Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Copenhagen direct

Ahoy,

Our last and final city was Copenhagen! I booked us into a hotel type place figuring we'd be over talking to hosts. It was nice to have some more privacy. Immediately I forced my PR (permanent roommate) to go get pasta with me. We brought it back to our room and watched tv while we scarfed it down with wine. Both of us were surprised how good it was. We had come to expect little of the food here.

The next day we awoke to some rain and ventured out for pastries. This was a big walking day. We walked to the Royal Palace and saw the changing of the guards, the botanic gardens, museums, another royal palace, design museum. At the little mermaid statue, my PR refused to take a tourist picture with me. We discussed the popularity of the little mermaid pre and post Disney. He wanted to see the lakes, which were unimpressive. I wanted to stop in a Flying Tiger, similar to Daiso or Miniso, but Scandinavian, and the PR was happy to buy so much candy. We bought so much candy that day. I dragged us into an REI-like shop, where we overheard an American purchasing climbing shoes. We walked into an indoor market with stalls that later we would come back to for Vietnamese dinner.

The most unique thing we found was probably this little informal autonomous anarchist artist squatter community, Christiania. Some of the buildings looked like really nice real estate. There were a lot of vendors and businesses of all sorts. Remarkable.

Our last morning in Copenhagen, it snowed briefly. Wet and heavy, so nothing stuck, and it turned back into rain right away. We departed for the airport in no hurry. A and I lost each other in the 2 blocks to the train station because he thought I wanted to go the efficient route and I thought he'd like the scenic route. The train ride was so simple. Little did we know, we'd have more than a day left in Copenhagen.

best,
jt

Thursday, January 18, 2018

all the canal bridges in Amsterdam

Ahoy,

No one had checked our tickets on the train ride. We arrived to Amsterdam and gawked for a bit at the clean, modern-looking train station. It was on the edge of raining all day. I hurried us over to our airbnb to connect to the wifi so I could figure out how to meet up with K and M. Our tiny room was up the stairs from a souvenir shop. The stairs were so steep- we were practically climbing up a ladder.

We found each other outside Hema at the train station. We began our pilgrimage towards the I Amsterdam sign - that was surprisingly far from the train station. Task #1 was to get an umbrella for A because we had been using our hosts' umbrellas and he was holding out for a specific fancy umbrella (of course, cue eyeroll). But at this point, he just needed an umbrella. Our first food stop was at this health food place that took so long to make a sandwich - I imagined they were raising the cows to make the cheese in the panini. Poor A was starving. We walked for what seemed like a while to get to a brewery that M had been to a few times before. Despite the crowds, we found seating for a few rounds. It was great catching up with K and M. Our next stop for dinner would be Indonesian food at a bar. Yum! It was pretty rainy by now, but we weren't far from where we needed to be to send K and M off back to Groningen.

Our next day started off incredibly windy. Motorcycles were blowing over. Managing the wind made the rain seem like a breeze. It was raining a little, but so windy it would come sideways at us. We opened and closed our umbrellas a bunch of times; mine finally snapped. After wandering around for an acceptable ATM, we got some cash and went into a diner-like place where we watched people get blown around from inside. It was really quite entertaining.

I had gotten us tickets to the Anne Frank house for noon, which was right when they opened. This was a good time because it gave us a place to be inside until the wind died down and there wasn't a line yet. When we came out, there was a big queue around the building. The museum was sad, but still such an important part of history to get perspective on. I was rereading her diary and it was cool to be able to imagine her writing in her diary in this secret annex. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the canal bridges, me peeking in too many shops, A being anxious about walking in and buying nothing. What a hufflepuff! I had to make daily stops in to Dille & Kamille, a housewares and gardening store.

The next morning we got Dutch pancakes, which are more crepelike, and continued our pedestrian tour of the City. We went into the Royal Palace Museum where we learned a bit about Dutch history. They have this self-guided tour over personal speaker thingers. Such a great way to see a museum. A gawked at the Royal dishware. Also, we picked up sandwiches from Hema - an Ikea-like store.

