Overview of Trip: Carol Patterson and I made plans earlier this year to visit the following: Steamboat Springs, National Parks, Old Mining Town, Friends. We left early in the morning on May 25 on our way to Steamboat Springs; an overnight was spent at Kimball, NE. where we arrived early enough for a self-guided tour around the historic downtown area.
Our first destination was Steamboat Springs where Carol’s daughter, Kori, lives with her husband Brooks. Upon arrival in town, we checked into Nordic Lodge where we had reservations for two nights. The time we spent here was lots of fun and Kori/Brooks were fantastic hosts. Our activities involved exploring the town via river trail, eating out, visiting Steamboat Springs Ski Area, having picnic lunch packed eating at Fish Creek Falls outside of Steamboat, sitting by the river on rocks watching river activity while enjoying the quiet, getting ice cream at Lyon’s Corner Drug & Soda Fountain, watching Brooks entertain a young child who was getting his picture taken, and relaxing.
On the Road Again: We checked out and headed southwest thru Colorado, stopping at Rifle Falls as suggested by Kori, and into Utah where we would stay two nights at Moab, UT; one night at Caineville, UT; one night at Bryce Canyon City, UT; and one night at Hurricane, UT as we were going to explore four national parks within this region of Utah. An added bonus was driving thru and exploring Capitol Reef National Park which we had not planned on doing.
Canyonlands National Park: This national park is a wilderness of countless canyons and formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. The rivers divide the park into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. After reading about each of the districts, Carol and I choose to drive the Island in the Sky district. Upon entering the park, we drove slowly thru the paved roads within the park; the road branched off into two area of which one reached Upheaval Dome and Whale Rock while the other went to White Rim Overlook where we hiked to the Grand View Point Overlook. We returned to the Visitor Center for some shopping, went into Moab for more shopping and lunch. Went to our lodging late afternoon, took a deserved few hours break, and headed back downtown for a light evening meal.
In the morning, we had heard that Caineville only consisted of Cathedral Valley Inn where we were staying so we spent at Hanksville, UT at the Outlaw’s Roost for a late lunch; this restaurant had an old bar with John Wayne behind the counter.
Arches National Park: Because this park draws many tourists, we entered the park around 6:30 in the morning in order to avoid crowds. The drive in the park was for 18 miles and relatively easy driving. There were no park rangers on duty at the entrance so we were not slowed down upon entry. We immediately started to see rocks and lots of natural beauty. After driving the 18 miles and back, we stopped at the Visitor Center for shopping and late breakfast at picnic tables at the center. We then headed to Caineville, UT where we had lodging reserved at the Cathedral Valley Inn; on the way, we discovered Caineville had no facilities besides the inn so we had
We then headed to Caineville, UT where we had lodging reserved at the Cathedral Valley Inn; on the way, we discovered Caineville had no facilities besides the inn so we stopped for a late lunch at the Outlaw’s Roost in Hanksville, UT for a late lunch; the restaurant was unique with being filled with old western scenes and had an old bar with John Wayne behind the counter.
When we arrived at our lodging, our rooms were not ready so we drove down the road into Capitol Reef National Park. The main highway goes right thru the park but there is a ranger station at Fruita where you need to pay to drive the 8-mile scenic drive and visit the Fruita Historic District. We decided to enter at Fruita the next morning on our way to Bryce Canyon. I would like to note that lodging at Caineville is owned and operated by a young couple; the rooms were large, airy, comfortable, and quite clean. I certainly hope this young couple succeeds in their endeavor and would recommend staying there to anyone.
Capitol Reef National Park: In the morning, we drove to Fruita ranger station, showed our senior pass, and drove the well-maintained 8-mile scenic drive. On our way back toward the main highway, we stopped at the Fruita Historic District which had a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, Gifford House store and museum, etc. There was a bakery which sold fresh baked pie and we purchased two different kinds. We selected a picnic table at the site and ate the apple pie with ice cream as breakfast.
