We have made the decision to sell our vacation house in St. George, Utah. As much as we have loved coming here these past 16 years it is time to move on. I am no longer able to hike or play tennis due to my painful knee. Even if my amniotic stem cell shot works totally, I still think that the wear and tear of the long trip to St. George and the worry over the condition of the house when we are not there is enough to have us consider the sale. It also frees up time and money to do other things that we enjoy.
In what should be a poignant last visit to sign the papers over to the new owners turns into a horror show that makes us happy to leave. The people who have put the offer in on the house have indicated that they want to buy it furnished and we are happy to agree. We just want a few things out of it, one picture and our pottery. We send a list of things we want before we depart for St. George and upon arriving realize that we left off a few of the pottery pieces and one additional print that we would like to take with us. There are also a couple of small knives and spreading knives.
But these people want everything. All of our sheets and towels, all of our decorations and are threatening to walk if we don’t let them have it all. We are flabbergasted. These things are our personal items that we have collected over the years. What is wrong with these people?!
After much negotiating they finally agree to let us have our stuff and give us a list which includes the pottery, and also our tennis equipment, Jonathan’s golf clubs, a set of dirty sheets and towels that we used while there, and a knee brace that was on a shelf. We did not realize that these were items of contention.
By the time we leave we are no longer sad to be selling our house. These buyers have sucked all the joy out of our experience.
P.S. One funny note about all this is that their horrible realtor wants to buy our Santa Fe. After taking the car for a test drive and to their mechanic they list everything that needs to be fixed. We immediately lower our price to $1500 from $3000. In a rather an unusual move they counter with $2000. We say, are you sure? They say yes and we agree on $2000. Backwards negotiating, amazing!
I have been up half the night worrying about Ryan and Jon. Will their flights go smoothly? Will they make their connection okay? Will they figure out getting train tickets? Are the trains to Florence sold out? Although Jon has been texting me all the way and things seem fine, I will not calm down until I see them. John and Sarah go to the train station to meet them. I stand at the window watching for them until I realize that I don’t know which street they will come down. Finally I hear the elevator. Yay, they are here!!
They look at their rooms. They seem okay with them. I think they find all the nooks and crannies absurd but enchanting. We decide to go out to lunch as soon as they are settled in.
We head off to La Busola, our preferred pizza place, for lunch. It is such fun having everyone here. We order our own personal pizzas and beers all around!
Afterward we take a walk by the Duomo. Florence is really bustling with people! I thought it would be fairly empty this time of year. Maybe too many people took my advice to come in the off-season!
Ryan and Jon decide to explore the surrounding area while the rest of us have some food shopping to do. We meet back later for hors d’oeuvres and wine. It will be our dinner since we are still pretty full from lunch. I am so happy that Sarah, Ryan, and Jon are here to help me celebrate my birthday and Christmas!!!
It is a few days after we arrived back in the U.S. The flights home seemed pretty easy and even the 10 plus hours from Copenhagen to San Francisco went by relatively quickly. Sarah was at the airport to pick us up and we are busily struggling with jet lag. I slept until 4:30 AM today, so I am making progress.
I just finished reading through what I wrote and I can tell you that without this blog I would definitely forget stuff. John and I were just trying to remember what the bathroom looked like in Oslo with quite a bit of trouble. And John remembers everything! So even if you do not want to have a blog, having a travel journal should be a must! The nice thing about a blog is that you put your pictures into it and it helps with the remembering. I have been doing this for about 13 years on WordPress and I highly recommend it. It doesn’t just have to be for vacations as you can also chronicle birthdays, holidays, and any other event that is important to you.
Of course I am probably a little obsessed. I also have a food blog that I write everyday. I have about 80 followers who occasionally will say they like something I have written or have a comment. For me it acts as a food diary and dinner inspiration. So if you think I put too many food pictures in my travel musings, this other blog is full of food only!
For instance, here is a picture from the post about dinner last night.
I’ll be posting more travel later this year when I celebrate my birthday in Italy.
