travel

Friday in the Snow

I retired, had a great retirement party, and immediately came down with a cold. Fortunately not Covid. I hadn’t been sick in a couple of years. At the beginning of Covid I bought tons of cold remedies so I would be prepared but I never got sick. When I did get sick, they had all expired. 

Now ten days later, I feel human again. Battling the system. I have yet another Social Security meeting next week. Medicare eludes me. Now the country has run out of money, by the time I get my Medicare sorted it will probably be defunded.

On the brighter side… we got another six inches of snow and I haven’t seen the sun in a while. Next winter I’m going to have to go to South America for the duration. My brother took off for New Zealand the other day. Lucky him.

Retirement. I have so many things on my to do list, I am actually feeling overwhelmed. Where to start? What to do first? Maybe it is an excuse to do nothing. I’ve been sick. I need to just take some time off and do nothing, right? Domestic chores continue to mount up. When you retire, you still have to do laundry and dishes and clean the bathroom. Really? Doesn’t seem right.

I was gifted this book called The Catch Me If You Can by Jessica Nabongo. She is the first recorded Black Woman to visit all 195 countries in the world. She did most of them in about two years. In the book she takes about 100 countries and writes a page or two about them. It gives you a snapshot, a quick anecdote, a favorite moment. She is an entrepreneur. She invented herself. Blog, travel, travel agency, promotion, London School of Economics, jobs in Japan and Benin, Ted Talk, writer. She also sells home goods, jewelry, travel accessories through a website called The Catch (although they seem to be not taking orders at the moment). One of those people who does it all and makes it look easy and seamless. The book is beautiful with lots of great photos. I don’t think I’m going to Catch her, I have like 150 countries to go.

My cousin’s husband just started a blog about his travels around the USA, either by motorcycle or camper, and all the people he meets along the way. He calls it America is a beautiful thing .   

Here are a couple of snapshots a la Catch Me If You Can…

Argentina five years ago:

As we flew into Ushuaia airport I could tell the pilot was having to do some maneuvering swooping down in-between the mountains and dealing with the heavy winds. A province of Argentina, Tierra del Fuego is an island that sits at the southernmost tip of South America. Ushuaia, its capital, is on the Beagle Channel about half-way between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, 620 miles from Antarctica. The meeting of the two oceans along with the mountainous terrain creates a strange weather pattern. It was usually very windy and could rain, be sunny, be stormy, windy raining, all within the same hour. It never rained for long and usually not very heavily. We could be out walking in the rain and never feel wet. 

Once we hit the ground, I started to cry. It had taken me more than thirty years to get there but I was finally there. It was an amazing feeling. And the beauty of it did not disappoint, it was even more beautiful than I had imagined. The light and color was like nothing I had seen before. The area was dominated by snow covered mountains all around. Before arriving I had been worried that the excursions I had reserved would be cancelled because the weather forecast called for rain every day. I soon realized, rain meant nothing in Ushuaia. Life went on no matter what the weather was. One of our tour guides said the only people carrying umbrellas in Ushuaia were tourists. Because of the winds, umbrellas were useless.

Egypt one year ago: Valley of the Kings

Then we wound up the hill into the valley where the tombs were hidden. One reason they picked this area is the mountain is naturally shaped like a pyramid. Only twelve of the 63 discovered tombs are open to the public at any given time and they are alternated as they are worked on and restored. We saw four of them. The whole area was still being actively excavated. Some tombs were in better shape than others. King Tutankhamun’s tomb was the only one that still had a mummy in it and it will be moved soon. It is hard to describe the experience, it was beyond beautiful so amazing to think how old they are. 

I read all the Amelia Peabody books by Egyptologist Barbara Mertz aka Elizabeth Peters that span the time from 1884-1923. She wrote 20 books based in Egypt mostly about archeologists digging around and solving mysteries. As I read them, I kept trying to imagine what the Valley of the Kings actually looked like back then, or even now. All I could imagine was a vast desert with nothing much else. Well, now I know.