After a few more canal bridges, we took the train to the airport. I was excited to get to our last destination before going home. It was nice to be almost home.

best,
jt




Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Brussels, finally

Ahoy,

Some of our faithful readers may recall the endless protests of winter 2011 that prevented us from getting to Brussels. We were so excited every step closer we got to Brussels this time. The airplane landed on Belgian ground! We are on the train into the City! We got off the train into the City! We are walking on the streets! We are in our airbnb! We made it to Brussels! There was no one protesting this time around. We were so pleased to finally get there. 

Our Airbnb was close to the midi station in a diverse neighborhood. We dropped our things and departed to walk into the central area. It started to rain. It would not stop for the rest of this trip. We got a waffle, fries, gluhwein, and beer this night- essentially checking off all our boxes before going back to tuck in early. We got stopped to pick up some Moroccan street food, that was really quite yummy. 

The next day we headed off early into bruges, an hour train away. It was quite rainy this day as we wandered around the old medieval city. Really, I was just looking for places for respite from the rain. I came upon some shops that I would quickly become intensely obsessed with (Hema, Dille & Kamille). The old cobblestone streets were fun and more challenging to walk along than I anticipated. I tried to be so careful about how I stepped because my footprint covered barely 2 stones, so my feet could easily roll or fall between stones. Interesting problem to have for tiny feet. 

It felt like we spent the day walking around and waiting for A to feel like having a beer. The much anticipated Belgian beer we are both fond of. The weather was really not appropriate to consume copious amounts of Belgian beer. I think he would have had a lot more if we were here during more favorable weather. We stopped into the Frites Museum, which was probably one of my highlights for the trip. We learned about the history of potatoes, and the evolution of fries. It was a unique experience, and so delightful. I came upon a chocolate place Rick Steves had referenced and went inside to some impatient and almost grumpy chocolatiers. After leaving with a few pieces, we wandered around some more until my patience wore thin. I was ready to go back, and we couldn't go back until A had a beer. We went to a brewery to get a flight. It was still pouring outside. Finally, we made the rainy walk back to the train station. A slept the entire train ride, so I had to stay awake otherwise we'd miss our stop. 

We picked up some take-out from a Mediterranean place to bring back to our place. Our host was not home so it was like we had the whole place to ourselves. I found Love, Actually to watch on Netflix, and much to my surprise we made it to midnight for New Year's. The weather cleared up and stopped raining for maybe 2 hours, perhaps so that everyone could light off their fireworks. We were able to watch some risky maneuvers from our balcony. We were both happy to stay in. 

The next day we anticipated everything to be closed. And most places were. We wandered for most of the day, walking into the old part again.We stopped for coffee, food, bathrooms, chocolate, etc. We walked and window shopped a lot. I made notes of places to look for in our future stops because they would be open. This night, we got instant noodles and oranges from the grocery store for dinner. Cuisine here had not been super impressive, and I was not in the mood to seek out anything specific. Honestly, we would get sleepy pretty early and not be so hungry in the evening anyway. It's a silly thing, but I enjoyed the easy nights in.

We left pretty early the next morning for the train to Amsterdam. We had purchased an open ticket when we first arrived. The trains to Amsterdam are every hour; it was so easy. I am always so impressed with how close everything is in Europe, and how easy and convenient train travel is in the region. 

best,
jt





Sunday, January 14, 2018

London, more than half a day this time

Ahoy,

One of the primary reasons we arranged this trip was to see A's bestie, J. He's at uni in London. I chose an airbnb near his place, also near the Tower Bridge. Our plane left on Dec 26, and arrived Dec 27. I gave J a lot of details about our itinerary because I wasn't sure how we would find him. We arrived from the tube a little later than I guesstimated, but we happened to just run into J on our way to pick up our keys for the airbnb. What a fortunate circumstance! Honestly, I was nervous about finding him because A and J's typical protocol relies on a last minute phone call and I was really not confident that would work for us this time. I've learned to not always expect reliable wi-fi abroad. Picking up the keys was so simple. They have this thing called 'keynest' where the homeowner left her keys at a shop nearby for me to come pick up. I think it's because doors are too old to install those number keypad things that are so common here.