We left the park and proceeded on scenic Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon City where we had lodging for the night (fortunately, the room was clean but there was not much else to brag about the Bryce UpTop Lodge and would not recommend anyone to stay there).
Bryce Canyon National Park: Of all the national parks we visited on this trip, this was the one that I found filled with awesome, breath taking beauty; don’t get me wrong, I am glad we saw the other parks because all of them were filled with color and beauty but this one was especially so of the cliffs and bulbous columns called hoodoos. This mesmerizing place is like no other. The only way to see the park was by driving or hiking; we drove the 18 miles to the end of the rim road seeing such views as Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Bryce Point, Natural Bridge, Yovimpa Point, and Rainbow Point. We had walk the trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point which was a mile in length; I would of continued down into the canyon if I would have had hiking boots with me which I forgot to pack.
After leaving the park, we continued on scenic Highway 89 to Hurricane, UT where we had lodging for 2 nights.
Zion National Park: Because of the amount of visitors this park receives, cars are not allowed within the park and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is driven by the park’s shuttle service. There was some difficulty finding parking outside the south entrance but we did find something relatively close for the right price. And then we walked thru the entrance by the visitor center where the park ranger checked our pass but did not smile, did not talk, did not offer a map, just seemed annoyed with all the people. We got on a shuttle; at bus stop #5, we got off and went into the Zion Lodge where we were able to get a map. While there, we found a bench where we ate our breakfast. Upon getting on the bus again, we bypassed stop #6 called the Grotto because there was nothing there but hiking trails, and the last stop was stop #9 at Temple of Sinawava. Here we walked the Riverside Walk to an area called the Narrows; total walk was about 2 miles. At the shuttle stop, we picked up a bus for the return to the visitor center. There was only one stop on the way back and that was for any hikers who were going onto three different trails. This park has a lot of beauty with many colorful canyons and massive cliffs; the attitude and “push” of the park staff seemed to override the beauty of the park.
On the Road Again: We left the national parks behind us and headed into California to Bridgeport, CA where we had lodging at the Bridgeport Inn which has its history dating back to the 1870’s when an old mining town called Bodie became a boomtown; the town had 65 saloons and bordellos along with a population of 13,000. The reason for our venturing to this old mining town is because one of the buildings that has been restored was operated by the Hise family from the 1920’s into the early 1930’s. We enjoyed our 1 night stay at the Inn.
Bodie State Historic Park: Both of us enjoyed our visit to Bodie, an old mining town where gold was discovered in 1859. Bodie’s real boomtown days began in 1875; between 1877-1881, their mining district included 30 different mines and nine stamp mills. Along with merchants and miners, Bodie attracted a rougher element which gave the town a reputation for bad men and wild times. There are approximately 40 or more structures representing various times that are standing and have been restored; houses built in 1870’s, a mill built in the late 1890’s, gas pumps from the 1920’s, and a schoolhouse that was used until 1942. It was designated a California state park in 1962 and is now preserved in a state of “arrested decay”. Having to drive the last 3 miles into Bodie on a dirt road was well worth it.
On the Road Again: After leaving the historic park, we headed to Rancho Cordova, CA where we had lodging reservations for the night. The rest of our trip was visiting friends in California and Montana before heading home to Iowa. We spent three nights with the Knapps outside of Westport, CA and three nights with the Fosters outside of Bozeman, MT. There was one night between the two visits where we had lodging at Elko, NV before arriving at the Fosters.
Knapps: Our friends home is located on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean; it is along Highway 1 right before the highway takes a bend inward. A very peaceful, calm place which is what we needed after driving Branscomb Road. The first full day we were there, we visited Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens located in Fort Bragg; it comprises 47 acres and 4 miles of trails to explore all the gardens comprised of Rhododendrons, Heritage Roses, Dahlia, Lilies, both coastal and forest Wildflowers, summer heathers, and much more. On our second day we went to a demonstration plot of redwoods owned by Mendocino Redwood Co. or Mendocino Forest Products; there was a walking trail that we took to the end and returned to our car. It was quiet, delightful hike. Then we drove to Mendocino for lunch and shopping. Afterwards, Bill and I washed off all the dust my vehicle picked up from the dirt road in Bodie. The next morning we were on the road early heading to Montana.