Have a great week!

Holiday Mail Friday

It’s that time of year… the holiday card, the holiday letter. It always includes travel, family, achievements, mostly positive stuff but sometimes includes losses as well. It’s the holidays, time to be upbeat and happy. Mine went something like this.

Happy Holidays!

We started the year off with an amazing trip to Egypt! I am still processing all the beautiful things we saw. Cairo, Abu Simbel, Aswan, and the boat up the Nile to Luxor. We highly recommend it.

In the spring I flew to San Francisco and had a lot of fun hanging out with old college friends. Golden Gate, Point Reyes, and Sonoma wine country.

I took a trip to Duluth and Lake Superior with my family. It is nice to be able to travel again. I also spent a long weekend in Washington DC with more old friends.

But the really big news is happening in January. I am retiring. Can’t wait. I have a million projects waiting for me. And Travel. Stay tuned.

Joy and Happiness to all in 2023

Nothing earth shattering but full of action and positive vibes.

I read today that a Radisson Hotel in Berlin boasted having the world’s largest Aquarium in their lobby. It had 1,500 tropical fish in it. And it broke, exploded, kaput. All the dead fish on the sidewalk. There is something just wrong about that. Is that entertainment? Looking at jailed fish on your way to your room? Ugh.

I watched the second half of the Harry and Meghan series as I’m sure many of you did too. I came away with some questions. What do they actually live on? So I looked it up. Apparently Harry’s father cut them off so they had to fend for themselves. They cut a deal with Netflix for $100 million. Harry got millions for his new book, Spare. Harry inherited some money from his mother and possibly from the Queen. So what they live on is their Name. They are selling their Name. Coming away from the show, I couldn’t help but think about the Duke of Windsor. I felt like they were both treated similarly. Is that a word? Anyway, way too much about that.

I watched a delightful film about Bhutan – Lulana: A Yak in the Classroom (2019). It is about a young man who is a teacher as part of his State service and he has a year of teaching left on his contract. He wants to go to Australia and be a singer and has no interest in teaching but they send him to the remotest part of Bhutan to teach. The experience changes him. I saw it on Netflix. A nice “holidays” film.

Good advice from Charles Bukowski….  

Roll the Dice
  by Charles Bukowski

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
mockery,
isolation.
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
that.
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
fire.

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, its
the only good fight
there is.

Now that is upbeat and holiday-sie, right?
Have a good week.

Four Days in Alexandria, VA

We arrived in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday afternoon. Our first goal was to get some snacks to tide us over until dinner. We decided to walk and I managed to get us lost going the wrong direction and we walked several miles out of the way. From then on we took Ubers.

Three of us from high school met up for a long weekend. We are part of a group who meet up fairly regularly and have a great time together. Because of Covid, we hadn’t seen each other for several years and our rendezvous was way overdue. I flew in from Minnesota, Jen came down on the train from NYC, and Daisy flew up from Florida. Our first night we met up with some local friends at Mia’s Italian Kitchen. I’m sorry to say my food was not the best, but others at the table raved about their choices. So maybe it was just my choice. Anyway the best part was the ceiling.

We stayed up until 2 in the morning catching up at our AirB&B. I don’t know what we talk about or how we can have so much to say but we just never want to stop once we get started. My friends from boarding school are like my family.

The next morning my roommate from the 11th grade was retiring from USAID and she had invited me to her retirement ceremony. I attended virtually and was a little late arriving but it was awesome to see how many people thought she was awesome. Although she spent her whole career at USAID she had a varied and rewarding time, living all over the world.

That night we met up with her and a bunch of other people at our All Class Reunion at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. It was the first time we had attended one of these parties since Covid and they mentioned this was was the largest group they have had in several years.

You never know who you will meet at those parties. We ended up down in the lobby with two women named Pam who were several years older. One was from Venezuela, my friend is from Venezuela, and a group of recently graduated kids who were going to Georgetown also were from Venezuela. It never matters if we knew each other at school or what ages we are, we always seem to have a connection and sense of camaraderie.