We dropped off our things and darted back out while it was still daylight. At a very brisk pace, our reluctant local tourist guide walked us to the Bermondsey arts district area. We got sub-par coffee and sub-par pizza. After munching our items at J's dorm kitchen, we went back out just as the sun was setting. We stumbled upon the tower bridge where we stopped for tourist pictures to commemorate our trip from 6 years ago when we had a massive row in that spot. It's funny how locations and moments in time are made more memorable from these spats. 

We walked by the borough market as it was closing, and then along the Thames all the way to the Tate. I stopped too often to look at the holiday market stalls, which I was honestly happy to stall time because if you know me, you know I don't like art museums. I was falling asleep at the museum and luckily it closed shortly after we arrived. We ended our day at a quiet pub where we had sub-par fish and chips. I was really starting to dread British cuisine. Apparently, my bar was not low enough.

A says I slept for 10 hours that night. He woke at 5am and watched 2 hours of food videos determined to satisfy his palette more than yesterday. We went to the greasy spoon, a term for a diner like place, across the street where he ordered a huge platter of a full English breakfast. We practically pulled J out of bed that morning when we crashed his flat. First stop, coffee at the borough market. I ogled a tomato bowl. We will see the theme of my desired souvenirs will be housewares. We walked all the way to the British museum where we stood in a massive queue. It's truly remarkable the scale of museums when you've had centuries of history and colonialism to accumulate stuff. They were able to just keep letting people in because it was so large- they would never reach capacity. 

I scurried us out of there when I got hungry, but also because the place I wanted was about to close. We didn't even see half of the first floor. You could really spend days in there. At roti king, a Malaysian place, there was a queue of folks who appeared to be Malaysian- good sign. We were among the last parties to receive admittance. Worth it. I was so happy to have food better than we had yesterday. Next we ventured to the British library where they had a display of important historical documents, i.e. original Beatles handwritten songs, religious things, maps, etc. the Harry Potter exhibit was sold out. Nearby at King's Cross, we ogled the massive queue for the platform 9 3/4 photo spot. We looked into the shopping districts at Oxford St and Covington gardens. 

We wanted pie and ales for dinner. At the tube station, an attendant found a location that would have us backtrack, ultimately adding over a mile extra to our walk that day. Later, I would notice they had a location across the street from this tube station. It did not show up in his search that night. This also was better than our abysmal food the day before, which we appreciated. 

Our final full day in London greeted us with a rainy morning. It stopped before noon. We got coffee and food at borough market again. A and J got the famous raclette and grilled cheese. We took the tube to the natural history museum where we stood in a massive queue again. The museum was ginormous. Once we were museumed out, we walked into Hyde park with the ultimate goal of an Indian street food place. We stopped at a cafe in the park for tea and I knew we were not getting to lunch anytime soon at this pace. I ordered real food here. We saw the princess Diana and Prince Albert memorials. Finally, our lunch spot turned into dinner. It was a good sign the place was packed with Indians. We zipped back to our hood to send J off at the Tate. Later that night, we met my college friend at a pub. We lamented over crummy British food. 