Fosters: Tom and Sarah Foster are located approximately 5 miles south of Bozeman, MT; their house sits on a couple large lots that offer gorgeous views of the mountains and has easy access to various hiking trails. We arrived later in the day so, after a day of driving, it was great to kick back and relax with a glass of wine on their outside patio with an added bonus of a beautiful sunset later in the evening. The first full day we picked up a packed lunch and headed to Bear Trap North campground along the Madison River. After driving through the whole area so Fosters could evaluate it for a potential camping adventure, we sat at an available picnic table with our backs to the wind and ate our lunch; the wind was extremely strong. After lunch, we headed to Norris where there was a garden shop and hot springs. The garden shop was fun to shop and the hot springs area looked very inviting. On day two we had breakfast out; afterwards, we headed downtown for shopping/lunch/shopping. The evening was spent at Fosters with our eating Tom’s fantastic BBQ ribs. We had an early departure for our journey home.
On the Road Again: Our trip home took two days with our stopping for the night at Oacoma, SD; the first day was very long with an oil and gas scare thrown into the journey and the last day we detoured to West Des Moines to deliver some articles of the Fosters to their daughter, Carrie. We met up with Carol’s granddaughter, Mandy, at Palo around 3:30 in the afternoon. And I proceeded home where the car was unloaded, some articles put away, and Beauty/Cutie cuddled.
The trip was everything I wanted; great travel companion, beautiful scenery, accident free driving, and fantastic friends. Our visits to the four national parks removed another bullet from my bucket list of adventures. We drove for over 5500 miles, traveled through 11 states, and arrived back in Iowa after 21 days being gone very happy and content.
Left home on Monday, Dec. 2nd, when my sister picked me up for the airport. Flight departure was scheduled for 9:30 with arrival in Chicago at 10:30; I was to have approximately 4 hours to kill before departure to Frankfurt at 2:20. Airline carrier was United. Upon arrival at airport, I found a 2 hour delay; because to all the weather delays the previous day, the plane from Dallas could not fly until the crew received the required time off. No plane had appeared at 11:30; it finally arrived around noon after contending with a medical emergency on board before departure from Dallas. Got into ORD around 1:10 but could not disembark because the plane was slightly off the mark so another delay until the pilot ramped up the plane and coasted it closer to the hanger. Got off and quickly headed for my connecting flight which was leaving from another terminal. Got to the assigned gate and got into line for boarding. Then it was announced boarding would happen at a gate two down because plane was having some mechanical difficulty. Arrival at that gate put me toward the front of the line where we waited approximately two hours for the new plane to arrive, board flight crew, and cabin restocked/prepared for passengers. Boarding occurred and we were on our way. Arrived in Frankfurt at 7:00 instead of scheduled 5:45 a.m.which meant running to Immigration, getting passport stamped, on to luggage claim for suitcase, and proceeding to the train station where I found out what platform to stand on, and waited two minutes for the train. Got settled in my assigned compartment where I spent an enjoyable couple hours speeding thru the German countryside.
Arrived Freiburg and was greeted by Jeannette. Walked to my hotel, Motel One, where I left my luggage because room was not ready. Jeannette and I explored the markets but my attention span was not the greatest. We lunched at Mai Wok, a Thai restaurant that had decent food. After spending a few hours in the hotel lobby conversing with a couple glasses of wine, I got into my room and Jeannette left for her home. After settling in, I took a shower which felt wonderful. Allan got home from work around 6:00; they came to my room around 7:00. It was great to see him! Dinner was at Martins Brau. Back to the hotel and bed.
