Passover celebration 4/1/18

Since we just have gotten back from our Italy trip and there are engagement conflicts for the first two nights of Passover, we have our Seder on third night of Passover, April 1. I always enjoy preparing the food and getting the table ready.

Table setting

Jonathan and Ryan with the kids and Ryan’s sister arrive at 4 PM. The first order of business is some picture taking!

Seder crew

Beeba and Zayde with Nathan and Sam

Back in the house Nathan arranges the 10 plagues on the mantle while Sam directs the action by looking up the plagues on his laptop.

Nathan positioning the plagues with Ryan

Sammy directing the action from the computer

Perfect!

Now it is time to get down to serious Seder business.

Everyone at the table

Jonathan washing his hands while Nathan holds the bowl of water. Sam off camera has the towel.

Sam does a superb job with the Four Questions

Nathan dipping parsley in the salt water

For dinner we have grilled lamb…

Yummy mashed potatoes…

And asparagus.

Sarah’s homemade macaroons for dessert!

We finish up the evening with some hearty “pouring out of wrath” and many songs. This is our best Seder yet!

Final vacation day. 3/27/18

We have one last spectacular sight to see, the Monreale Cathedral. It is the best of all the mosaic-decorated churches rolled into one.  It was begun in 1174 by William II. From top to bottom it is full of glittering mosaics on gold backgrounds.

We leave the hotel in Palermo in the morning and make our way up the steep mountain to Monreale. I must give John a shout-out for a great driving job throughout our trip. He has negotiated the traffic, the narrow roads, the unpredictable driving habits of Italians, and my navigation without getting ruffled. While it is possible to see many of the sights we saw during our trip by public transportation, having a car gives you the flexibility to go a little off the beaten path and set your own schedule and agenda. After we see the Monreale Cathedral we will drive to the Palermo airport and say arrividerci to the car and Sicily.

Following are a bunch of pictures of the Monreale Cathedral. It is so huge that taking pictures is hard and enlarging them afterwards often makes them a bit fuzzy with dulled colors. In order to make sense of the visual onslaught we rented an audio tour to help us.

Monreale Cathedral

Close up of apse

Mary among angels and apostles

The Last Supper

Noah’s ark

The betrayal

Back wall

Biblical stories are told everywhere!

Now we need to kill some time before our flight to Rome. What better way than by having a leisurely lunch at Taverna del Pavone, a restaurant we have eaten at in the past.  As usual we start with salads and them move on to a main course.

Mary – tagliatelle with boar ragu

Sarah – spaghetti with bottarga

John inexplicably orders a plate of chicken. Perhaps he is pining for home.

Goodbye, Sicily

We fly to Rome and spend the night at an airport hotel. In the morning we make our way to London and then the long flight to SFO.

No matter how many times we have been to Italy, I am always looking forward to the next trip. See you in December, Italy!

 

Palermo, Day 2. 3/26/18

We have a lot scheduled today to make up for losing a day yesterday. We start by walking through an outdoor market on the way to the Palermo Cathedral. Sicily has fertile, volcanic soil and a great climate for growing everything. On the sides of the road and between sidewalk slabs there is fennel growing! Also, being an island, Sicily has wonderful fish and shellfish.

A type of cauliflower, artichokes, fennel fronds, and more

Fish and squid

Cuttlefish

We round a cornier and see the very Norman looking towers of the cathedral. They look a lot like the towers we saw in Cefalu.

Towers of the Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral is a mash up of building styles from different ages. It was begun in the 12th century but not finished until the 18th century.

Palermo Cathedral

The beautiful portico on the front hails from around 1500.

Portico entrance to the Palermo Cathedral

Inside any of the older components have been redecorated away. The most interesting thing is the meridian or solar observatory. A small hole was made in a minor dome and the image of the sun is projected on the floor. With this device they were able to fix the time of  the vernal equinox and to provide the correct date for Easter. The signs of the zodiac are a part of the instrument. Of course I take a picture of my sign, Sagittarius.

Solar observatory

My sign, Sagittarius

Lots of church helpers are scurrying around getting the church ready for Easter. We see a guy on a ladder with a long pole shining up some of the decorations.

Man on ladder attending to shining up decorations for Easter

From here we walk to the Palace of the Normans. Much like the Palermo Cathedral it is a building that was added to over the centuries starting with the Emir of Palermo in the 800’s. The building is the oldest royal residence in Europe, the home of the rulers of the Kingdom of Sicily and imperial seat of Frederick II and Conrad IV. But what everyone comes to see is the Palatine Chapel added by King Roger II in 1132. The chapel is a mosaic jewel with influences from Arabic, Byzantine, and Norman architecture and art.