The next morning A went to the greasy spoon while I lazed in our cave bed. When he came back he noticed I was still in bed and took that as a cue to have another coffee. I changed in a jiffy and was ready to go before he poured his cup. I don't know why he is always surprised how quickly I can get ready. Let's put it on the record that I am not the one to hold us up. The tube ride was smooth and we got a whole car to ourselves. Our original plan to take the train was foiled when we saw tickets for $200 per person. Luckily we found a much more reasonable flight to Brussels at $150 total. 

best,
jt




Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I'm on that flight to LA that is never leaving

Ahoy,

Let's start at the end, bad news first - so to say. This is the most harrowing story on our latest romp across the pond, and probably ever. Nothing has ever been so dramatic or anxiety inducing. We had a scheduled departure for 14:10 6 Jan 2018 Copenhagen to LAX, arrival 16:30, Saturday with Norwegian Airlines. That would have given us all of Saturday afternoon and Sunday to readjust, do errands, go climb, visit Target, etc. A would have been rested and prepared to return to work on Monday. So much cushion room, right? All our cushion would eventually be eaten up by flight delays. I wondered many times if getting myself deported would get me home faster. We ended up departing 23:45 7 Jan 2018. That is, Sunday night almost Monday morning. We touched down at 01:45 8 Jan 2018.

We arrived to the airport in Copenhagen easily. The train is so simple - one line, straight shot, 20 minutes. We arrived just after noon probably. And just as I was commenting how everything for the most part this trip had gone swimmingly, we saw the check-in board and it read there would be an 8 hour delay. I spoke too soon. Our new departure time was 22:30. At the check-in counter, the guy gave us food vouchers to use while we lived at the airport for the day. Around 1900-2000 we were wandering around the airport planning our next moves. We watched our departure time extend later and later. We checked the announcements on their website giving us worse and worse updates. We would not be flying tonight for whatever multitude of reasons from landing restrictions to weather on the East coast. Eventually, an announcement over the intercom - easily missed if you weren't listening for it, which did happen with some folks. We scurried over to the transfer center to wait in a line. They were providing hotels for the night.

We might have gotten one of the last hotel rooms at the hotel attached to the airport. You can just walk inside to get to it. I watched someone come around speaking in Dutch (?) to each employee. I gathered from the expressions and gesturing that they had run out of rooms at the hotel. Luckily we got in just under the limit, because the next day I found out some folks were staying at another hotel where you had to take a taxi. Because of the lack of consistent, clear, or any information - some had been reluctant to leave the airport and just decided to sleep at the terminal rather than taxi to a hotel. It was a nice hotel, nicer than any we had gotten for ourselves on the trip. They told us to call a number in the morning if we weren't getting info. Did not tell us what time, just 'in the morning.' None of the options on that number was the right one. I waited probably up to an hour for that line to get me to a person, eventually giving up.

They claimed bad weather on the East Coast for the delays and cancellations, but we suspect they were just trying to cover themselves so their bad weather insurance could kick in. Weather on the East coast was fine and clear at that time. And the route could have gone around or well over it. I could believe the delays and cancellations from days ago had continued to stack up and roll over, but I found it hard to believe the lack of communication and seemingly missing contingency plan.

At breakfast the next morning (that the hotel provided), it was just all of us passengers between a rock and a hard place. We had started to recognize who was in our 'boat' so to say. Folks exchanging theories, frustrations, plans - should we go into the city, should we not?, should we check out, should we not?... A group of bros got someone on the phone - they had figured out you get someone faster if you just press the handicap assistance button - they ran out of complaints and questions but still were reluctant to let the representative go because it was so difficult to make contact.

They would inform us to check for more info at 15-30 minute, eventually 2 hour increments, with the new info being to check again later. This practice would be the normal protocol. On the check-in boards, it would say to check for new info at 09:00, 09:00 rolls around and new info would not come out until 09:30 probably. And it would just say to check again at 11:00, and then it would say to check at 13:00, and then 15:00. Online it showed our flight would be 09:00 8 Jan 2018. With each new update, that flight would get pushed later and later until eventually it would say 15:00 8 Jan 2018. A referred to it as waterboarding. We were essentially kept hostage at the airport check-in counter, making friends with others on our flight waiting for meal vouchers or real news. At some point, somebody said they had been told we wouldn't fly out until Wednesday morning. Some folks were just making connections in Copenhagen, but were reluctant to go out to see the city for fear of missing news or the flight. It was sunny and clear that day, the first day we saw sunny and clear skies since we had left California.

