Posted in Travel

Summer In The City

 

Summer in The City – San Francisco 2016
If there was a time machine that allowed us to travel to any place or time we desired, one of my choices would be San Francisco in 1967. Hippies dancing in the streets, peaceful protesters terrified of the war raging around them, a generation hoping to change the world with love, peace, LSD, and a new, radical sound that would forever change the face of music.
Sadly I don’t have a time machine, but I was able to travel to San Francisco and visit Haight-Ashbury this summer. Haight and Ashbury are 2 streets that intersect in San Francisco giving name to the district of Haight-Ashbury. Though you can still find much of the hippie look in the area, it seems to be more of a manufactured touristy feel. Walking through the neighborhood, we were approached by Greenpeace members, but even these guys didn’t have the passion you would have expected from someone in that magical area, they gave us a short speech about loving the earth before pulling out their iPads and asking us to give them our credit cards to become members.
We stopped and had great cheeseburgers and dark beer at Magnolia Gastropub and brewery. They still brew beer in the basement like they have since 1997. Around us were people in their 30’s looking very corporate and business like with their computers open, taking care of business while eating.
Tour buses drove up and down the streets telling the story of how the area became a Mecca for thousands of young people in 1967. Many searching for mind enhancing experiences and a culture that could belong to their lost generation.
The neighborhood has done what it can to bring back that ’67 vibe of the area, but there were no flower children dancing in the streets, no one was publicly smoking, shooting or dropping, and not one single musician played in the streets. I wondered if the spirits of hippies past still roam the streets, disappointed that their once cultural nirvana is now run by the establishment.
“Don’t let the man keep you down”.
There is irony in the fact that the generation who worked so hard to rid the world of the establishment gave birth to the generation of a whole new corporate America and .com.
Haight – Ashbury may no longer be a Mecca for the generation of peace and love, but being there was still a reminder of The Summer of Love, and the brilliant creative young people who converged into San Francisco and forever changed the world, and now own it.

Posted in Travel

Chasing The Vortex

Don and I were taking our first trip since I had gone back to work, the new deal Don called it, meaning we would both work full time while making the most of our limited time together.
We had chosen to visit Sedona Arizona.    I was in search of the magical, mystical vortex areas of Sedona where it is said the earth produces a powerful healing energy that brings wisdom, energy and peace to those who experience it.
My recent return to work had left me feeling disconnected from my family and friends, I was to busy to write and sad being separated from Don. I was anxious to experience some positive energy, and once I found it I planned to take in as much as possible.
I wondered if it was a temporary feeling like filling a gas tank or if it would be more permanent.      Don being practical went along because he wanted to see the twisted juniper trees that are prevalent in the vortex.
We were staying at The Hilton Sedona Resort, set in the red rocks, the view from our room was so beautiful that sitting on our patio alone would have made for a perfect vacation, but I had a vortex to chase, so we studied the local maps and made our plan.

We started in Sedona where we planned to take the vortex by storm. We were going high into the rocks with Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour. The jeeps may have been pink but they were not at all girly. Those rugged vehicles drove off road up and down the rocks, a few times we found ourselves looking straight down the only thing that kept us from falling out was our seat belts and the tight grip to the rails. Our views from submarine rock, chicken point, Chapel Rock and Rock of Gibraltar were breathtaking. The valley was deep red when lit by the morning sun, everywhere I looked there was the majestic beauty of the rocks and mountains beyond us.

Our tour guide suggested we check out the rocks at The Airport Mesa where the vortex powers were said to be exceptionally strong. I struggled with the first part of the climb and at one point thought about staying at the bottom while Don climbed, but then I remembered a pact I had made with my brother Michael shortly after my moms death,to get back in shape in her honor, so I continued with that promise in the back of my mind.
Don walked in front of me and patiently pointed out every foothold, I thought about how exhausting it must be for him to not only climb each step but to then reach out and help me up.
When we reached the top the sun was getting low and the valley was bathed in reds and golds the sky was smoldering with the last colors of daylight.      I felt at peace feeling I kept a promise to my brother and mom by not staying at the bottom, It was an amazing view. But I did not experience the magical vortex.
After our climb we went to the Mesa Grill at the Sedona Airport where we watched turbo prop planes land and take off as we drank dark beer while watching the last glimpse of sunlight disappear under the horizon, before heading back to our hotel.

I slept well that night dreaming I was standing on one of the beautiful red rocks, I had found the Vortex in my dream, and I was filled with joy, energy and happiness. I woke up the next morning and could not wait to get back out.   After breakfast we drove to Bell Rock.

The hike up Bell Rock was Less challenging, we passed several hikers and cyclists on the way, everyone seemed in good spirits, good sign I thought, no one is leaving looking pained or unhappy, surely the inner peace I was seeking would be at the top of this beautiful Rock.       We made our assent stopping for photos, and occasionally to check out a twisted tree or the way the sun or shade was catching the light off the rocks. I placed my hands on the rock once or twice hoping to catch some energy, Don would stand by wondering if I would lift my hands away with the answers to all universal questions, but instead I would step away and shake my head, “nothing”. So on we would walk, holding hands, talking, laughing about what the energy would feel like and wondering if it would ever forever change our lives. We stopped close to the top and sat taking in the majestic beauty of the red rocks. The bright sun shown warming our faces making us feeling as though we had found a piece of heaven, but I never felt the vortex. I guess I’m not one of those people who get to feel the energy I said sadly. Well Don answered the twisted trees were pretty cool, though I think they are starved for water and they twist around looking for that last drop, most of the twisted trees are dead or dying.