Wednesday morning Jeannette came to the hotel where we had breakfast before departing to shop. It was a cool but sunny morning and we had fun looking at some of the local shops and the Christmas market sheds. Allan got off work around noon or so and met us at Burgermeister for lunch. We then went to a game store where Allan selected three ides for me to give him as potential Christmas gift. They went across the street for baklava while I made my selection, purchased, and had the gift wrapped. We then went back the markets to finish up visiting the areas we had missed earlier. After we walked to the kids place, they made nachos and we played a game called Cards against Humanity, a real fun game. Allan walked me back to my hotel to close out the evening.
Thursday morning I got coffee in the lobby and had breakfast of apple, almonds, and cheese in my room. Jeannette and Allan picked me up via car and we headed to the Christmas markets at Strasbourg, FR. It was a very cool day which started out quite foggy but cleared later in the morning. We parked the car at an area outside the center and took a free tram to the markets. Then we walked, looked, walked, looked, purchased, purchased looked, and found a place for lunch at Les P’Tites Cocottes Restaurant which had very good good food in a quaint environment. And then we shopped some more finally heading to the Museum of Arts gift store only to find it not opened. So we decided to get the next tram and head back to Freiburg. However, there was quite a delay in the tram arrival due to a worker’s strike so we decided to walk the 25 minutes goggle said it would take to the parking lot. Got to the car, unloaded purchases, and took off to a grocery store not too far from our departure point. Explored the enormous store and purchased a premade salad for our evening meal since I wanted to “veg” out in my room. Repacked my suitcases with purchases, had a glass of wine while eating, and spent the rest of evening updating notes and reading.
Friday was a comfortable day as far as temperature was concerned. Allan and Jeannette picked me up by the side of the hotel; we were headed to the town of Schaffhausen in Switzerland. There was fog in the air and trees had frost on them which presented a beautiful screen as we rode again. The places of interest that we saw was Rhine Falls and Castle of Lauren which was located on a rock fortress above the falls. We ate lunch at a restaurant near the falls. On our way back to Freiburg, we took in the Ravenna Gorge Christmas market. It was a very beautiful sight with the market stalls under the arches of the railroad bridge. After the sun went down, the arches changed color every so many seconds. We took the bus back to where we parked our car and headed back to Freiburg. Got pizza at an Italian place down from my hotel called Pulcinella. It was good and very filling. The kids headed home and I walked back to my hotel where I settled in for the evening.
On Saturday we took the train to Staufen for another Christmas market and lunch at a cheese house in which Jeannette had made advanced reservations for 1:00 p.m. which was good because they were quite busy. It was called Restaurant Käsestube; we had red pepper fondue that was delicious. We wandered the market, which was very busy, and returned to Freiburg on the late afternoon train. We had been so busy since I arrived that I told the kids I wanted to “veg out” that evening. Had an apple and cheese for dinner while reading; a relaxing, restful evening.
The kids picked me up outside the hotel on Sunday, the 8th, in the morning and we headed to Colmar. There was a wine tasting at the exhibition hall there; Jeannette and Allan had free tickets to get in. We went to approximately five booths before saying “enough”….there were only about 40 vendors we did not try. Allan and I had lunch at the tasting before leaving for the Christmas markets in the square of Colmar. It was a wonderful time but really packed with people shopping the markets; bumper to bumper traffic! Would not mind going back there during a time of less crowds. We headed back to Freiburg, went to the kids place, and then to a Greek restaurant called Ouzeria. Good food and good atmosphere.
Monday was a slow start; I slept in and then went across the street for breakfast at Leo’s Bakery & Cafe. I spent time packing up all the purchases I had made so far and was happy to know everything would fit. Jeannette and Allan came around noon; they brought some packages for me to mail once my trip ended. After lunch at Maria Bar we walked to the science store, toy store, and a place where they picked up a package that UPS had tried to deliver. Another early evening; I picked up a sandwich at Leo’s and ate it in my room while packing the items brought by the kids. Since Tuesday was my departure day, I got all my luggage organized.