We needed an aircraft, and this is what we suspect, because our original aircraft had departed for LAX the night before empty. We suspect our aircraft was supposed to come from LAX, but it had departed 6 hrs late and would arrive late to Copenhagen (which was true, it landed at 20:45). And by the time it would have landed, changed over, and departed, such a late departure would not get us to LAX in time to comply with the landing restrictions, so they said. I checked the website in the middle of the night, and it did indicate that our aircraft had departed at 23:45. There were no passengers on that plane, we were all sleeping at the airport or the hotel. We suspect they needed that plane at LAX to depart for Rome on time the next day. Rather than go through the change over and load us passengers, they just turned back around. So the next day they were scrambling trying to find an empty aircraft that needed to be at LAX.

Around 13:00 when no new info came out, everyone gathered around check-in like an angry mob might back when stoning was still a thing. They would have likely had flaming torches and pitchforks as they took turns lobbing complaints that were more or less repeats of the last one to the representatives from a contracted company working at the Norwegian desk to check in folks that had actual flights going elsewhere. I think I saw someone walk by with a walkie-talkie call security. They were there shortly to quell the impending riot.

Around 14:00, a representative came out to announce they had procured an aircraft for us coming from Barcelona and we would be scheduled to depart 19:15 that day, 7 Jan 2018. Wamos Air would operate our flight home to LAX. It was one of those giant 2 story planes. We checked in around 16:00 and twiddled our thumbs waiting for boarding. I was incredibly anxious because I felt like at any moment, they could again tell us we were grounded for the night. Someone else was saying that back at the hotel, they were being told that half of the passengers were staying another night and half were flying to LAX. Thus ensuing a mad dash of angry and confused passengers to the check-in counter after also being checked in to a hotel room for the night. Fortunately, everyone had a seat on that plane. Again, misinformation.

Everyone was waiting outside the gate, several times they were told to sit down because anxiety and impatience will get folks to queue up. I looked nervously out the window at our aircraft. They were loading catering, which was a good sign, but it was like a ghost town out there otherwise. There was no luggage getting driven around, no one manhandling the bags, no ground crew with the glowing sticks indicating direction. Nothing was happening. Eventually, security showed up - which I did not take to be a good sign, because I suspected they were there in case of riot when we were given bad news. Around 21:00, we were given the good news that we would be boarding. Each step I was still in disbelief that we would make it home. We sat on the tarmac for what felt like forever. I was watching the crew for any indications that we might all be deplaning. So close and yet so far.

We were told that the ground crew was loading the bags. Even when we pulled away from the gate I was so nervous. We rolled so slowly along the tarmac and stopped so long for what I suspect was deicing. A huge sigh of relief and round of applause resounding through the plane when we finally took off at around 23:45. I wonder if the crew knew of our long and storied journey to get to LAX. Touchdown was probably among the smoothest I've ever experienced. I guess we would see what 'landing restrictions' there are that they spoke of yesterday. It was such a relief when we landed at 01:45 8 Jan 2018. A and I had no checked bags and global entry, so we easily breezed through security and customs. We had never so much appreciated the stale and smoggy air of Los Angeles after a light and long overdue rain. We went to bed around 03:30, happy to be in bed. We thought of some of the folks we had met who were likely spending another night at an airport waiting for their next flight in the morning.

For some folks, Copenhagen was just supposed to be a layover. For some folks LAX was not even their home destination. I was pleased we chose a direct flight home, and we had never been so grateful to live adjacent to a major airport. And this has only reinforced our reluctance to book flights with layovers. Also, incredibly grateful for friends that will pick us from the airport at 2AM!

