The coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19, are making their way across the US. Thanks to a totally incompetent White House which used magical thinking in hoping it would go away, we are in much worse shape than we might of been. Our governor has ordered that all but essential businesses be shuttered and the population in the Bay Area, some almost 7 million people, only go out for necessary items such as healthcare and food. The order lasts until April 7 but could be extended. The disease is easily passed from one person to another. The illness is most lethal on people over 60 and those with underlying conditions which category John and I fall into. It is scary times.
One of the things we are allowed to do is go out to exercise as long as we stay six feet away from other people. John and I take advantage of this and go to Brushy Hill Regional Park to do a little hiking.
The weather has been rainy and cold and the most difficult thing about our hike is the mud that gets caked onto our shoes. John says it is like hiking with 5 lb. weights! But we are out for about an hour which helps with our isolation and it is nice to hear the bird songs and see wildflowers. Here is hoping that we get through this without getting sick!
Today turns out to be a pretty special day. Our friends from long ago (1970’s), Sue and Mike Richmond, contacted me after seeing my post on Facebook from yesterday. They live in Portland and suggest that we should get together. We meet for breakfast at our hotel.
In a matter of moments forty years compresses down to “didn’t we just get together last week?” We talk about our families (they have three kids who are up to some pretty incredible stuff as adults) and the old days. I very fondly remember when they came to visit me at the hospital after Jonathan was born—my only visitors. John and Mike were colleagues at Data General and both of them have only great things to say about each other. The visit is too short and hopefully we will try to visit again when our paths cross.
They give us the idea to go see Multnomah Falls, a 620 ft. waterfall only about a half an hour away. This is right up our alley of things we like to do. The weather is not cooperating. It is cold and rainy so we only briefly get out of the car to see the waterfall. It is quite impressive and reminds us of the ones we saw in Norway. On a better weather day we would have liked hiking to the bridge.
It is around 3 PM when we decide to get something for lunch. We find another restaurant serving pho and this time are successful at ordering beef pho. The bowl is gigantic. They should have small and large. I cannot finish even half of mine. But a hot bowl of pho is the perfect lunch on a cold and rainy day.
When we get back to the hotel it is time for a little lie-down and we do not venture downstairs until 8 PM or so. We order a glass of wine, another plate of calamari, and some hummus with crudités. Then it is off to bed because tomorrow we start the drive back to Pleasanton.
John and I have decided to take a little road trip this week. We are going to drive up to Portland, OR and poke around for a couple of days while eating some excellent seafood. It should be fun!
Day 1, Pleasanton to Ashland, OR
We get kind of a late start since I have to get B-12 shot first but by 9:40 we are on our way. Our first stop is at a random McDonald’s for egg McMuffins. We are trying to obey WW guidelines for breakfast and lunch so we omit the cheese and I only eat half the English muffin.
Although we have driven north on I-5 many times it is always interesting. After our tuna filet lunch at the Habit in Redding, we climb up out of the Central Valley towards the volcano, Mount Shasta, the most southerly volcano in the Cascade Range. It is covered in snow! We also pass the Shasta Lake reservoir and check the water levels. It looks better than a few years ago.
Later in the afternoon we reach our hotel, BW Windsor Inn, in Ashland, Oregon. We find the hotel rather dated but it is just for one night. Our room has a ridiculous array of pillows!
For dinner I have chosen the Brickroom in downtown Ashland. The food is very good and we have a great time taking pictures of the food and each other.
We have been home for a couple of weeks and are getting back into the swing of things. We have missed seeing Alex and Sam and today had Jon and Sam over for tennis and lunch. Sam helps me make an apple pie for our Rosh Hashanah celebration tonight. He does a good job peeling apples. I promise him a piece when it cools and half the pie to take home.
After Jon and John are showered we all go to Fiesta Taco for lunch. Sam enjoys his chicken tacos and after lunch we return home for pie! Sam takes Jonathan’s usual spot on the couch and promptly falls asleep.
After Sam and Jon leave Sarah bakes the challah for dinner and I make Autumn Soup.
With all the work behind us we settle into a lovely dinner of golden soup and yeasty bread with apples and honey and pie for dessert.
I had a pretty horrible May which started with a cold and ended up worse and worse until I was forced to go to the doctor and get some cortisone to try to quell the lung inflammation. But a few things were happening-
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.