On Tuesday, we left the hotel on foot around 10:30. Our goal was to walk up Schloßbergring Hill which has an amazing view of Freiburg and surrounding countryside. Our first stop was Kanin square and we then proceeded to the top. After taking many pictures, we walked to Mai Garden for a Thai lunch; the kids likes this place and I can understand why. We retrieved my luggage from the hotel and walked to Café Bar Coucou for a glass of wine before departing to Frankfurt on the 4:00 ICE train. Boarded the train and arrived at the train station in Frankfurt without incident. Gathered my luggage and walked to the Sheraton within the airport where I had a reservation for the night. Got into my room, and left to explore the airport. Found the Lufthansa counters, got my boarding passes for the next day, and went to the Sports Bar for dinner.
Wednesday I was up quite early, after a shower, I took my luggage to the Lufthansa business class counter for checking, returned to the Sheraton for another sweep of the room, and check out. Arrived back at the airport where I went through Passport Control and Security. Purchased a couple items in order to spend the small amount of Euros I had. Went to the Lufthansa Business Lounge for breakfast and hanging out until my flight at 10:45. Boarded the flight without incident and winged our way across the pond to the good old USA. It was great to be able to finally experience the European Christmas Markets; my thanks and love go to Jeannette and Allan for being wonderful, fun hosts.
Earlier in the year, Fosters and I decided to sign up for an eastern Canadian rail journey thru a tour company called Fresh Tracks. The journey consisted of arriving in Montreal on September 24 and exploring the city until departure on Friday, the 27th, via rail to Quebec City; departure via overnight rail from Quebec City to Halifax on September 29 with arrival in Halifax on Sunday the 30th where we spent 3 nights before departing for home on October 3rd. For ease of entry and remembering, I will break this blog into three categories based on where we were exploring.
Montreal: The arrival into Montreal was uneventful and I was meet by a limousine service who took me to the Le Place D’Armes Hotel. Fosters were significantly delayed in Salt Lake and arrived at the hotel approximately 5 hours late. We spent the first day exploring Montreal on our own; walked waterfront of Old Port and took the Observation Wheel which is Canada’s tallest structure providing us with panoramic views 60 meters in the air. After our ride, we continued to explore the Old Port area, had lunch at Brewskey Pub, and explored shops on the way back to our lodging. That evening we had dinner at Bonaparte Restaurant which is considered one of the premier restaurants in Old Montreal serving French cuisine. On day 3, we were part of a small group 6 hour tour which provided us with Montreal’s history, architecture and culture. We took in Notre-Dame Basilica, Old Montreal, Farmer’s Market where we had a lunch of poutines (a Canadian dish made up of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy), Downtown, St. Joseph’s Oratory, and Plateau Mont-Royal for a spectacular view of the city. That evening we had dinner at Brasserie 701 which was located close to our hotel. The next morning we had some time before departing late morning for the train station so we had breakfast at Cora’s Kitchen which Fosters were interested in because they have a granddaughter named Cora. Our transfer was made to the train station where we departed around 12:45; a 3-course meal with complimentary wine was served for lunch in the dining car. Upon arrival in Quebec City, we were transferred by private car to our hotel for the next 3 nights called Hotel 71.