When we traveled to Europe with our kids in 1998, Jonathan was victimized by a culture that made things too small, too stick out-y, just too foreign! He was constantly bumping into or tripping over small pieces of Europe. On that trip he coined our family phrase, “Europe hurts!” The tradition continues. But more on that later.
Since John and I are still in backwards land sleeping-wise, we are up with the early bird breakfast eaters today and are on the subway to our first destination before 8 am. Luckily we are going to see a park and it is open 24/7.
The Vigeland section of Frogner Park features 212 bronze and granite sculptures designed by Gustav Vigeland. These sculptures, all naked, are mostly of people expressing various human emotions. An over 300 foot bridge lined with sculptures, a sculptural fountain, and a sculptural monolith are the main features.
It is a beautiful Sunday and even before 9 AM Norwegians and tourists are out in force. We are glad we have come early. Here are some of the sculptures we especially like.
The Monolith is up a hill with a lot of steps. I look from a distance while John climbs up for a closer look. It is composed of interlocking human figures.
Vigeland Park is getting very crowded and we decide it is time to go. We walk back to the subway stop and head in towards the city to the King’s Palace. The current king is King Harald V and he lives here with Queen Sonja. We can tell that they are home because the flag is flying above the palace.
And now for the Europe hurts part…
After leaving the palace park and crossing a small street I go to step up onto the sidewalk and my evil left knee crumples and down I go. This comes as quite a shock to me and I lie on the sidewalk for a moment. People in passing cars stop. They want to help. I do not want help. I just want to wallow in my pain on the sidewalk. I get into a sitting position and try to wave them away. “I am okay!” I shout. The word okay is understood in all languages. Finally they move on. But I cannot get up. John tries to pull me up but my knee is not taking any weight at the moment.
Norwegian Home Health Aides to the rescue! Two young women carrying backpacks arrive on the scene. They ask if we need help. I explain that I have fallen and I cannot get up. (I say this literally.) But I will be okay and sooner or later I will find a way to get up. They say we are strong Norwegian Home Health Aides and we help people get up all the time. With this each grabs a hand and I am on my feet! Or at least one foot. I am a little hesitant to try out my knee. Turns out the knee is fine and they lead me over to a place to sit down. They ask me again if I am okay, not in any severe pain? I answer I am okay and they say adios and go on their backpacking way. (Actually, they just say goodbye in their perfect English.)
I can see the headlines in tomorrow’s paper, “Plucky Yank shakes off tumble with the help of strong Norwegian Home Health Aides! International incident averted!!”
Not ones to let a little falling down stop us, we continue on to the National Gallery to look at some art. This is the museum which houses Munch’s The Scream as well as a bunch of other stuff. There are a lot of stairs here and the kindly staff lets me ride up in the freight elevator. I am not oblivious to the irony.
Here are some works that we liked –
Hey look what we found, a Saint! This is in the Russian icon section. The informational plaque says it is Saint Nicholas of Zaraysk but we can see from the little pictures surrounding the Saint that it is actually our old friend, St. Nicholas of Bari.
And finally Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, or how I felt after I fell down.
When we finish up at the National Gallery we decide to take the subway back to the hotel and have a little re-grouping time. However, Europe hurts is not done with me yet. As I go to step onto the subway car the doors close and I am smashed between them. Ow! I actually make an audible noise. The doors, having figured out that perhaps not all the passengers are completely on board release and reopen. (Thank God) So now both of my forearms are totally bruised.
Around 3 PM we walk over to the train station again and have lunch at Bella Bambino in the fancy food hall.
John wants to go out again and visit the Opera House but I am done. I lie down and go to sleep instead. Here are his pictures from his adventure.
Several art projects were commissioned for the interior and exterior of the Opera House. The most notable is She Lies, a sculpture constructed of stainless steel and glass panels. It is permanently installed on a concrete platform in the fjord adjacent to Opera House and floats on the water moving in response to tides and wind to create an ever-changing face to viewers. (Wikipedia)
John comes back and we both sleep some more. We know that it is not the right thing to do and that we will pay for it later but we cannot help ourselves. Around 9 PM we get up and go downstairs and have a comforting burger and fries with a beer at the hotel bar.