I guess moral of the story, you get what you pay for with Norwegian. Also, there is some EU law that you are entitled to up to 600 euros for flights that are delayed more than 3 hours. We'll see what happens.

best,
jt





Friday, January 5, 2018

travel itinerary

Ahoy,

Forgot to post this, really it's for posterities sake:

Dec 26 Oakland --> London
Dec 30 London --> Brussels
Jan 2 Brussels --> Amsterdam
Jan 4 Amsterdam --> Copenhagen
Jan 6 Copenhagen --> Los Angeles

best,
jt

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

late summer family road trip

Ahoy,

Over Labor Day weekend, in my never-ending quest to see more of Michigan, I arranged a family road trip to Holland, MI. It's a little town known for it's early Dutch settlers. Car 1 held K, Z, A, and me. Car 2 held my mom, dad, aunt, and cousin. We stopped at Warren Dunes State Park for a hike, which turned out to be much more of a crawl through the sand dunes. My mom invited her sister and our cousin. They didn't know what they were in for.

The sand dunes along the Michigan adjacent shore of Lake Michigan are unlike terrain you will find across the way in Chicago. These were proper hills that set you back with every step. Slogging up the sand was a struggle. You could see the skyline of Chicago from the top. I chose a hike that took us up and down some dunes in a forested area. There were really sandy parts and some more dirt lined paths. We haven't really encountered any hikes like that elsewhere. The loop back took us along the beach. Some folks said that was their highlight. My highlight was seeing my aunt struggling along. At one point she lost her phone in the sand. She was sliding down on her butt, because it was so much steeper than she was comfortable with. I still remember the way my dad laughed when she realized she had lost her phone. I don't think we've ever heard him laugh so raucously.

We went to New Holland Brewery for dinner. A turned out to be familiar with the brand and is a big fan of their dragon's milk. It's actually a pretty well known brewery we had all had before. We all got flights that I'm pretty sure filled us up more than the food did. We got my dad a flight, but he really only likes Tsingtao. What a trooper. It started to rain and we were seated outside, all the staff scrambled to get everyone under covered sections.

When we were kids, my parents took us on a family vacation every summer. We went to Wisconsin, Florida, Boston, California, etc. And then our summers filled up with school things. In retrospect, it was really remarkable that they were able to make arrangements for our trips given that there was no internet or google maps and they had limited English proficiency. Now the tables our turned, because it's up to me and my brother to arrange the logistics for all our trips and they just follow along. I hope it's less stressful for them that way, but it's also nice to be able to provide the 'service' for them. At some point we were kids and they wanted to show us the world, so to say, now it's me who wants to show them what's out there.

best,
jt

Thursday, November 30, 2017

some things I missed

Ahoy,

In September, it was coastal clean-up day. It's a nation wide, maybe world wide event? I managed to wrangle A into volunteering with me. Luckily, the Ballona Creek entrance is near us - so we were able to roll out of bed and walk to our site. It was fun to do something right in our neighborhood. We collected over 300 cigarette butts. I witnessed a dad with his sons chatting about sports while they cleaned, lots of families. That's the dream! I would like to one day have a family of little liberals to volunteer for coastal cleanup day. That would be delightful. And A can talk about sports to them, because we all know I'm not interested.

Camping season started with a trip up to Morro Bay. Many folks regard summer as camping season, but summers here are too hot and crowded for my taste. We had stopped through the area before on our way to or from places, and stayed in a hotel once. This time we relished in our site by the water. Each morning the mist would roll out leaving our tent drippy. We picked up oysters from the shop to grill at our campsite. In conclusion, it is still a lot more worthwhile to buy them already grilled. The campsite allows trailers and hook-ups. We were appalled when we first arrived and we could only hear the hum of all the vehicles around us. Fortunately, everyone was prompt in observing the posted quiet hours.

A's folks met us for a day. Kudos to them for making a day trip out of it! We did some touristy stuff stopping at the museums and reading informational placards, going on a hike or two. It was a really good day to be outside. We always go to the same place for oysters and other accoutrements. Tognazinni's is no frills, great outdoor seating on the water, with live music. It's further from the other throngs of tourists. I don't think we'll ever go anywhere else. 