We managed to pry ourselves away and ended up at a Whiskey Bar in Chinatown. It was chock full of very young people. From there we went back to the AirB&B and only stayed up until 1:30 am. We had a reservation for lunch at 2 pm the next day.

Old Town Alexandria has a Trolley that runs up and down King Street all day long. And it is Free. It was perfect for our needs. We jumped on the trolley and took it all the way down to the waterfront. A few blocks away is Ada’s on the River, a very nice restaurant right on the Potomac River. We managed to get a booth by the window and a view. Lunch was good but don’t remember what I had. I was eyeing the crab cake but at over $40 dollars decided to pass.

I lived in the area for about 14 years so I have seen all the sights a million times but my friends were eager to head to the Mall and take it all in. We took an Uber to the Lincoln Memorial. After watching several wedding photo shoots and saying hello to Mr Lincoln, we headed down the Mall to the Washington Memorial, stopping at the Vietnam Memorial and the WWII Memorial along the way. We can report there are restrooms at the Washington Memorial. We walked by the new African American museum but it was closed. The sun was pretty much gone by this time. Walking up 14th street, we spotted a rooftop bar at the Hotel Washington and decided to go for it.

It was pretty crowded but we pushed through all the way to the far side of the bar and found stools at the window facing the White House. We each had a drink and Daisy said she would pay for it. Haha. I then remembered why I had only been there once before. It cost over $60 for three drinks. And they weren’t fancy drinks. But the view was fabulous.

We had to be out of the AirB&B by 10 am the next morning so we had a fairly early night. Our brunch reservation was for 10:15 am at the Union Street Public House in Old Town. The restaurant was completely empty when we arrived but the bar was full of people watching the first day of FIFA.

From there it was back to the airport and home to reality.

Some shots around Alexandria:

Fun Friday

Not really fun but possibly. Looking at the world through a screen door. That could be fun. Looking at the world full of snow through a screen door. Getting more fun. Funner. Wonderlandy. It is pretty driving around town seeing the trees covered with white.

A light snow fell for most of this week. Reminded me of Moscow where it snowed constantly all winter. A weird thing was that the snow in Moscow never seemed to accumulate. It took me the longest time to figure it out. Big trucks came out at night that looked like giant crabs. They had two arms in the front that scooped all the snow into a feeder and onto a conveyor belt that took it up and dumped it into another truck behind. These trucks took the snow outside the city and dumped it into the countryside so there was never snow on the streets or sidewalks. What you ended up with was mainly ice. Black ice. I fell down a lot. 

These are the trucks that push the snow into big piles so the ‘crab’ trucks can gobble it up.

So I signed up for Social Security. I guess I am ignorant but I discovered something. Once you hit your full retirement age, you can collect Social Security and work as much as you like. I always thought there was a limit to what you could earn until you were 70. But not the case. Not that I want to work but good to know. 

The orange one is back. At least the press isn’t falling all over him like they used to. I hope it stays that way. I was reading today that Biden has a whole team at the White House working on ‘managing’ all the attacks that are sure to come. Sad. 

Have a great weekend! Don’t think too much…

Armistice, Veteran, Poppy, Remembrance Day

photo of poppy field
Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

Happy Veterans Day. Or Armistice Day. Or Remembrance Day. Or Poppy Day.

I went to a British grade school in Mexico City.  We wore a uniform.  I was 7 years old. In November of my first year, kids started showing up with red paper poppies pinned to the lapel of their blazers.  I had never heard of Poppy Day but I loved the color added to the otherwise mundane clothing.  I bought one and wore it even though I didn’t understand why. I looked forward to it every year. That splash of red.

It was the 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour when hostilities ended.   It was the end of the First World War, the war to end all wars. Poppies bloomed all across the fields where the battles were fought and lives were lost. A sea of red.

My first trip to Paris was over Armistice Day weekend. I was 16, and wandering around on my own. The city was empty. I was the only person at Napoleon’s tomb. I remember it was snowing that day.