It is now Monday morning and we are on the train to Stockholm. Just want to report that I am a little sore but really none the worse from the fall I took yesterday.
Using our time until check out to the fullest, this morning we visit the St. Ilario complex. It is not far from the Arch of Trajan and is a very ancient, small building dating from the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 7th century. It was used as a church and later a farmhouse and thus has not been much changed through the centuries due to continual use. Inside there is a multi-media presentation which explains all the bas-relief carvings on the arch of Trajan. He was a much beloved leader who secured the Roman Empire borders, was emperor and yet still was humble and like a common man or soldier.
Our ride to Canosa di Puglia should take about an hour and a half and we arrive around 1 PM. First we look for somewhere to eat. We can find nothing. All there seems to be are grungy, graffiti filled streets. We decide to head to our hotel to see if we can check in. The hotel is situated among the grunge and everything is behind locked barriers. We go to our not very pleasant rooms and wonder what to do next. The proprietor says there is a restaurant next door so we go to there to find some lunch. The restaurant is also behind a steel grill. John presses the intercom but no one answers.
We decide we do not want to stay in Canosa di Puglia even if there is a penalty for it. John tells the guy behind the desk and they argue but we are not staying. That’s it. Sorry but this is our vacation and we are not staying somewhere like this for three days. We leave. I do not know what will happen next but I will keep an eye on our credit card account.
We head to Bari with much lighter spirits. We stop at an Autogrill and have another okay lunch. There are some weird choices that you can make, though.
We have been talking to John about ditching the Alfa at the Bari airport and getting a car that is a bit more driveable in Italy and Sicily. He asks for a picture of him with the Alfa.
We decide that instead of one night in Bari we will make it three and add one additional night onto Lecce to make up for the three days we were supposed to stay in Canosa di Puglia.
After much struggle due to a bad accident right in front of our hotel, we settle into our new digs. Our room looks over the Adriatic Sea. We are so glad to be here.
Tonight our happy hour is happy indeed. We have a glass of wine and order the salami plate which ends up being enormous and more than enough to do for dinner.
When I was planning this vacation I went day by day figuring out what we would be doing and where we would stay. I got to the next to last day and decided that somewhere mid-Oregon along I-5 would be best. Only when I could not find a single hotel that had vacancy did I wonder why Oregon was all booked up. John and I pondered about this. Was there some big event happening? Were all the colleges going back to school on the same day? Finally John had an aha moment, the eclipse!
So I had planned the perfect vacation with its climax at the moment of total eclipse somewhere near Salem, Oregon. We were offered eclipse glasses early on at the Museum of Eastern Idaho so we were prepared.
We leave our hotel in Chehalis, Washington early hoping to avoid the Portland, Oregon rush hour travel. Strangely there is no traffic at all around 8 AM. Maybe all the Intel people have the day off to watch the eclipse. About twenty miles north of Salem we start running into some traffic and decide to take some back roads and camp out on the side of a country road to watch the eclipse. Our plan is working perfectly. The eclipse starts and I am ready with my iPhone to snap some pictures but the sun is too bright. So I take to putting my eclipse glasses over the lens. Here are the results –
So obviously I am not very successful with the picture taking. I guess you would need a much more sophisticated camera than an iPhone. Shucks. Here is a picture from NASA showing what it actually looks like from Madras, Oregon.
We do take some pictures of John and I looking comical in our cool eclipse glasses called “The Eclipsers.”
Here are some of my impressions about seeing a total solar eclipse. First, it happens really slowly. It tkes a long time for the moon to move into position. As it approaches, the sky begins to get a twilight kind of appearance. Then you notice the wind pick up a little and it starts to feel cooler. Finally when the sun it is totally eclipsed, it is dark but not totally pitch dark. There is still enough light coming from the edge bits to make things seeable. It only last for a minute or two before the moon and sun begin to part and the light comes back really quickly.