Sarah in the gardens in front of the palace

 

Palatine Chapel

Back wall – Jesus with Peter and Paul

Creating Adam

Creating Eve (on the right)

St. Paul hiding in a basket

Islamic wall decoration

Hipster lion

Noah’s Ark

Every inch of the Palatine Chapel is decorated with sparkling mosaics. The mosaics were made in the 12th century but they look like they could have been created yesterday.

We look around the rest of the building which is interesting but really takes a backseat to the chapel with the exception of King Roger II’s Hall which is interestingly mosaiced with each mosaic being a mirror image.

Mirror-imaged mosaics in King Roger’s Hall in the Norman Palace, Palermo

Time for lunch! It is hard to escape the “tourist special” kind of restaurant when you are in this section of the old city. We finally decide on Antica Trattoria mostly because they did not accost us as we walk down the street. The lunch is so-so. After seeing the tremendous amount of pasta in a serving I decide on pizza – bad choice. Sarah’s lunch turns out best. She has cacio e pepe.

Sarah’s cacio e pepe

My not-so-good pizza margarita. John’s pizza was about the same except with pepperoni

After lunch we head to Martorana, another church with mosaics. Since no one has checked to see when it is open, we find that it is closed until 3:30 PM. I am somewhat annoyed that my companions never take the initiative to find out when things are open. I have left the planning of the day to them and now we are stuck with over two hours to kill. We stop at the Liberty Bar and Sarah and I have an afigato which is espresso with vanilla gelato. John has a caffe corretto which is espressos with grappa.

Afigato – we should have ordered the espresso and gelato separately because the gelato was a tiny scoop and melted too quickly

Since we cannot figure out how to kill the two hours left, we decide to go back to the hotel for a little rest. I decide to opt out of the long walk back to the church. I have seen it once before and my knee needs a rest. Sarah and John go and have brought back pictures of this little church which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and built in the mid-12th century.

Exterior of the Martorana

Church interior overview

Nativity scene mosaic

Mary death with Jesus carrying her soul to heaven

St. Joachim, Mary’s father

St. Anne, Mary’s mother

Dome mosaic

Two angels

Jesus crowning Roger II

All the buildings we have seen today are part of the same UNESCO World Heritage site that includes the Cefalu Cathedral. Tomorrow we will see the Monreale Cathedral which is the biggest example of this confluence of Byzantine, Norman, and Islamic art and architecture.

For dinner tonight we are going to Sapurito, Cucina Povera e Pizza. It belongs to the Slow Food Movment. We last ate at one of these restaurants in Pompeii . We hope this one will be as good. Turns out later I have some horrible distress from something I have eaten but I cannot say which of today’s foods is to blame.

We share an appetizer of fried artichoke

John has grilled squid that he really likes

Mary has involtini of veal (I think)

Sarah has an ancient grain pizza with pine nuts

We share a small dessert

Tomorrow (Tuesday) we are off to nearby Monreale to see the fabulous cathedral and then we head to the Palermo airport for a flight to Rome. On Wednesday we take the long flights home.

Hanukkah. 12/19/2017

This evening we celebrate the last night of Hanukkah with cookies, candles, and latkes.  John buys six giant potatoes which we decide to use three of and makes 17 latkes! He has his frying station at on the back patio to minimize the mess and does a great job.  They are so delicious! Plus Sarah has made Norwegian drommer cookies and Monrovian spice cookies.

Sarah and I take some of the latkes to our neighbor next door. She gives them rave reviews!

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah candles lit and Sarah’s Norwegian drommer cookies

John making latkes

Latke and cookies

The Birthdays. 12/8-9/2017

Wow, the first time George and I celebrated our birthdays together I was 29 and here it is 40 years later. We are not so spry now but we always manage to have a good time. This year’s Birthdays celebration takes us to Little River, CA. We are staying at the Little River Inn and will also dine there.

On the way up we stop at Healdsburg for lunch at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill. It has food that everyone should like. They are especially known for their burgers. Karen and George opt for a cheese burger while John and I try the veggie burger. I am still trying to stay on my vegan before six diet. The veggie burger comes with a load of feta cheese so I dutifully scrape it off.

Veggie burger at Healdsburg Bar and Grill

The drive out to Little River is beautiful and we pass through redwood forests with their deep shade and ferns abounding. Along the way we stop at Goldeneye Winery for a little tasting. For $15 we get a seated tasting with some nibbles and seven different wines. This is so much better than Napa where you have to pay $50 just to walk through the door!

John, Karen, and George at Goldeneye Winery

We reach our hotel and our rooms are pretty far apart. George needs a disability room and our room is on the second floor of a building on the other side of the complex. The room itself is pretty spartan for the price but has a nice porch and view. We are greeted by a seagull sitting on the railing who does not seem to be afraid of people.

