We leave around 8 AM for the start of our road trip and a leisurely journey half way to St. George, UT today. After a quick stop for breakfast in Manteca we run into a little traffic in Oakdale. Due to our long history of finding interesting things we notice this I.O.O.F. Art Deco building with its fabulous turret clock.
Our next stop is at Chinese Camp, CA to change drivers. We stop at California Historical Marker No. 423 which is about the founding of Chinese Camp, the still-standing post office built in 1854, and the Tong Wars. We wander around the town which is mostly comprised of derelict old buildings.
Then it’s on to Yosemite NP. The trouble with going through the park is all the slow drivers. We just want to cross through the park and others would prefer to gawk at every leaf and rock. Nonetheless we manage pretty good time. Here are some pictures from our transversing the park by way of Tioga Road.
We have lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli where we have a bowl of indifferent vegetarian chili which is greatly helped by the addition of cornbread.
Now we have just over two hours left to Tonopah so it’s past Mono Lake, over roller coaster road, a left turn at Benton where there are children in the playground for the first time in 14 years of passing this tiny town, then a right at the burntout shell of a bordello in Coaldale, and we are in the nowhere town of Tonopah.
We are staying at the refurbished but still dingy historic Mizpah Hotel. Our room is very small and there is no place to put anything but we will survive. It is only one night.
some pictures from our evening in Tonopah –
The town has been trying to spruce up itself with civic art but a lot of the storefronts are abandoned and it is all rather depressing looking.
Lastly we have dinner at the new-ish Tonopah Brewing Company. John has burnt ends and I have BBQ chicken sandwich. It is merely okay. John likes the porter a lot.
Well, here it is our 45th anniversary. Wow. We are fortunate to have such a long and happy marriage but I think we are well suited to each other and have worked hard over the years to keep our marriage a happy one. Now as oldsters we get as much pleasure in each other’s company as we ever did, maybe more so. We are both so interested in the world around us and now that we have the internet at our fingertips, our conversation never lags.
For instance, today we pass a truck loaded with sacks full of rice hulls. What are those used for I ask. John always has an answer and tells me that they are used for cleaning industrial parts. I google it up and tell him the myriad uses that rice hulls have. Now we are ready the next time rice hulls come up in conversation! This is the kind of fun with have.
Today we are in Sonoma Valley for a little wine tasting, a dinner at a favorite place, and an overnight. Our first stop is at Jacuzzi Winery. They are quite busy for a Monday. We taste and buy a few bottles. We also stop in at their olive oil outlet and taste some olive oils and have our bottles refilled.
Then it is on to Ledson Winery where I am looking for an old-style peppery Zinfandel. We enter their Addams family building and are met by a concierge. She leads us to a tasting area. I wonder if they do that to separate the wheat from the chaff. Having made the grade we sample some wine and buy a case. Annoyingly they do not give us the member discount that they promised as a lifetime perk of joining the club.
There are not many places to have lunch around here. We used to go to The Kenwood but as we pass it we notice that it is no longer in business. We settle for Cafe Citti and are pleasantly surprised with a tasty sandwich and a delicious chickpea side. We should have only ordered one since the portions are enormous and neither of us finish.
Lastly we go to Imagery Winery but I am not so much into it. I am tired and a bit sleepy from the big late lunch and the wine tasting. But John soldiers on and we buy a few bottles from them.
We are staying the night at the Best Western Sonoma Inn which is not great but has a wonderful location right off Sonoma Square. After a nap (for me) and showers we head over to Tasca Tasca for dinner. It is so nice that it is within walking distance. Here we have their tapas menu. It is great to be able to pick out a bunch of small plates and have a little dessert afterwards.
We have had a lovely anniversary and I am looking forward to many more.
We take a boat ride and then a bus ride to Heathrow for our afternoon flight home. Since we are flying Virgin Atlantic we get to try their London lounge. It is very nice with even a menu and table service. It is a good thing that we decide to have lunch at the lounge in the airport because their food on the flight is inedible. We each have a vegetable korma.
