playing old time fiddle music or using the same instrument to play a violin concerto. One of my favorites is his version of Ashokan Farewell. If you’ve never heard it, check it out on your favorite music service.

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Mark and Maggie

Mark and Maggie

And so ends yet another Wintergrass Music Festival. If anyone is interested, tickets for 2016 are on sale now!

 

Père Lachaise Cemetery

While we were in Paris last October, we spent a good half day exploring Père Lachaise Cemetery. I neglected to put any photos of the cemetery with my other blog posts of the trip so here they are… better late than never.

Père Lachaise was opened in 1804, covers ten acres, and contains over one million bodies.

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Grave of a man who died at  Auschwitz

Grave of a man who died at Auschwitz

Frédéric Chopin

Frédéric Chopin

Marcel Proust, French novelist who died in 1922. Not sure why people leave a metro ticket under a chestnut.

Marcel Proust, French novelist who died in 1922. Not sure why people leave metro tickets and chestnuts.

Final resting place of Jim Morrison

Final resting place of Jim Morrison

A memorial to the passengers and crew of Air France Flight 447

A memorial to the passengers and crew of Air France Flight 447

And that's one more check mark on the bucket list!

And that’s one more check mark on the bucket list!

A Little Winter Getaway

It has become an annual event. A trip to somewhere warm and sunny in the dead of winter to break the monotony of our dull, gray, Pacific Northwest skies. Last year it was Hawaii so this time around we thought we’d try something a little different. Alaska Airlines has direct flights to several places in Mexico and we had a companion certificate through our Alaska Visa card good for a second ticket for about $100. We have been to Puerto Vallarta a couple of times, are comfortable with the area, but wanted something a little more laid back. And away from all the time share salesmen.

After spending some time on TripAdvisor, we settled on a B&B called Casa de Ensueños (House of Dreams) in the village of Guayabitos, about an hour’s drive north of PV. It is the winter home of Charley and Mona, who live in Portland the rest of the year. Staying there is like having friends with a million dollar house on the beach (which it is) who invite you down to spend a week or two. If the following photos look like an advertisement for the place, maybe it’s because, well, I guess they are!

The courtyard entryway

The courtyard entryway

The view as soon as you walk in the front door

The view as soon as you walk in the front door

We had the Starfish Room

We had the Starfish Room

This was a panoramic video from our balcony but it might only transfer as a still

A panoramic shot from our balcony

And a few photos from around the house…

The kitchen

The kitchen

Breakfast is served here every morning at 8:30

Breakfast is served here every morning at 8:30

And at 5:00 PM, everyone gathers here for Margaritas, hors d'oeuvres and friendly conversation

And at 5:00 PM, everyone gathers here for Margaritas, hors d’oeuvres and friendly conversation

We never got around to using the grill. Maybe next time?

We never got around to using the grill. Maybe next time?

A family of Iguanas hangs out in the rocks between the yard and the beach.

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The beach was great for walks.

Tough to avoid all those people!

Tough to avoid all those people!

Lots of shorebirds

Lots of shorebirds

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This little shrine is at the end of a jetty just down the beach. A memorial to fishermen, past and present.

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No blog post would be complete without a couple of food photos. Mostly, we ate in local restaurants. Nothing fancy but just good Mexican food.

Karla's was a short stroll down the beach

Karla’s was a short stroll down the beach

Lunch with drinks was usually no more than the equivalent of $10 or $12

Lunch with drinks was usually no more than the equivalent of $10 or $12

Shrimp at the Crazy Pineapple

Shrimp at the Crazy Pineapple

One night Charley piled us all in his truck and took us into town for tacos at El Taquero del Año.

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60 pesos = about $4.10

60 pesos = about $4.10

And a couple of nights we really splurged and spent $3.00 on a taxi to venture out beyond walking distance. By late in the week we had learned that one entree was plenty for two people, or maybe even four. Here’s an example:

1 fish and sides. about $8.00

1 fish and sides. about $8.00

Una mas cerveza, por favor!

Una mas cerveza, por favor!

The well behaved restaurant dog waiting patiently

The well behaved restaurant dog waiting patiently

OK… last food photo. Probably the fanciest place in Guayabitos. Up on a hill overlooking the town and harbor. Good place to experience sunset.

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It seems like I should be ending this post with a sunset photo but I didn’t really get any good ones. So, instead, here’s sunrise from our balcony. No camera tricks, honest. That’s what it looked like.