View from our room with seagull

Sunset over the Pacific

We meet for dinner to celebrate my birthday. The food is pretty mediocre but we have a great time nonetheless.

John and I at the restaurant

After breakfast at the hotel the next morning we are off to celebrate George’s birthday. We decide to go to a few wineries for tastings and find lunch somewhere.

A beautiful clear day in the 60’s awaits us

One of the wineries we stop at is Greenwood Ridge Vineyards

They have some veryf friendly ducks!

While John and George peruse the menu of wines WE CAN TASTE FOR FREE I spin the wheel and hit the jackpot – 45% off a case of wine! We decide to split a case. My birthday celebration is going along great!

Jackpot!

After visiting three places we find a place for lunch. Stone and Embers is a great choice with a wood fired pizza oven. The oven is so hot that it cooks the pizza really fast and the crust comes out wonderfully cooked with a little char. We sit at the counter and George has fun schmoozing with the owner/chef.

Our pizza puffing up in the oven

Yum! Supposedly the sausage is from a turducken

Since the food in the restaurant is only meh we decide to have dinner in the bar. We have a lot of fun. George has found someone who is also celebrating his birthday and we get a rousing chorus of happy birthday with our dessert course.

Me with John and George

The next day we ride down the coast towards home stopping in Point Arena for breakfast. I love our Birthday celebrations and this has been a great one.

Birthday Eve – 12/7/2017

Since I am going to be away for my birthday, Sarah has made me my birthday confection a day early. I have my choice between pretzel rolls and Dugan coffee cake (Swedish Tea Ring.) Such a hard choice!! Ultimately I go with the coffee cake because it is so delicious and brings back memories of being a kid again.

Dugan Bakery style coffee cake

Inside there are swirls of almond paste, almonds, raisins, and cinnamon

I just cannot help myself and eat three pieces, two with butter! We are off on our birthdays adventure tomorrow so I tell her she can have the rest for her and her friends. A real sacrifice!!!

Thanksgiving, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!! We are having the feast at our house and expecting 10 people. In addition to us and Sarah, there is Jon, Ryan, Nathan, Sam, and Leigh, plus Rose and John Henderson.  John and I have been cooking for days and things go along pretty smoothly. We have one disaster dish, butternut squash with bacon and sage. The squash tastes terrible and we throw it out. Our only other hitch comes when John puts the turkey in the oven not realizing that I had turned the oven off. Turns out that we only need to slip the schedule 30 minutes.

Jonathan brings a broccoli dish and sauteed kale. Ryan brings cranberry sauce. Leigh contributes homemade Chex Mix for before-sies. Rose makes four pies – strawberry rhubarb, pumpkin, mincemeat, and chocolate chess. Sarah also makes dessert, our family favorite, Indian pudding. I think we have enough desserts.

Nathan has made a Lego diorama of aliens at the first Thanksgiving and Sam brings along placecards. Everybody is taking part this year.

Here are some pictures –

Table

Indoor decorations

Outdoor decorations

Nathan’s LEGO depiction of the first alien Thanksgiving

John’s innovation for keeping stemless glasses identified – peelable vinyl stickers (like Color-Forms)

Sam and Leigh pick out stickers for their glasses while “Gramps Henderson” looks on

John and Jonathan

Jon and mom

Sam’s place card for Beeba, a bee saying baaaa

Zayde gets a hissing snake

John and Sarah waiting for their turn at the buffet

Nathan and Sam picking out their favorites

Leigh and Rose in line

Jonathan with his plate

I only took a spoonful of each, except the onions, and my plate is so full!

Nathan, Ryan, and Sam enjoying dinner

Uh-oh Sam is getting tired. Time for dessert!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quick trip to St. George – November 5-17, 2017

Since the weather looks pretty fabulous in St. George and we will not be able to sneak in a trip in December, John and I decide on the spur of the moment to make our way to St. George.

I think the biggest difference in this trip is that I am trying Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six, a new way of thinking about how you eat and the impact you can have on the environment. So most of this post will be about new dishes I am trying out. In addition to shopping and eating John and I manage to get in some tennis every other day until my back just says, Enough!

First, finding decent vegan food on the road is not an easy task. Using YELP! We stop at Hummus Express in Bakersfield. The food is pretty oily but tasty.

Looking out at the golden hills and aqueduct along I-5. We are eager for rain.

Stopping at Hummus Express in Bakersfield, I order hummus with pita and tabbouleh

Mostly my days in St. George are vegan for breakfast and lunch and whatever for dinner but occasionally I manage to construct an entire vegan day. Some dishes I made –

Lunch – Spaghetti with vegetgables

Lunch – Root vegetable soup with tofu cubes dusted with flaxseed

Dinner – chickpea stew with ditalini and greens

Time for an white egret break!