In Washington, DC, Veteran’s day always meant Rolling Thunder. Motorcycles from all over the country converged on the Vietnam Memorial. They used to parade down to the Mall from Virginia and Maryland. You could hear them all morning. I was there for the 25th anniversary when they expected 500,000 motorcycles. It was impressive.

Dreamers

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows. 
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win 
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain, 
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain 
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.
by Siegfried Sassoon, Selected Poems (1968)

I voted on Tuesday. I was relieved the red wave turned into a pink drizzle.
It also got dark this week. Short Dark Days until the end of the year.

We made this yummy cake earlier this week. It is gluten free in case anybody cares.

Almond Cake

4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2.25 cups finely ground almonds (I use almond flour)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Separate eggs into 2 large bowls.
Beat yolks, gradually incorporating 3/4 cup sugar
Fold in the almond flour

Whisk the egg whites until foamy.
Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar
Continue to beat until stiff

Stir 1/3 egg whites in to almond mixture, then carefully fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches.
Pour batter into buttered 9-inch cake pan and bake about 30 minutes.

Allow to cool.
Dust with powdered sugar.

Friday Ramblings

Well, it’s another Friday. Another week. My countdown to retirement is jogging along. I am down to 67 more days. Probably time to start obsessing. Actually, I’m way past that. Forms, Dates, Signatures, meetings…. My head is swimming.

I keep trying to find happy, positive, funny things to write about. I always end up back at the gloom and doom of today’s headlines. I was listening to the news this morning and literally the only thing they mentioned as far as National/International news was… drum roll… Twitter. Elon Musk took over Twitter and fired the CEO. Then with all kinds of speculation about what will happen next. Will he unblock Trump? Will he get rid of all controls imposed?

I am on Twitter but I rarely look at it. I think you have to be focused in on a particular subject to really understand any of it. But ultimately it just feeds the press and the ignorant. The ignorant press? Who cares what Elon Musk does? He is in the top 1 percent. Probably the top idiot of the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent. Why am I even mentioning him? Ugh…

Speaking of the 1 percent… Another one with too much money: Jeff Bezos. He is the one who shot William Shatner (and others) into space, for a minute. Of course my thought was, what an incredible waste of money. Shatner released his book, Boldly Go on October 4. Apparently, he had an overwhelming revelation during that flight. He saw the vast emptiness of space and the beauty of the earth. It is a common thread with astronauts. How amazingly beautiful our planet looks from space. Many are overcome by it. Shatner took it a step further and was overcome with grief. He realized we were killing our beautiful planet. So my thought is, why doesn’t Bezos pour all his money into saving our planet instead of trying to colonize Mars? Who wants to live on an ugly red planet?

How about a Travel Tidbit? Apparently today there is a big festival every year in Oshogbo, Nigeria. It draws thousands of people from around the world. I went there in the last 1970’s. It was the center for women’s fertility ceremonies and shrines on the Osun River. We were allowed into their private area and led down to the river to witness a ritual. We saw many shrines in the area. An Austrian artist named Suan Wenger created sculptures in the area – weird things that looked like huts, or female forms. She revived the area and brought attention to it and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. When my friend and I went there, we were the only visitors.

This is an except from September 1, 1939 by W.H.Auden.

Somehow seems relevant today…

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
—-W.H.Auden

I made Tarragon Chicken this week that turned out yummy. Sorry, no photos this time…

1 lb skinless chicken breasts cubed
½ red onion chopped
8 oz mushrooms chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
½ cup white wine
7 ½ oz crème fraiche
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
24 oz small potatoes cut in half
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Tarragon

  • Cook chicken with onions and garlic in some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the mushrooms.
  • Toss the potatoes in oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Pour onto a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until done.
  • In a bowl add the crème fraiche, mustard, wine and tarragon.
  • Add the sauce to the chicken and heat through.
  • Add the cooked potatoes and mix to coat. Or you can serve the potatoes separately.
  • Enjoy