Our flight is somewhat delayed taking off but makes most of the delay up during the flight. The seats are somewhat lacking in shoulder space.
After an interminable 10+ hours we land at SFO. We get through Customs and Immigration in the fastest time ever, quickly receive our luggage, and Sarah is ready to pick us up. We arrive home before 7 PM, try to stay up for a while and crash around 9 PM.
We have had a good time on our trip but realize once again that touring with a bunch of people is not our favorite way of traveling.
We pull into London early Saturday morning after a day at sea where our major activities were going to a lecture about the architecture of London and getting John’s cold better. It is a very noisy docking and if I had known how noisy our third deck suite was going to be I might have considered postponing the trip until a suite on a different deck was available. The anchor and lines mechanisms were right below us.
The itinerary for the day is different from what was scheduled due to a large Pride parade which is causing street closures. The new itinerary is the Viking will get us into London by boat and then the rest is up to us. We are fine with that and decide to visit the National Gallery which is right on Trafalgar Square and within walking distance of the Thames Clipper stop at Westminster Pier.
On our trip from the Viking Sea down the Thames we see many of the iconic buildings mentioned in yesterday’s lecture. Londoners have fanciful names for them.
There are a lot of people in London this morning and the numbers only increase as the day wears on. We take a less populated route to Trafalgar Square and pass by other iconic London spots.
We make our way past the throngs who are looking forward to a concert later and into the calm of the National Gallery. Knowing our museum stamina we decide to concentrate on an exhibition by Giovanni da Rimini and their collection of 13th to16th century art.
After looking at the Exhibition and a century or two of other art, we stop for lunch.The service is very slow but our table overlooks Trafalgar Square and we watch the goings-on below. The lunch is worth the wait and is quite tasty.
After some more browsing we head back to the Clipper through the crowds which have now become quite bevved up and are leaving their glass bottles everywhere. We are jostled quite a bit in our attempt to get through the parade attendees and I am happy to return to our ride back to the ship.
On the way back we see buildings on the other bank of the Thames.
Later we have dinner for the last time at the Chef’s Table. The menu (which we tried last night as well) is inspired by China’s Cantonese and Hualwang cuisines. It is really not very authentic but the chef has promised us a spicy dipping sauce tonight. (In addition to the pictures below there was also a coconut granita and a chilled mango cream.)
The staff at the restaurant has been wonderful to us and the dishes have been mostly delicious. Everyone has been so welcoming that they would have been happy to see us every night. As is we had dinner there probably nine times. Vikesh, the manager, always had a table waiting for us next to a window.
‘Tis a wee bit misty as the Viking Sea plies its way toward our berth in Rosyth near Edinburgh. We are treated to passage under three bridges spanning the river, Forth. The first called the Forth Bridge was built in 1882-1890. Interestingly the steel Forth Bridge is contemporaneous with the Eiffel Tower which was built of iron. The Forth Bridge is still in use carrying rail traffic across the river.
The next bridge which is for car traffic was built in the 1950’s and opened in 1960. The final bridge is just finishing construction and its cables look like sails. It is due to open in September. It will be the new bridge for car traffic since it has baffles to cut down on the wind’s influence and the 1950’s bridge will be for trucks.
Since this is Scotland, we are piped off the boat and onto the bus.
As we head into Edinburgh we get a little history about the place. Edinburgh is the capital and has around 500,000 people while Glasgow is the bigger city and has 600,000. The difference is due to the fact that Glasgow is on the Atlantic Ocean and Edinburgh is on the North Sea. Back in the day when they were deciding where the capital should be Edinburgh was more populated and prosperous because trading could be done all over the North Sea area while Glasgow fronted the unknown and more treacherous ocean.
On our drive we see a number of small, one-story houses called bungalows. It seems that people really liked the style of homes that they lived in India back when the sun was never setting on the British Empire. So they named the houses after the place where they lived. “Bangala” in Hindi merely means “of Bengal.”