Cauliflower soup for lunch

The unattractive parsley soup that I tried to make more palatable with the addition of carrots

The days pass by quickly and we need to get home for Thanksgiving so face the challenge of finding better food on the road. Eureka! We find an excellent Mediterrean restaurant, Mr. Kabob, in Barstow. It is kind of a hole in the wall but has some excellent dishes.

At Mr. Kabob’s in Barstow I have excellent eggplant with peppers and onions, roasted tomato, and green rice.

So many tomatoes!!! October 21, 2017

While we have been away in St. George Sarah and her tomato plants have been busy. There are so many tomatoes!!! Even though the tomatoes are getting a bit long in the tooth they are still busily making tomatoes. Sarah is making sauce and we are eating them like crazy before they start to spoil.

Plates full of tomatoes from Sarah’s garden

September 24, 2017 – Rosh Hashanah Seder

What do I mean a Rosh Hashanah Seder? Isn’t a Seder just for Passover? That’s what I thought too until I ran across an article about these Seders which are part of the Persian (and others) celebration.

It is mostly a celebration highlighting various foods which have pun-ish meanings in Hebrew and Aramaic. So the idea is to say a bunch of blessings over a variety of food while at the same time using the food names in puns. Sounds like it is right up our alley.

The traditional foods on the Seder plate are carrots, black-eyed peas, beets, dates, apples, squash, pomegranate seeds, leeks, and a ram’s head. Since Raley’s is not carrying ram’s head we substituted heads of garlic. It is easy to make puns about beets, dates, squash, and leek!

Seder plate full of pun-ish foods

A challah I made. We all tried blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) after dinner to much hilarity.

John lighting candles

Our dinner of Autumn Soup and black-eyed peas with squash and pomegranate seeds

SHANA TOVAH!!!

August 20, 2017 – Traffic and bad food

Headed part way home today. The traffic was pretty bad. I guess because of the eclipse tomorrow. It takes over an hour to cross the border and after that we average about 40 mikes an hour. It will probably be much worse tomorrow we will just be patient. We have a lot of podcasts to listen to.

Welcome home!

Picture of a faint Mt. Rainier

Finally reaching Chehalis, WA we check-in around 3PM and take a rest and look through our mail and catch up on news. We find a place, Jeremy’s Farm to Table Restaurant, with fairly good ratings so we decide to give it a try. It is terrible. It starts out with a basket of bread you have to buy for $6! I figure it will be pretty special but it arrives and appears to be several slices of commercially cut bread. They serve a slicing knife with it. I have no idea what for.

$6 bread

We both order the Arctic char which comes with seasonal vegetables and the Chef’s “surprise” starch. The vegetables are cold, not even room temperature. The surprise starch is a surprise indeed. It is mashed potatoes with brown gravy. The potatoes and some kind of packet mystery gravy are not reasonable accompaniments to fish. The skin on my fish is flabby and I swallow a bone. What a terrible dinner!

Arctic char with flabby skin and the odd bone, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and cold vegetables

 

August 19, 2017 – Impressionism

First, a very happy birthday to my sister, Peggy, who is a year older today!

On our last sightseeing day of our vacation we visit the Vancouver Art Gallery and revisit Maenam, our favorite Thai restaurant. Pretty nice way to wrap things up! I am not a big fan of the Impressionists although I do confess to a schoolgirl’s crush on Seurat’s Pointellism when I saw his paintings at the National Gallery on my eighth grade trip. Now I prefer the somewhat cartoonish 14th and 15th century saints carrying their attributes. But here in Vancouver there is a Monet exhibition and I am interested in seeing it.

I find that I like his earlier works that they have here. Such as Snow Effect: Sunset, 1875 and Train in the Snow, 1875. Some of the later pieces are less appealing.

Snow Effect: Sunset, 1875

Train in the Snow, 1875

To me his later paintings exhibited here from around 1918 seem wild and unfinished but maybe it is because the colors are so garish next to the earlier gauzy paintings. Monet was always trying to catch the effect of fleeting light so maybe this is what it looked like to him in the height of summer when his eyesight was failing. Or maybe he was trying to push the envelope of art a little further.

Japanese Bridge, 1918

Some of the water lily paintings and earlier garden pictures are on display as well. We attend a short movie of an art critic discussing Monet’s works at different points in his life. It is very interesting.

Water lilies

A series of pictures of wisteria

Taking a Walk in Argenteuil, 1875

So I come away with a better appreciation of Monet’s development and obsession with light.

We return to the hotel to get organized for our start home tomorrow and to spruce up for our dinner at Maenam which is at 6 PM tonight.