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In order to get back to the airport, we hired a taxi with another couple at the B&B who needed to go into PV for a dental appointment. So we negotiated with the driver to drop them off at the dentist, take us to the Westin near the airport where we could have lunch before our flight, then pick the other couple up for the return trip to Guayabitos. And would we mind if his wife went along since she needed to do a little shopping? I love Mexico!

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Ah, Paris!

The last leg of our journey took us to Paris for four days. We returned our rental car in St Malo and boarded the high-speed TGV train which can travel up to 200 miles per hour.

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Lorette used the time to catch up on her journal.

Sweetpea checks for spelling

Sweetpea checks for spelling

The trouble with posting travel photos on Facebook for clever friends to see is that you get reposts like this:

Thanks, Kilgore!

Thanks, Kilgore!

Our hotel in Paris was the Luxembourg Parc, you guessed it, right across the street from Luxembourg Park.

Entrance

Entrance

The library

The library

And most important of all, a well-stocked bar with a friendly bartender

And most important of all, a well-stocked bar with a friendly bartender

There were quite a few neighborhood restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. Cuisine de Philippe was right across the alley.

View from our room

View from our room

Most of the rain during our trip occurred while we were on the train. Looks like some other folks weren’t so lucky.

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One of my favorite things about Paris is just taking time to get lost while walking around. Here are some random street scenes…

The Seine looking toward the Ile de la Cite

The Seine looking toward Ile de la Cite

Bookseller stalls

Bookseller stalls along the Seine

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I think it is possible to buy anything in Paris. A couple of shop windows…

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The Orsay Museum used to be a railroad station.

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Guards at the National Assembly

Guards at the National Assembly

Locks on the Pont des Arts

Locks on the Pont des Arts

Closeup

Closeup

OK, time to play tourist. Here we are at the Arc de Triomphe, built by Napoleon to commemorate the French victory at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.

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165 feet high, 130 feet wide

165 feet high, 130 feet wide

French Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Underneath the Arch, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

284 steps to the observation deck up top

284 steps to the observation deck up top

Looking down the Champs Elysees

Looking down the Champs Elysees

Looking toward Sacre Coeur which we will visit later

Looking toward Sacre Coeur which we will visit later

And who could resist taking a photo of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe?

And who could resist taking a photo of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc de Triomphe?

A closer view of the Eiffel Tower from underneath.

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On to the Louvre.

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Remember that Facebook friend with Photoshop and too much time on his hands?

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The Louvre is probably the most famous museum in the world and, as such, it gets thousands of visitors every day. The day we were there was no exception.

Winged Victory

Winged Victory

The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa

Tired of the crowds, we asked this guy for some restaurant tips.

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Please, please, please take me with you!

So many bistros, so little time.

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Ah, Beef Bourguignon and a  a nice little Burgundy wine.

Ah, Beef Bourguignon and a a nice little Burgundy wine.

Literally right across the street from our hotel was the Luxembourg Museum. Turns out the current exhibition was titled: Paul Durand-Ruel, The Impressionist Gamble- Manet, Monet Renoir…. Durand-Rule was a Parisian art dealer who was one of the first to embrace the Impressionist Movement in the late 1800s. This exhibition was gathered from museums around the world and displayed works that had passed through Durand-Ruel’s gallery. The crowds were all at the Louvre and the Orsay. This spectacular collection we had virtually all to ourselves.

Luxembourg Museum

Luxembourg Museum

Renoir

Renoir

Monet

Monet

Degas

Degas

Right behind the museum is Luxembourg Park, a wonderful public space and a nice place to feel more like a local.

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Tai chi in the park

Tai chi in the park

The Medici Fountain was built in 1630 by Marie de' Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France to remind her of her native Florence

The Medici Fountain was built in 1630 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France to remind her of her native Florence

On the way out to explore one day we stumbled upon this little hole-in-the wall place which had eight tables fit into a space no larger than our kitchen. I ordered blood sausage and apparently chose the wrong wine to go with it. The waitress tactfully suggested a more suitable pairing. That’s how memories are made!

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We had a four-day Metro pass and got pretty good at finding our way around Paris.

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Construction of Notre-Dame Cathedral began in 1163 and was among the first buildings in the world to use flying buttress (arched exterior supports) none of which are shown in this photo.

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Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.

Statue of Charlemagne who united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.

Note what is sitting on her hat

Note what is sitting on her hat

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A visit to Sacré-Cœur Basilica located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

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A Metro ticket also works for the funicular which saves walking up 300 steps.

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What’s a Basilica without a few gargoyles to ward off the evil spirits?

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And to end this rather lengthy post, a question. Why would someone leave their bra and slip beside a tree?

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