We enter the section of Edinburgh called New Town because it was built outside the city walls. The houses are mostly stone of a yellow-ish hue. It has been found that cleaning the stone in the city makes it deteriorate even more quickly so much of Edinburgh is kind of dingy looking.
We pass by Holyrood Palace on our way up to an overlook. I cannot get a good picture though because Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip are visiting and security is blocking all the nearby streets.
At the overlook Edinburgh sprawls out in front of us and behind us are the remnants of an ancient volcano.
We enter the Old Town which is somewhat more crowded together with a mishmash of architectural styles. They still have parks here that are for residents only and the key to the park can cost up to 15,000 Pounds!
We now get dropped off for an hour and a half. We are not dropped anywhere historic but at the top of the Royal Mile which appears mostly to be a mile of schlock. I believe that once again the major function is to buy stuff. The place is overrun with tourists of every type.
Our major objective is to find a place to buy cold medicine for John, acquire more money from an ATM, and hopefully have a pint in a pub. I report success on all three objectives.
We find out that if you want actual cold medicine going into the local chemist or Boots is not going to do it. We know from previous experiences that we want Day and Night Nurse. That is only available from a pharmacy. These shops tend to be smaller and have a green cross outside.
On the way to finding our cold medicine we pass the memorial to David Hume. John touches his toe and now we are promised . . .what? That our knowledge will only be founded in experience and that our knowledge is either directly traceable to objects perceived in experience or resulting from abstract reasoning about relations between ideas which are already derived from experience? Well, duh, we already hold those views. Maybe we can pass the toe rubbing on to less empirical folk.
Next we see a memorial statue to Sir Walter Scott.
Sir Walter Scott was a Scottish playwright, poet, and historical novelist.
The edifice behind Sir Walter Scott is the Cathedral of St. Giles. St. Giles was a hermit and his only friend was a deer. St. Giles protected the deer from an arrow shot by some royal hunters. It wounded the deer but mostly St.Giles protected the deer by taking the brunt of the arrow in his hand. He has become the patron saint of disabled people. He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.
After the detour to the cathedral we continue the hunt for cold medicine. While John is looking in Boots (fruitlessly), I find some interesting foods to look at in the self-service case.
We finally find the pharmacy, get directions to the ATM, and now the only thing to do is to toast ourselves at a pub in the Scottish capital. We finally find one with twenty minutes left and guzzle down a quick half-pint before heading to the bus and back to the boat.
The remainder of the afternoon is just rest time and we decide on room service for dinner. Our electronic connection explodes and we are without a lot of power in the room. We have a lot of workmen in the room for the next hour but it is finally corrected. We finish watching Roger’s match at Wimbledon, order dinner, and go to sleep.
The first thing we notice is that the topography of the Orkney Islands looks different from the Shetlands. It is green with rolling hills and there is a lot of farming going on and cows grazing in the fields. We are told that these cows only live outside for half the year due to the harsh winters. They are housed in the big barns we see.
We are really fortunate to have this great weather again today. It is only in the mid-50’s but the sun is shining brightly. Our first stop is at the Stand Stones of Stenness. There is a lot of interesting archeology going on in the Orkney Islands which is covered with stone rings and grass covered burial mounds from pre-historic times.
We hop off the bus to take a look at the Stones being careful to watch where we step since the field is also used for sheep grazing. The stones are from the Neolithic period dating to around 3000 B.C. The circle of stones and its encircling ditch or “henge” are incomplete partly due to the fact that the landowner in the 19th century started smashing and toppling them in order to keep sightseers away. The site is now under protection by the Scottish government and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next we drive by the Ring of Brodgar. This site is still being actively excavated. It has been dated as being from around 2600-2000 B.C. and originally had 60 stones of which 27 still exist. It was also encircled by a henge or ditch. The stones are smaller than the ones at Stenness averaging in height from 7 to 15 feet.