On our climb down we met a lost family, we had been told it was easy to get confused between the paths, Don helped them figure out the correct path and gave them water, they thanked him and even offered to pay for the water bottles, no worries was Dons reply you have just helped to lighten the load of my backpack by taking some of the water.

Don helped me navigate every step, reaching out his hand to assist me with the taller drops, at the bottom we stopped to rest.
I closed my eyes for a moment and thinking about the sights and feelings of the last 2 days. “I found the Vortex.” I said out loud, “Here on the park bench?” Don asked. “No silly,” I laughed, “it was there in beauty of the rocks, and the peace of sitting at the top and seeing Gods beauty in front of us, it was meeting challenges that I was scared of at first but worked through, it was in those people you helped on the path. It was in you everytime you held out your hand to help me.” Don laughed at me, “You sound like Dorothy when she woke up from her dream in the Wizard of Oz.”
There was another twisted tree near the bottom as we got up, I looked at it and realized this is what happens to people when they don’t stop to drink in the joy and beauty of life, we twist and turn and end die with our lives nothing more then an odd curiosity.

I had felt that energy in all the the places we had visited together but especially in natures masterpieces. There is nothing like the beauty of sunshine coupled with love, kindness and compassion to help us find inner peace.

It was time for me to go home while Don stayed to work, and while I was sad that we would be apart for the next 5 days, I was planning to squeeze as much adventure as possible into every moment of our new deal.

Posted in Friends, Travel

Celebrating Charlotte — Pink Hat Gypsy

It was a scorching hot day in July when we arrived in New Orleans to celebrate Charlotte’s birthday. Charlotte’s husband Rod had rented a large house on Airbnb in the garden district. It was a beautiful house with 6 bedrooms, a huge kitchen living area, and enormous back yard, The house was spotless and fully furnished. It was like being at home in a really nice house.

There were 13 people who had made the trip from San Antonio to celebrate Charlotte’s big day. I had met several of them just once before this occasion. Initially, I was nervous about staying in a house with so many people. Where would we all sleep? Would it be awkward to share the bathrooms? I should have known better then to worry about silly things like that. There was something about the house that made me feel like I was among family, or maybe it was the people who made me feel that way.

On our first night we took the bus down St. Charles street to the world famous Bourbon street. After dinner at Crescent City Brewhouse, we went to the back of St.Louis Cathedral for the beautiful view of Touchdown Jesus, then strolled down Bourbon street to watch the Friday night insanity. We stopped at The Old Opera House to listen to my favorite New Orleans Band, Chicken On The Bone. After a long day of travel, unpacking, and celebration, you would have thought the bus ride home would have been quiet and subdued. But instead, our group was even more energized as they shared stories and told jokes. It was a happy exchange, but not one that was appreciated by our grouchy bus driver. At one point she turned around and threatened to have us all thrown off the bus if we did not settle down. Our loud voices turned to muffled giggles as we looked at one another feeling as though we were back in high school being chastised for having too much fun. But not wanting to make the long walk home we begrudgingly complied. Just like high school!

In the morning, Rod had booked us a bike tour of the city at Bullfrog Bike Tours. We wanted to make sure that everyone in the city knew that it was Charlotte’s birthday so we arrived early to deck out her bike with pinwheels, streamers, a horn and a bubble maker. When our tour guide announced that we would be riding 12 miles I nearly snuck out the door. I was out of shape, and I had a vision of me laying on the pavement 2 miles with my very in shape friends pouring water over me and calling a cab to return me home. But I was surprised to find 12 miles on a bike is not so bad. We started early in the day while the weather was still nice. We had a nice stop for beignets at Morning Call Coffee Stand in the park. We also stopped to assist a jogger who had tripped and was hurt (did I mention there were 3 nurses and a doctor in our group?). The tour went by quickly. We got to see parts of the city I had never seen before plus we all got some great exercise.

That night we went to Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. Rod had arranged for a special blessing and mention of Charlotte during mass. We also were asked to bring up the gifts (all 13 of us). After mass, we had our best meal of the weekend, but we did not go to a restaurant to get it. dinner was steaks cooked by Rod and the guys. We all squeezed around the dinner table, ate our delicious home cooked meal, drank lots of wine, and toasted Charlotte.

Hotels can be nice but being able to share that big beautiful home with this group was even better. No one had to drive, we were able to carry on conversations without worrying about the other hotel guests, and we did not have to wait to get another glass of wine, we just asked someone to pass the bottle.