This is an awesome experience and the perfect end to our vacation. And because it is so worthwhile and special I am not going to complain about the monumental traffic where it takes us 4 hours to go 60 miles!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
After a night of off and on sleep we arise and go down to breakfast. Apparently the Radisson Blu is a destination for tour groups so they have to accommodate a great number of people for breakfast. The breakfast room is less than charming but the food is fine.
Our goal today is to see the Hanseatic Museum with its accompanying Assembly Halls and Fishery Museum. The sun is in and out early but as we start our walk towards the museum the rain comes and we are pretty much soaked by the time we get there. This is a scenario which plays out many times today. Sun then rain and over and over.
We buy the three part ticket which also gains us access to a bus that drives us to the Fish Museum which is our first stop. Inside we learn soooo much about fish and the Norway fishing industry. (See pictures for explanations) At the end we have a good discussion by the guy running the place about fishing but also about basketball. He was a great Celtic fan and as a youth mostly saw tapes from the 80’s about the team.
Then we hop back on the bus and go to the Schotstuene or assembly rooms and kitchen. Any place where there were open fires such as a cooking area or a place to stay warm were separated from living quarters for fear of fire. As is, Bergen burned down at least four or five times. The last big fire was in 1955. Most of the stuff that we are seeing are newer constructions from after the great fire of 1702.
We wander by an older church and think about going in but there seems to be some sort of ceremony going on so we have to take a pass and decide to have lunch instead. Our lunch is at Bryggeloftet & Stuene which is supposed to have authentic Norwegian food. We order fish soup and beer. It is good and satisfying on this cold-ish rainy day. Highs are only in the low 50s!
After lunch we finish up at the Hanseatic Museum where we learn all about trade in Northern Europe starting in the 1300s and lasting until the 1700s. It was exclusively a German affair. The Hanseatic area was an enclave within Bergen where only German men could live and they had to stay separate from the Norwegians. They controlled the trade of cod and cod by-products which were shipped in from the far North and then sorted and graded in Bergen. We see a reproduction of their living quarters and there is a lot of info about cod or “stockfish” and cod liver’s oil, a valuable commondity for lighting lamps. In some areas of the Hanseatic museum, as was true in the Fish museum, there is a lingering odor of fish.
Now it is almost 3PM and I am really tired. We go back to the room where I am pretty much zonked out until 6PM. Then we watch a little television and catch up on the news before heading down to the bar for a drink and a little light dinner. Here we meet fellow cruising people. They talk to us some. They seem nice, probably a lot nicer than we seem. Anyway we split a hamburger and exit dinner around 9:45PM. It has been a really full day!
Today Sarah and I attend our Congressperson’s Town Hall. Eric Swalwell is our representative. There is a large crowd at Dublin High School. Most of the people there are Democrats, I think.
Rep. Swalwell starts out by relating his experiences growing up and how his parents sacrificed to make sure that he had a good education and could have a better life than they had. Then through a random draw he takes questions from the audience. He tries to insure that what he answers has policy content rather than political content. People ask a wide variety of questions from taxes to immigration to their frustration with government. At one point Rep. Swalwell takes a question from a Boy Scout who is trying to earn his Citizen Badge to become an Eagle Scout.
It is reassuring to go to this meeting. After all the political posturing and anti-everything policies of the current administration, it is refreshing to hear from people who want to do positive things for the state and country. The crowd is mostly patient and respectful and there is very little yelling out of turn.
John, Sarah, and I drive over to Palo Alto to see and hear Nathan’s band concert. He’s been hard at work this year learning to play the clarinet. We really don’t know what to expect. Early learners of musical instruments are often hard on the ear. However, we are quite impressed by how focused and musical the students are. We see that Nathan is carefully watching the music and looking up to get cues from the conductor.
Jonathan tells us that Nathan has been intent on his practicing. The kids are even able to play harmonies and count the rests to come in at the right place. We tell Nathan how much we enjoy the concert and congratulate him mightily. The students are very celebratory at the end of their concert. Probably a little more than I hope for given that they are holding instruments.