After seeing these sites we are dropped off in the picturesque town of Stromness. I think we are supposed to wander around buying things but it doesn’t seem like many on the bus are cooperating with the whole buying stuff scheme. We walk down several streets and take pictures. The architecture is similar to Lerwick with stone houses and businesses.
John is getting a cold so we spend the rest of the afternoon quietly in hopes that he will get better fast. Later we go to dinner at the Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s. Our meal is very good and we are tucked away in a corner where it is a little less noisy which is nice.
Happy Fourth of July! Strangely, here in the U.K. they are not celebrating. Maybe because they were the losers?! We don’t mention it deciding to take the higher road. And speaking of who takes the high road and who takes the low and who gets to Scotland before whom, it is we who have arrived in Scotland. The Shetland Isles are part of Scotland but they have not always been. In 1468 the Danish king wanted his daughter, Margaret, to marry King James III of Scotland. But she needed a dowry and the king did not have enough money. He gave the Shetland Isles and Orkney Isles as a dowry to James III. Lots of place names in the islands are still Norse and the people there identify more with Norway (which was a part of Denmark at the time) than with Scotland.
As we approach the main city of Lerwick a little pilot boat draws along side to drop off a pilot for our trip into the harbor.
We are lucky it is a beautiful day. So often Shetland is rainy. It is not a very populated place with a total population of about 70,000 people and almost half of these live in Lerwick. Our first look of the Shetlands is of a treeless landscape. The climate is so harsh, windy, rainy, cold, and full of salt spray, that trees and most plants have a hard time growing.
Our first stop on our panoramic bus tour of the Mainland Island is overlooking Scalloway Bay and the ruins of Scalloway Castle.
Next are Shetland ponies! This is what everyone has been waiting for. The Shetland ponies come in mini, medium, and large but none can be over 42 inches at the shoulder. They were bred mainly for working in the coal mines of Scotland and Wales. Their short stature and stocky build made them perfect for hauling coal out of the mine shafts. The owner tells us that now a days it is hard to sell them and they can go for as little as 10 or 20 pounds. Everyone enjoys seeing them.
After oohing and aching over the ponies we get back on the bus to learn more things about the Shetlands. We pass a rock pillar called the murder stone. It has been dated to around 2 BC. According to a Scottish tourism site, “it is said that at the time that it was made, the Murder Stone was used to issue justice to murderers. If the offender could run from Law Ting Holm to the Murder Stone unscathed despite the efforts of the victim’s family and friends to stop him, he was pardoned of his crimes.”
Other photos from our bus tour –
We have been up for a long time since we had to go through Customs and Immigration at 6:30 this morning and our tour left early as well. When we finish with the morning’s activities it only 10:30 and not even time for lunch. We have a little rest and then decide that we will take the shuttle into Lerwick to find a fish and chips shop and lift a pint somewhere.
Now it is time to find that pint of beer. We come across a hotel, The Queens, that has a bar entrance and settle in at the bar for a pint of Tennant’s and McEwan’s beer. There is even a TV screen and we ask the barman to put on Wimbledon – pretty perfect.
We wander around Lerwick for a bit and look at the distinctive stone buildings.
When we get back to the harbor, John tells me all about the oil drilling ocean platforms and their escape pods. These enormous structures are getting ready to be towed out to sea.
We are eating dinner at the Chef’s Table again tonight. It is the same menu as last night but worth eating twice. Before we head down to dinner we watch the pilot boat come along side of us and pick up the pilot before we pick up speed and head for the Orkney Islands.
I do not mind these days at sea. It is nice to have a little extra time to do all the boatside stuff. John and I went to two lectures/demonstrations today. One was on the possibility of another Scottish independence vote and the other a cooking demonstration with the head chef making a salmon dish and risotto. Both informational sessions were interesting. We can also get all the port talks and lectures on our TV so if we don’t feel like getting dressed we can watch from our room.
Here are some pictures from around the boat –
Tonight at the Chef’s Table there is a new menu with a sweet and salty theme. It is really delicious.
