Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Land of ORGANIC Milk and Honey


Our current journey started with a weekend in San Francisco, one of our most favorite cities. In fact, for the first 15 years of our marriage, Lisa and I would spend time there every February. So we were excited, not only about coming back, but also by being able to share this experience with our friends from England Bill and Jayne Davison.

We arrived just about as scheduled in spite of the low overcast and light drizzle. Bill and Jayne on the other hand almost never got on the plane from England, because the United States has recently implemented new regulations for countries which used to be part of a visa waiver program. In the past, they could travel to the United States no questions asked because they were coming from a “preferred country.” Suddenly, and with little fanfare, the United States has imposed an “electronic visa program” wherein citizens from these countries must now obtain a visa online for a small fee. Bill and Jayne were completely unaware of the new change, as was our travel agent for that matter. They were told at the ticket counter they would not be allowed to board the aircraft unless they were able to obtain a visa prior to its departure. As you can imagine, they were panicked! After finding a computer, they were confronted with a very complicated six page form. The people at the airline seemed completely uninterested in being of help, but fortunately someone who knew about the process was able to walk them through it in time for them to make the airplane. Welcome to the new world of travel!

I was surprised when trying to find restaurants for us that so many of the places that we were familiar with were now closed. Fortunately one of our most cherished, the North Beach, was still open, and we all had a wonderful evening celebrating the beginning of our journey to Sydney together.

Our introduction to the “new” San Francisco started first thing the next morning when we walked several blocks towards the wharf to where there had been a long time restaurant that Lisa and I liked. That restaurant was closed, and in its place was an unusual, if not downright garishly decorated, facility. Every square inch of the window space was covered with signs advertising “organic foods.” We entered the restaurant by passing between two large doors which were painted bright red, and we found ourselves in a facility that had that word “organic” plastered on every table and wall in the place. When you looked at the menu, it spoke of organic foods, organic vegetables, organic eggs, organic meat, organic coffee, and such new terms as range-free chicken or cage-free eggs. Not only that, but the waiter was prompt to impress us with the fact that our coffee cups were very specially made as to be free from all lead. This was to be only our first exposure to the “New California.”

We decided that for our first day, we would attempt to introduce our friends to the city itself, even though it was cold, windy, and intermittently raining. Since we were staying down by the wharf, I thought that our first order of business should be a ride on the historic cable car, and as it happened, we were only two blocks from where one of the lines started. When we arrived, I expected to see long lines already formed to board the car, but instead there was no one there, and we hopped right aboard. I could scarcely imagine our good luck! The car took us part way up the hill to the edge of Chinatown, then came to a stop. That was to be the end of our cable car ride. As it turns out, a long time motorman had died, and virtually all of the employees of the system were participating in a giant funeral in downtown San Francisco in his honor. For this reason, the cable cars were offering only short rides for tourists, but at least they did not charge for it. Disappointed, but not out of ideas, I decided to try the Uber “app” on my phone that had been recommended by a friend. I pressed the button, and ordered an SUV for the four of us, and within only a matter of minutes, the car arrived to whisk us down to Union Square. I must say, “I was very impressed with the service and the app.”

We managed to walk around Union Square, and down to Nordstrom’s before catching a cab back to Fisherman’s Wharf where we would have lunch at the famous Alioto’s Restaurant. Unfortunately this time we happened to catch a taxi, and I asked him to take us to Fisherman’s Wharf only to be greeted with a blank stare. I pulled up the address of our restaurant, “8 Fisherman’s Wharf,” and his stare grew into a scowl. It seems that in the years since we last visited San Francisco, the city has turned the entire dock area into an entertainment center collectively known as “Fisherman’s Wharf.” Our Driver was obviously new to the city, and could be forgiven for not realizing where the “historical center” of this tourist attraction had been originally located.

In any event, we had a wonderful lunch, and we walked along the old wharf up to Ghirardelli Square-the old Chocolate Factory. At that point, it was obvious that Lisa and I had probably overdone ourselves for the first day, and so we left to return to the room leaving Bill and Jayne to explore on their own.

Returning to our room, every bone in my body hurt, and Lisa’s hips had completely gone out. I could not take a nap for the throbbing in my knees, all of which disappointed me greatly, because after almost a year I had finally gotten to where my walking was back to normal. Well, at least I thought it was back to normal. We had a wonderful dinner that evening at a steakhouse which had been a long time favorite of ours.

The next day I went across the street to a Hertz facility from which I had arranged for a rental car for the day. We drove down to the historic Cliff House, and then along the seashore to Fort Mason, which is directly underneath the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there we then drove across the bridge and meandered around the trails up into the hills allowing everyone to obtain some magnificent photographs. Even though the day had been forecast to be windy and rainy, it turned out to be absolutely beautiful. Following the back roads we reached Sausalito, where we picked a restaurant at random and had a wonderful time.