We had some back to back camping reservations in October. And we ended up going with the same group of people. Great group of friends. We went to Joshua Tree one weekend. It was about time because A and I had never been. Our campsite was spacious, but especially because our neighbors never showed up. This turned out to be more of a climbing trip. S brought a bunch of her gear to teach us how to crack climb. I did my best to avoid using the cracks, much to her dismay. We ended up staying at the crag. Honestly it was too hot in the sun for me to have fun on a hike. The weather was really so nice. It was perfect. I was apprehensive about the desert. It's kind of my nightmare. But the weather turned out really great. We went on a hike on our way out the second day. And stopped at mama's lu on the way home. We returned to 100 degree weather in LA. We were better off in the desert.

The following weekend we had reservations for Yosemite. The site was incredibly luxurious in that it was giant. Our neighbors were so far. It was quiet and uncrowded; I would book that site again. This was originally intended to be a climbing trip with some other friends. And A went with them to climb, but I was able to get on a hike with another group in Tuolumne Meadows. After some runaround trying to figure out if the road was open, we were finally on our way. The hike was snow covered the whole way. It was gorgeous. It was also treacherous because none of us had proper shoes to plod in the snow without getting wet. We all had wet shoes by the end. It was well worth it. The lake at the end was such a nice site for lunch. A says I would have been so displeased if I had stayed with the boys to climb. We left for home first thing the next day with our hearts full. I was so delighted with the weather. We stopped at Bravo Farms for BBQ and to visit the alpaca, sheepies, chickens, etc. It's a great stop for the whole family.

best,
jt



Monday, November 20, 2017

NOLA

Ahoy,

There are not a lot of things more thrilling is discovering a place for the first time. The RRS went to New Orleans for work, and I got to tag along. He requested a hotel in the French Quarter so that I could freely explore. Their work is somewhere in Mississippi, but a little less than an hour's drive away. He only this time realized it is in Mississippi; he thought it was in New Orleans for a while.

My airplane landed early so I was able to catch the bus to get to our hotel. The bus driver was very nice and gave me very specific instructions for how to get to my hotel. The hotel we stayed at had this social hour thing to provide snacks and drinks every night. We developed a routine of getting to the hotel, drinking and eating before going out for dinner. I usually arrived between 5-6 after a day of exploring, and A and his co-worker arrived between 6-7.

My first day I spent walking around the French Quarter inquiring about ghost stories and admiring architecture. I went on tours of the 1814 House, Herman-Grimma House and Beauregard-Keyes House. I went to all the visitor centers, in addition to a police station. The city has so much history. It is so different there. NOLA was French then Spanish and French owned again before being purchased by the US, and it is still very evident the European influence. The architecture is so unique and interesting. My obsession with shotgun houses led me wandering into the adjacent Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. The density of Victorian architecture is also easy to admire. That neighborhood is little more residential, but also industrial further along the waterfront into Crescent Park. River access is not as much of a highlight as I've seen in other cities; much of it is not open for public viewing.

My second day, I got on the streetcar to City Park. I realized the streetcar is not something you rely on if you are in a hurry. I wasn't, so it was really a great experience for me. City Park is about 1300 acres, which is ginormous. I only saw a small part of it. I walked over to the art museum. I don't like art museums, so I walked through the sculpture garden instead. I made my way over to the oak meadow. City Park has the nation's largest and oldest oak grove, some of the trees might be 600 years old. They are quite magnificent. Park attendants were dressing the trees up for the holidays. I spent some time in the Botanic Gardens. On my way out I admired the dueling tree, where folks used to duel and settle disagreements back in the day. Back on the streetcar, I took it all the way to the end of the line to take the ferry across the river to Algiers. Algiers is the only portion of land across the river that is still considered New Orleans. It was pretty quiet and sleepy over there, but again I wandered around looking for shotgun houses.

With my final full day, I walked to the Garden District, and later took the streetcar back. NOLA has the nation's oldest fully functional streetcar system. This neighborhood is known for it's giant Victorian houses. It was developed after the Louisiana Purchase for the affluent Anglo-Americans that were moving there from up north. Opulence and luxury would be great ways to describe this neighborhood. I made my way back towards the French Quarter to explore Louis Armstrong Park and Treme.