So this is a really tasty dinner and we are having it again tomorrow night. The chef is going to do a little something different with the spices on the veal and Paul promises some interesting new pairings. It should be fun and delicious.
Today we put into the tiny port of Leknes in the Lofoten Islands of Norway. This area is pretty isolated and is home to fishermen and artist communities. It has a stunning landscape and white sand beaches. Here in the midst of summer the temperature is hovering around the 50F mark with rain spitting. It hardly seems like a beach day.
We head to the busses. Our stops for 10 minute photo ops will include two beaches and a fishing community. We head through a long tunnel to the other side of the mountain. The tunnel is only one lane. On the way back we will find out how vehicles going in opposite directions negotiate passage.
The beach that we stop at has beautiful white sand is mainly populated by sheep and tourists taking their 10 minute photo op. It is called Klipfisk or cliff fish beach. Our guide tells us not to go on the sand because it will be too big a mess on the bus due to its stickiness on our shoes. It is picturesque and beautiful and is really not what we would consider for typical beach activities.
We return back through the tunnel where we meet oncoming traffic. What to do. There are various pullouts and the cars respectfully move over for the bus. Our tour guide, Stephanie, remarks, “We are big. We win.” After the tunnel we stop at another beach. This one has been voted “the most beautiful beach in Norway.” It looks like a beach. It is raining. We stay on the bus.
Finally we stop at Ballstad, a typical fishing community except a famous artist, Scott Thoe, has painted a mural on one of the buildings. Unfortunately we are not close enough to get a good picture of it. The little harbor is picturesque so I take a picture. Also a nice picture of John.
We return to the ship. They are running busses into Leknes center during the afternoon but we are told there is nothing open because it is Sunday plus it is raining. We have a leisurely lunch. We watch as the ship leaves Leknes, write the blog, and then get ready for dinner.
Tonight we are eating at the Chef’s Table and having the same menu as two nights ago. (See pictures there) It is still the best piece of cod I have ever eaten. It is so beautifully cooked that it is soft and gelatinous but still flakes apart. The women behind us are saying that it is undercooked which is totally not so. The only things that they have eaten are the salad on top of the carpaccio and dessert. I feel sorry for them.
We head back to the room where we watch an episode of Downtown Abbey, turn our clocks back an hour as we move into Greenwich time, and look at the midnight sun.
Today we are docking at the northernmost stop in our journey, North Cape or Nordkapp in Norwegian. It is also the northernmost point in Europe and I am looking forward to it. We went to the southernmost point at the tip of the heel of Italy a few years ago.
The town is pretty weather-beaten. It looks like the people up here make a living throug extraction industries and fishing plus tourism.
The landscape is pretty stark. There are still patches of snow and there are no trees. The hills are covered with grasses and bryophytes which make for good reindeer munching.
We make a sad stop where a Sammi, from the aboriginals of northern Norway, stands forlornly holding on to a reindeer and garbed in traditional gear. Bus loads of tourists take a moment to snap a picture and drop a few coins. I imagine it is worth it to him for the money.
We reach the North Cape and luckily the sky is clear here at more than 70 degrees latitude. There is a large informational building with a short movie, gift shop, restaurant, and other displays relating to the North Cape.
After looking around the building we take a walk outside where the wind is howling and it is quite cold. We view the northernmost monument and walk over to the edge of Europe. Then we hurry back inside and out of the cold.
The trip back to the ship is much like the way out except that the view is from the other side. I take some pictures out of the window.
Later in the afternoon we listen to a talk about power struggles in the Arctic Zone. It is interesting to hear how maritime law has evolved. Russia is now making a play to gain economic interest over half of the Arctic. The U.S. has no standing in this because we have bull-headedly refused to join the other nations with a coastal presence in the Arctic and sign a treaty which governs its use.
Dinner is supposed to be at the Italian restaurant, Manfredi’s. I am in my comfy clothes and really have no desire to get dressed and go out and interact. So we have room service which is more than adequate.