Our dinner is great, better than Thursday’s. We get a free glass of champagne to have with our amuse bouche because John tells them we are celebrating our anniversary which is only a sort of half truth. The guys sitting next to us give us their unfinished bottle of wine for our “celebration” and what with the wine that comes with the meal we are well supplied!

Amuse Boucher tonight is tamarind/shrimp/peanuts on pineapple and salmon/roe/chilis on cucumber

We have the delicious mussels again tonight served with East Generation Dry Riesling

Also with the Dry Riesling is a much better rendition of the octopus salad

Delicious sable hot and sour soup, spicy!

The next two dishes are served with a Tantalus Juveniles Pinot Noir. First is a green beef curry

The other is a really yummy eggplant and pork belly stir fry

Chocolate ganache served with an Italian Moscato is for dessert

This is a wonderful ending to a really super summer road trip!

August 18, 2017 – Van Dusen Botanical Gardens, Vancouver, BC

We spend a lovely afternoon at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. We were last here in 2008. Although things do not change too much in the plant world, this place is always beautiful to see.

We are greeted by a pond, fountain, and water lilies

We head off to the rose garden. Even though it is late in the season, there are still quite a few roses. I even like the spent blooms, dropping their petals listlessly.

Best rose picture I took

My favorite – yellow roses

Did I mention that I love yellow roses?

Departing the rose garden, there are beautiful plant landscapes everywhere.

Some plants and flowers

I love how these bright yellow daisies are highlighted by both their own foliage and the large barberry behind them

There are all sorts of gardens here from all over the world. I am having trouble with my back and cannot see as much as I would have liked. Here are a few more special ones.

Artichoke thistle

Tansy

John walks over to the vegetable gardens while I sit a while on a bench and commune with nature.  The tomatoes here are way behind Sarah’s. She reports that we are overrun with tomatoes at home. I guess the almost thousand mile difference in location makes a big difference in the lives of these plants.

Still green tomatoes in BC

The restaurant, Shaughnessy, here at the gardens is open for lunch until 3 PM so we decide to have a late lunch and let it count for both lunch and dinner. We split an appetizer and an entree.

Calamari with olives, onions, fried capers and yogurt/mint sauce

Steelhead trout with a shrimp and rice cake, grilled tomatoes, asparagus and carrot/ginger sauce.

We have had a lovely day and it makes us happy!

Happy us!

August 16, 2917 – Gondola time

We have a lazy morning and head out to the gondolas around 11:30 in the morning. It is a pretty 20 minute walk to the gondolas.

Hanging flowers in a shopping area. The farmers’ market will be here later in the day

Covered bridge

Rushing creek

When we get to the gondola area it is packed full with mountain bikers of all ages and tents selling all sorts of bike paraphernalia. There are many signs which say, walk your bike!, but not many are paying attention. We run the gauntlet to the gondola.

There’s a bit of a wait for the gondola as some gondola cars are for bikers only. They and their bikes have to get up the mountain too!

Bikes in a gondola car

The views out the windows are incredible. I take a lot of pictures. It takes quite a while to get to the top of the mountain. Then we will take another gondola from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain.

We pass by part of the mountain biking route as we go up

Getting toward the top!

We get out and walk around for a bit. It is quite barren up here.

John meet bear

A look at nearby peaks

Now we get into the intimidating peak to peak gondola.

View down to Whistler and the lake

John looking out the gondola car window

Gondolas going by

Our plan is to take a look around, take some pictures, and have some lunch at the restaurant here at the top of the mountain.

John on Blackcomb Mountain with Whistler far below

Mary of the mountains

The restaurant includes a cafeteria style restaurant and one with table service. We choose Christine’s at Blackcomb Mountain and we are glad we did. We decide to share one appetizer and one entree. Both are great!

We start with hamachi with pickled grapes, olives, almonds, and grill shishito peppers

This burger is definitely big enough for two. It’s a Vietnamese pork burger with pickled vegetables. The bowl of root vegetable chips is really yummy.

After lunch we spot some wildlife – a hairy marmot

Then it’s back across and then down the Whistler Mountain again. After are walk back to the hotel we need some rest time. We decide against dinner and just have some snacks and wine and call it a night.

Great day in a beautiful place

August 15, 2017 – Through the burn to Whistler

It is still smoky in Kamloops in the morning. We ask at the desk and they say that the roads are open to Whistler. As we hit the highway there is a disturbing sign saying that the entrance to 99 from 97 is closed. That is the way we are going. Then there are no more signs so we take our chances and continue on. As it turns out we are allowed to proceed but only with a pilot car through the recently burned area.