We stopped at Cafe du Monde at least 3 times. I really do think they are better than the ones at Disneyland; I think they must fry at a different temperature. We got oysters most nights and got to try mostly everything iconically cajun/creole. And we definitely drank more than we would on a typical week. Service was great, and everybody was generally really nice. The tourists age demographic was mostly older and no very diverse, which was surprising.

New Orleans is a much better version of Vegas in some respects, maybe the spirit of debauchery was what Vegas was trying to capture. NOLA has much more depth and history and meaning behind everything. Even mardi-gras traditions seem to have significance in a way Vegas partying never will. Bourbon Street, although incredibly popular, is probably the worst face that New Orleans wears. There is so much more to the city beyond that street. New Orleans has so much culture and history and is such a unique part of America. I learned a lot of things about a new place- which was really satisfying as an explorer. A was at work all the days, so he didn't really get to venture away from the French Quarter during our nightly jaunts out for dinner. So maybe one day, we will have to return for me to be his tour guide!

trouncingly ebullient,
jt







Thursday, July 6, 2017

Seattle in the summer

Ahoy,

Finally, I have caught up on the events up to this past weekend. We were super duper excited for this weekend. H and O prepared a fantastic itinerary. We flew in on a Thursday evening. And met up with E for dinner. We went to a good thai place that A was scared would be vegan. He was thinking we were going to get BBQ. Foiled once again!

We went home to prepare for the next days' activities. On Friday morning, we drove onto a ferry!! I was super thrilled to do this. It was so exciting! I was so inexplicably excited. We got off in Bremerton to pick up provisions. With a car packed full of stuff, we continued onto Olympic National Forest/ Park. I wasn't sure where the lines were drawn. We hiked Mt. Townsend. It was about 8 miles roundtrip with about 3,000 foot elevation gain. We could see Seattle from the top, and on our way down we realized we could see Seattle for a lot of the way up. Our sandwiches were the perfect accompaniment for the journey. There was snow at the top, which I was thrilled about. We had moderate cloud cover for a lot of the parts that mattered. We couldn't have hoped for better weather.

We stopped in Port Angeles for a meal that was pricier than it was worth. By the time we arrived at the log cabin resort, there was still some daylight left. But it would have been nice to have arrived earlier. And I was glad we were able to catch the 8:30 ferry. Timing worked out very well for us. The log cabin had a downstairs and a loft and a spectacular view of the lake. It is very similar to my dream home of a shotgun house with a loft. O & H very kindly let us have the upstairs, which I was so incredibly stoked for. This experience was by all definitions glamping. There was a shower with hot water. They provided towels and all the accoutrements of a hotel. There was a community fire ring we used to make our own campfire. It was a great evening. Breakfast outside overlooking the lake was so nice.

We did a short hike to Marymere Falls before turning back for home. We also stopped in Poulsbo to see the cute little Dutch themed town and for some beer and games. We took the same ferry back. Again, I was so inexplicably excited to drive our car onto the ferry. Must do! We picked up pizza and watched a movie back at home. It was such a perfect and fun trip to the Olympics!

The following day we got to see H crush at Potlatch, a tournament-like event for ultimate frisbee. And we got to go to the flagship REI. You can never have enough time at the flagship REI. I could spend a whole day there. Also, we got Ezell's for dinner. What a great day!

The next day was another lazy day of sorts as we got a pretty late start to the climbing gym. Afterwards we made our way to Georgetown and Costco. Also, another mundane thing I was super excited to do. O and A grilled some salmon while the girls supervised. It was really good. We watched some tv until it was time to play Carcassonne. This was yet another late night.

On Tuesday morning, we lazed around some more until we left to get food and laze around the house on the patio some more. The weather was so, so perfect. Perfect lazy weekend vibes. It was such a shame to leave Seattle.

disparately timed,
jt