We spent Sunday exploring the garden district, shopping, and playing pool. We went out for dinner that night at Drago’s Seafood, but the food, service, and ambiance could not compare to the dinner the night before. The worst part of going out to dinner with a large group in New Orleans is that restaurants will not split checks nor take multiple credit cards. I feel that makes dining out very uncomfortable as everyone wants to split things fairly but it can be hard if everyone does not bring enough cash to cover the bill.

When Monday arrived, I was sad to be saying goodbye to my new friends and the beautiful house we had called home for the weekend. I could not believe I had been anxious about spending time with them at the start of our trip. Hotels are great, but for a big group like this a house is so much better. You can cook what you want, go to sleep if you are tired, and you have the time to spend with everyone.

Recently Rod and Charlotte hosted a New Orleans reunion at their beautiful home. Though I had not seen many of the group since we parted ways that last day in New Orleans, we picked right up on our friendship as we played games, ate a delicious etouffee and spent quality time together.
New Orleans is a beautiful city with delicious food, a haunting history, and fun people who know how to party. I look forward to my next trip.

A Day in Tarpon Springs

My mom passed away last month, her loss has left a huge void in my life, so while in Florida we decided to make the 3 hour drive to visit my Uncle Bernard and Aunt Ellie in Tarpon Springs. The hugs I received when I arrived were worth the drive, It meant so much to be around my moms family. I was thrilled when they offered to show us around the beautiful town of Tarpon Springs. Continue reading “A Day in Tarpon Springs”

Posted in Family, Travel

Dinner Concert and a Cruise

Carnival Cruise and Heart Cruise
My husband loves cruises and who wouldn’t, they are the perfect escape. You go out into the middle of the ocean with great food, entertainment, and activities to fill our days and nights.
Our latest was aboard the Carnival Ecstasy. One of the older and smaller ships in the Carnival fleet. We sailed from Miami to Key West and Cozumel. But it was not the destinations that appealed to my husband when he booked this trip; it was the fact the band Heart was to perform during our night in Cozumel; and yes it was the real Ann-and-Nancy-Wilson, Crazy-on-You Heart.
We arrived in Miami in the morning on the day of the cruise and were able to board early as we had purchased “Faster to the Fun” passes which allowed us to bypass the lines and get right on board. We always try to get a room with a balcony, I know people say its just a room, but there is nothing like having your own private space to sit and relax away from the crowds and look at the water or gaze up at the stars at night.
We never like having to stick to a schedule so we always choose the “dine at your own time” option. The dining area offered a 3 bottle of wine deal for $67.00 that we could split over our 3 nights, and after looking at the prices of wine, this was a definite saving. However, the real surprise that night and throughout the rest of the cruise was how bad the food was This was not our first Carnival Cruise and in the past we loved the food. I don’t know if it was this particular ship or if Carnival has let its quality slip but weight gain was not going to be a problem as we barely finished our dinner.
On our first night, the cruise director led us on a fun pub crawl to check out the bars on the ship. There were lots of fun places with a variety of music. Our favorite was the piano bar featuring a young wonderful singer named King Bea. We had a great time sitting at the piano while he played and we all sang along.
Sadly, the food never got better, nor did the service in the dining room. At one lunch we were serving water and bread to other patrons as there was no one around to take care of it. No one seemed to mind that we were doing their job for them.
Food is all covered on the cruise but alcohol is extra and can get very pricey. I went online and ordered a bottle of vodka with soda to be delivered to our room before the cruise. We also brought 2 bottles of wine which is the maximum amount you can carry on. They also offered a morning continental breakfast you could have delivered to your room. Each day we ordered orange juice and tomato juice and would make our own bloody Mary’s or screwdrivers in our room.

We were not able to dock in Key West due to bad weather. In Cozumel we opted out of the excursions and had beers, margaritas, and nachos at “Fat Tuesdays.” The drinks were fabulous. The nachos were average. We had to ask for extra jalapeños and habenero sauce (since “gringos don’t like it too spicy”). If you worry about the water in Mexico, the waiter told us that their ice was made from purified water. We had an outside seating area with a view of the ship.
When in Cozumel, be wary of the vendors. Don’t buy anything right away. Always shop around first. If you show interest in any one thing, they will hound you relentlessly. Stand firm and keep walking. I purchased a cross that I found for $5.00 less at the very next place we stopped.
My focus that day was the upcoming Heart concert that night. My husband had purchased VIP passes for us which included a meet and greet with the Wilsons. It was a small event where we were offered free champagne and a photo op with Ann and Nancy, no time for autographs just a couple brief comments then off to our great seats for the concert.

There was not a bad seat in the auditorium but third row center seats was a great treat. The concert was amazing! It was funny that the average age in the audience was 50 so when we would stand up to dance it usually was short lived as our stamina was not what it was at 20. The Wilson sisters still have the stamina and superlative talent, they have not changed a bit.

I am not sure if I would consider another Carnival Cruise, unless of course they had another fantastic concert offering like Heart. They do a yearly concert series so it could happen, I guess we will check out next years calendar.

Time together with no distractions plus the Heart concert made this a spectacular week. I am sure it wont be long before we are on the internet looking for our next great sailing adventure.