I do not take any pictures until we are clear of the smoke. Everything is really hazy. Finally we get beyond the smoke area and we head to have some lunch in one of few towns that are on our route, Lillooet. Since we had such an abysmal experience trying local food yesterday we decide to go with generic fast food at A & W. One thing I can say about Canadians they are nice, polite, and helpful. (Maybe three things!) We tell the woman behind the counter what we want and she figures out how we can get it. Having an old time-y root beer is the frosting on the cake.

John enjoying an A & W root beer

The scenery on our rather long drive today is spectacular. There’s mountains, more turquoise lakes and rivers, and fast running creeks. We stop every once in a while to take pictures.

Beautiful Lake Seton

Waterfall

Mountain peaks

Rushing Cayoosh Creek

Finally after almost six hours we are getting closer to Whistler. The mountains are taller now and some are still snow covered.

Mountains with snow

After stopping for some iced coffee with about 30 minutes to go we reach Whistler. It is really busy! It seems that some big downhill mountain bike racing event is going on. We check into the Four Seasons Resort and are pleased with our room. It has room for sitting, blogging, and sleeping!

Sitting area of room

After a while of relaxing we opt not to eat at the fancy fine dining restaurant and opt for the bar where they have a smaller (and cheaper) menu. We order a charcouterie and cheese board and it is really good. Most of the sausages are made with duck or elk. One is flavored with juniper berries. It’s enough for dinner.

Cheese and charcouterie board

Tomorrow we will take the gondola up the mountain and then the peak to peak gondola to go near the top of Blackcomb Mountan. I am hoping I will not be freaked out by the heights.

August 13, 2017 – Into the Canadian Rockies

After spending an inordinate amount of time finding gas and somewhere for breakfast, we were finally on the road around 10:30 AM. This was supposed to be an early departure day since we wanted to go past Banff and see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake today. However, we’ve decided to push them off until tomorrow so that we can view them with fewer people early in the morning.

We have been on the prairie since Idaho and I am excited that today will feature terrain. It is a hazy morning so we do not see the Canadian Rocky Mountains until we get quite close and, wow, are they impressive – craggy limestone piercing the sky. I take some pictures from the car as we approach.

Canadian Rockies!

Getting closer to Banff

We are staying at the Moose Hotel. We check in early and they upgrade us to a suite, sweet! They have a moose statue out front.

John and moose 3

We walk to the local IGA and get some snacks that will take the place of lunch and some bagels and cream cheese for breakfast tomorrow and settle in to watch the Federer/Zverev match. Somewhere during the match Federer must have hurt his back or something because in the second set he is hardly trying. He loses. Boo.

It’s raining so we decide to stay in and relax. We are getting up early tomorrow so we need our energy. Later we go downstairs and eat at the hotel restaurant, Pacini, and have an okay meal. John has lasagna and I have penne primavera. They have this weird grill arrangement where you toast your own bread. Afterwards we come back to the room and I am now fighting with the internet to try to get my pictures uploaded but at this point it doesn’t look good.

Early Monday AM. – most people must still be asleep because I am able to upload the pictures.

John’s lasagna

My pasta primavera – more vegetables, less pasta, please!

 

 

August 12, 2017 – Drumheller, Alberta

We have based ourselves just northwest of Calgary which gives us flexibility in our sightseeing. Today we range about 130 kilometers to the northeast to learn about dinosaurs, mining, and the old Canadian West.

Yesterday I bought an app which gives us a tour of the area. We drive, we enjoy. We do not have to do anything. Our tour guide is synced with our GPS and just comes on with info when we need it. Seems to me my Trip-Tickle was supposed to work like this.

Here is what we are guided to –

Horseshoe Canyon. This is the type of banded rock we are going to see.

A typical rock full of inclusions

When we get to Drumheller we are directed to the Visitor’s Centre where we also see the world’s biggest dinosaur.

The world’s largest dinosaur evilly
stepping on someone’s pick-up truck

 

John and triceratops

From there we head out on the hoodoo trail. The places we go to either have s connection to mining or geology. Our first stop is at a suspension footbridge over the Red Deer River. This was used by miners who lived across the river from the mines.

Looking across the suspension bridge

View of the bridge from the side

Just like a Bryce Canyon NP there are hoodoos except that the colors tend to be the muted browns and cream of the surrounding countryside. We take a walk among the hoodoos.

Hoodoos!

Lone hoodoo

Hoodoo sentinels

Top of a hoodoo

OMG, an actual picture of me! (Unfortunately there is a big red blob over my face courtesy of the camera or the sun or something)

Then we drive along to the Atlas Coal Mine which is now a state historic site. It has a wooden tipple (coal sorter) and for $10 each we could go have a closer look but we decided we’ve seen enough coal mines during previous trips (which is why we know what a tipple is).