None of us wanted to leave the quaint little town of Sausalito on this beautiful sunny day, but our next attraction was calling – Muir Woods National Park. This Park is home to one of the few remaining redwood forest in America, and is a “must see” for any visitor. Lisa gets tired of me telling the story of my first visit to the woods. But in all honesty I very vividly remember arriving and pulling in too an almost empty parking lot with about 10 other cars. There was no Ranger station just an entrance stall. I was able to walk among the giant redwoods in those days in almost complete silence. Contrast that to today, where people will sometimes park up to a mile away to reach the woods, and where rather than a quiet walk amongst the giant redwoods it is almost as busy as visiting Disneyland. The gods were smiling on us this visit however, because using our disability tag, we were able to park in the very first stall right at the entrance to the woods. How lucky can you get! Lisa and I walked a little way and then let Bill and Jayne go on a further exploration. While they walked, we visited the coffee shop. When we were finished, I was presented with a conundrum of what to do with our trash. For the first time I was confronted with three options. One: compost, two: recycle, three: landfill. Now being a hick from Kansas, I had no idea what object went into which bin, and stood there like a dummy. I guess what I used call the land of milk and honey is changing to the new age.

That evening we all decided to go back to the North Beach restaurant because our first visit had been so spectacular. All I can say is that we were not disappointed. The next day we boarded the Crystal Serenity to begin our 22 day cruise to Sydney Australia.

The Serenity is a 900 passenger ship dripping pure elegance. We are on but the first segment of a 102 day World Cruise Odyssey. I am a little surprised that the ship is filled to capacity. It is making things just a little difficult, because every venue is full. The noise in the dining room is so intense, that we are having difficulty even talking among ourselves. That is unfortunate, because the ship is so magnificent.

We departed San Francisco last Monday afternoon around 4 PM, and cruised out beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather was beautiful, and most unusual for this time of year, the seas were calm. I have heard from everyone that spectacular photographs were to be had of the bridge, but sadly both Lisa and I were conked out in our bunks having been exhausted from our days San Francisco. On our first day at sea the ship was traveling at over 22 knots, but as the seas have roughened the speed has been lowered to help with passenger comfort. Nevertheless, conditions are such that even on a ship of this size it is difficult to walk around. They are not able to fill the swimming pool, and while we have a magnificent veranda, the sea spray even from our 11th floor vantage point, is such that everything is dripping wet.

So for now Lisa and I are enjoying some quiet restful days at sea with our friends. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu this coming Saturday around noon, and will depart early on Sunday morning, thus giving us only an afternoon to see the sights. We hope that everyone is doing well, and I will try to post some of my photographs from San Francisco by tomorrow afternoon.

Take care,


Sunday, January 17, 2016

On The Road Again


For those of you who are wondering where our DVD from our South American trip is, we just didn’t have enough time to get the project finished. The pictures have been posted on the web, and I promise that when we return from our upcoming trip, we will work on the South American program since it was a fascinating experience.

However, it is that time again for the Globe-trotters to sail across the ocean. This time we will be joined by our good friends Bill and Jayne Davison from Great Britain. We will be meeting them next weekend in San Francisco, and boarding our ship on Monday. We will be traveling on the Crystal Serenity this time, which is a traditional cruise ship with about 900 passengers. Our journey across the South Pacific will take 22 days, and when we arrive in Sydney, we will be about 9000 miles from home.

My first thought when we considered cruising across the Pacific was that there would not be many places to stop. Boy was I wrong! Our first destination will be Honolulu where we will spend an afternoon before departing for Fanning Island which is a part of Kiribati. If you do not immediately recognize this destination, then join the club because I had never heard of it. As far as I can tell, it is a largely uninhabited atoll south of Hawaii. From there, we continue sailing to Apia, Samoa, and then off to Mystery Island in Vanuatu. We continue to Lautoka, Yasawa-I-Rara, Mare Island and Noumea, before reaching our final destination Sydney, Australia.

There will be a lot of days at sea where we will be able to relax and read--quite unlike the feverish activity involved with an expedition cruise. I should have plenty of time to write as we go along, and perhaps the mystery of where all these places are, and what they are about will be unveiled over the next several weeks.

I do want you to know that this blog constitutes the first in an experiment involving the use of dictation rather than my typing on a keyboard. Unfortunately, my fingers have developed neuropathy that is causing me to have difficulty typing. So, since I have seen so many people using dictation programs, I thought I would give it a chance. So if you notice that the verbiage or writing seems a little different, it can all be explained by my trying to learn how to dictate rather than to type.

Lisa and I wish everyone a very happy new year, and we hope you will enjoy our newest adventure together. Could I ask you to