Banded hills as we ride along towards the Atlas Mine

 

Atlas Coal Mine

On the way back toward Drumheller we stop at the almost Ghost Town, Wayne. The only things in the town supposedly inhabited are the Rosedeer Hotel land the Last Chance Saloon. We walk through the saloon and the lobby of the hotel but find no ghosts so we continue on our way in search of lunch back in town.

Last Chance Saloon and Rosedeer Hotel in Wayne, Alberta

We understand that Tim Horton’s is the iconic lunch place in Canada. We’ve seen them everywhere. Much like poutine we have managed to avoid it so far but, seriously, it cannot be as bad as poutine (sounds). We thought it would be sort of like Denny’s but it is not. It is more like McDonald’s without hamburgers and fries. You order at a counter and pick up your food. I have a BLT on a untoasted French roll. John had a cold cut sandwich. The sandwiches are accompanied by soggy potato wedges. We won’t be going back.

 

Iconic Tim Horton’s

After lunch it is our plan to go to the Royal Tyrell Museum of Palaeontology. It seems half of Canada has the same plan so we decide to do the second half of our audio tour and come back later. This is the Dinosaur Loop but there was nothing about dinosaurs in the tour. First we went to Horsethief Canyon where, guess what, horse thieves used to hide their stolen horses, rebrand them, and then try to sell them. It is an overlook. We take some pictures.\

A view of Horsethief Canyon – I am standing on the edge here and the canyon is quite deep

View from the other side

Then we take a ferry (which the narrator keeps calling a fairy, annoyingly) that holds thirteen cars across the Red Deer River. The ferry is pulled across by a cable. It is named the Bleriot Ferry. The guy who it is named after is the brother of the more famous Bleriot who was the first person to fly solo across the English Channel. John remarked that he was wondering if they were related. I was more, “Bleriot, who?”

Our car getting on the ferry

Our car on the ferry. It was a very slow ride.

Our last stop is at the Orkney Viewpoint which is quite scenic and overlooks the canyon with the prairie stretching out beyond it.

Scenic look at the Red Deer River

Looking across the coulee to the prairie (the thin edge of yellow at the top of the picture)

We take another shot at the Tyrell Museum but there are no parking spaces. We give up and head back to the hotel where we watch some tennis and eat some dinner. Tomorrow we head to Banff. I am looking forward to terrain!

Our appetizer is drunken shrimp which is delicious. It is the best thing we have had here at the hotel restaurant

John has his old standby, Buffalo chicken wings and a salad

I have Chicken Tikka Masala with rice and naan (the naan is actually pita)

 

August 11, 2017 – Stampeding in Calgary

No post yesterday because we did nothing post worthy. We drove to Calgary and then watched tennis for the rest of the day. We needed a little vacation from our vacation. But here we are in Calgary and it is time to get going!

Calgary manhole featuring the Calgary skyline

Two nights ago we were talking with our server in Lethbridge and she was originally from Calgary.  She loves Calgary so much that she has an outline of the skyline of Calgary tattooed on the inside of her arm. That’s is true love.

Jordan’s Forearm or Calgary

Today we go to Calgary’s Heritage Park HIstorical Village where we can experience yesterday today.

John and sign

One of the first things we see is another moose! Jonathan has a picture of an actual moose that he met on a trail. But now we have two faux moose and John pictures.

John and moose

There are a lot of turn of the 20th century buildings here. Also a train and a paddle steamer. We plan on looking at some of the buildings, taking a train ride, and a boat ride, and watching a woodworking demonstration. First up the boat ride.

Replica of a paddle steamer from a lake in Canada

Sailboats out on the lake

A little while later after viewing the many train engines and cars that they have in their museum we board the train for two circuits around the park.

Train with man who just wouldn’t get out of the way

After walking around for more than three hours in the heat we decide to call it a day. We cannot wait to get back and take showers. For dinner we decide to just go down to the restaurant here and watch the tennis matches while we have dinner.

Appetizer of a stuffed pretzel that we shared

John’s Asian street tacos

I have a salad with tuna

August 9, 2017 – Seein’ the sights in Lethbridge, Alberta

We have a lazy morning not getting up until 7:00AM. After a leisurely breakfast we watch the Federer. V. Polanski match at Montreal. Very contrasting styles. Federer won easily, Yay!

Then we left for Fort Whoop-up which started life as a trading post. (Actually this is just a reproduction of the real fort/trading post which was a ways away and got washed away in a flood.) After an informational movie we walk around the site seeing the various artifacts and reading the placards. The main trading went this way – you give me a bison pelt and I will give you some flour and sugar, you give me two bison pelts and I will give you a gun. And of course they also traded whiskey which was lethal to the Native Americans. Finally the Canadian government sent out the Northwest Mounted Police to stop the illegal trade and lawlessness. But a lot of damage had been done to the First Nation (the term they prefer to use in Canada.)

John whooping it up

John feeding a miniature donkey

John, a member of the original 12 tribes of Israel, beside a tribal abode

Interior of the trading room

Whoop-up kitchen

A Boston Baked Beans recipe from 1847

Whiskey smuggler!

Next we stop in at the Helen Schuyler Nature Centre (Canadian spelling) and look around briefly. This is mostly a place for children to come and learn about nature. They have a cool display that plays different bird songs.

Helen Schuler Nature Centre

It’s 2 PM so we had better grab a quick lunch. We stop at a nearby Wendy’s and have a pretty meh lunch. Then we proceed to the Galt Museum. The Galts were the bigwigs in these parts and made a fortune from discovering high grade coal and “persuading” the Canadian Railway to establish a nearby line so they could ship their coal out. It’s why the High Level Bridge was built. Interestingly the High Level Bridge is the highest and longest bridge of its type in the world.

The Galt Museum and Archives

Contemporary railroad art installation at the Galt Museum (High Level Bridge in background)

Time to hurry back to thre hotel and watch some more tennis. Nadal is playing and as usual we are hoping he loses. (He doesn’t)

For dinner we go to Moxie’s which bills itself as a classic restaurant and lounge. By classic I think they mean 1950’s but at least they have updated the menu if not the decor. We have a few small plates to share and a salad. It turns out it is half price wine Wednesday. So we buy a bottle.

Our server is a very chipper young person from Calgary who is studying math to become a teacher in Lethbridge. She gives us some pointers about Calgary and we talk some politics. The Canadians are not liking Trump at all.

She also insists that we must try poutine, the national dish of Canada. We have assiduously avoided ever eating this because it sounds horrific. It is French fries and cheese curds covered in brown gravy. Why bother making crispy French fries if you are just going to drown them in gravy. Perhaps it accounts for all the soggy fries we have come across and not eaten in Canada.

Cauliflower with spicy Korean sauce – so bad we sent it back, mush

Calamari and shrimp, much better than the cauliflower and the dipping spices were good

Sushi rolls. Not exactly sushi since the shrimp was tempura style but the best thing of the evening

Tomorrow we will be stampeding to Calgary.

August 7, 2017 – Rooting for the home team

Busy day today that ended up with a trip to the local ballpark. Everything in Great Falls revolves around the Falls and the Lewis and Clark Expedition so today we went for a look at the greatest of the five Falls which were almost the stumbling block of the expedition. Unfortunately the dams on the Missouri have really changed their appearance. Good for many reasons but sad nonetheless.

The Falls prior to 1915

The Great Falls today

Some work is being done at the top of the Ryan dam at Great Falls and the entire flow is coming out of one pipe.

Getting to this point to see the Ryan dam is an adventure. It is about nine miles from Great Falls down a little road through fields of shorn wheat. We wind down the canyon of the river and park. We are the only people here. The best sight for the dam is across a foot bridge to an island.  I am game until part way across the bridge starts to sway. John assures me that all is well and we continue across- not my favorite thing to do.

Footbridge

Another view of footbridge

Next stop, the Giant Springs State Park where we will see the fish hatchery, the world’s shortest river and the giant springs.

The fish hatchery is breeding trout. We see an exhibition all about breeding and transporting the fish and some 6 week old rainbow trout.

Baby rainbow trout

Outside there is a viewing pond with adult trout. You can feed them for a nickel which the fish really like. They hang around wherever there are people looking for a free lunch.

Trout in the viewing pond. The gold ones are actually albinos.

John looks like he is blessing the children but he is actually feeding the fish

Finally we look at the smallest river. It is about 800 yards long and has all the attributes of a river, a source, a current, a mouth etc. The source of the river are the springs which begin in the Belt Mountains about 50 miles away  and travel underground until it finds some cracks in the limestone and burbles up next to the Missouri River at the rate of 150,000,000 gallons a day and then flows into the Missouri.

The Roe River with the Giant Springs

Finally we return to the Clark and Lewis Interpretive Center and work our way through the exhibits of their entire journey. Really interesting!

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

After a lunch which involved a lot of standing in line for a salad in an aluminum foil container at Cafe Rio, we spend the rest of the afternoon doing laundry before heading out to the baseball game between the Great Falls Voyagers and the Ogden Raptors.

Meh lunch at Cafe Rio

The baseball game is between two teams in the Rookie, short season category. The Voyagers are a White Sox farm team and the Raptors, the Dodgers. At first it seems sparsely attended.

Lonely section

The game has lots of errors, especially wild pitches. We leave after the 6th inning with the Voyagers ahead 15 to 7. Eventually they won 15 to 10. It was not a pitcher’s duel but quite fun and good beer!

Third pitcher for the Ogden Raptors