Quebec City: Our first morning in Quebec City had us scheduled for a private walking tour of Old Quebec City at 10:00. At least part of the tour was walking in rain which did not help the cold I was fighting. Our guide covered much history of the city along with pointing out architecture; we went from lower town to upper town via the funicular. We saw such sites as Ursuline Convent, City Hall, and the courtyard of the Seminary surrounded by several beautiful churches. What started out a decent tour started to degrade due to the weather plus the tour guide had a very monotone voice which caused me to lose interest in what she was saying and we cut the tour short. After the tour, we found a pharmacy where I purchased cold medicine. We found a place for lunch at a pub down the street from the pharmacy. After eating, we ventured into some shops for browsing. The next day, we had a tour scheduled of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac so we located the starting point for the tour, walked around the Terrasse Dufferin which is a terrace that wraps around the hotel from the northeast to the southeast overlooking the St. Lawrence River, and then we headed back down to the lower town via the 30 sets of stairs that link upper to lower. On the way down, we had dinner at St. Patrick Restaurant/Pub. The next morning, we walked back to the starting point of our scheduled tour of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac which is one of the most photographed hotels in Canada. It is a luxury hotel that was built in the late 19th century by William Van Horne, General Manager of Canadian Pacific Railway. The father of Emily Post, Bruce Price from New York was retained as the architect and he drew on the Middle Ages and Renaissance architectural styles in his design. It was a very enjoyable tour which everyone enjoyed. We spent our last afternoon in Quebec City exploring on our own. That evening we had a four course dinner at the Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens which is located in the historic Maison Jacquet, one of the largest houses in upper town and the oldest in Quebec being built in 1675. After dinner, we checked out of our lodging and was driven to the rail station for an overnight train to Halifax. There was an hour delay with the train arrival; once aboard, I was escorted to my cabin where I immediately fell into bed. Next morning, I met up with the Fosters in the dining car for breakfast. Most of the car was spent in the observation car with our leaving for lunch early afternoon. The overall train experience seemed long. Upon arrival in Halifax, we were driven to the Lord Nelson Hotel which was our lodging for the next three nights. Dinner was at The Arms Public House close to the hotel.
Halifax: After breakfast, we ventured our way to the Marriott Harbourfront which was our meeting place for a Wine and Gourmet Lunch tour. The 6 to 7 hour tour consisted of our visiting three award winning Nova Scotia wineries in the Annapolis Valley. We had a tour and tasting at Benjamin Bridge Winery, tasting and lunch with wine at Luckett Vineyards (the lunch was delicious!) overlooking Minas Basin fed by the Bay of Fundy, and the third tasting at Gaspereau Vineyards. There was a total of 9 on this tour and it was a very fun experience! After the tour, we explored the boardwalk which was not as interesting as I thought it would be; there really was not much along it except tourist “traps”. We stopped at The Arms Public House for a drink and then walked to the Rock Bottom Brewery for our evening meal. The next morning we were picked up by our own driver for a 4-5 hour tour to Peggy’s Cove and surrounding area. Peggy Cove’s is a
small rural community located on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay in Nova Scotia’s Halifax Regional Municipality, and is the site of Peggys Point Lighthouse built in 1868. It was a very windy day but that did not prevent us from exploring the entire village including walking out on the rocks surrounding the lighthouse for a look inside and hoping to see the gallery of sculptor/painter William E. deGarthe; however, the gallery was not opened but outside of it is a carved granite outcropping of 100 ft. sculpture by deGarthe as a monument to honor the Nova Scotian fishermen. We left the village and stopped at Swissair Flight 111 memorial; on September 2, 1998, this flight crashed into St. Margaret’s Bay approximately five miles east of Peggy’s Cove with the loss of all 229 aboard. The cove became one of the staging areas for First Responders that were involved in the search and rescue response, crash recovery operation, and investigation of the crash. This was a very somber experience. Our driver took us back to the hotel where we went across the street and walked thru the Halifax Public Gardens. Our evening meal was at The Henry House. Since we were being picked up at 4:15 a.m. for our trip to the airport, we had an early evening.
Our Canada trip came to an end on October 3rd when we boarded United flight 5631 for Chicago at 6:45 a.m. The trip of Eastern Canada was interesting, time passed quickly, and all the people we encountered where friendly and helpful.
The decision was made earlier in the year that we would have a friends reunion at Tom and Sarah Foster home outside Bozeman, MT. Those making the trip were Joyce Sheldon from Arkansas, Barb and Bill Knapp from northern California, Phil Sheldon from Wyoming, and Carol Patterson along with myself from Iowa. Joyce came to my house the night of Friday, July 5th. We spent Saturday having lunch with friends in Cedar Rapids, Mary and Larry Nelson; while at lunch, perspective buyers of my 1991 Mazda Miata were taking a test run. We ate at a new restaurant called Rodina’s in Czech Village and it was very good.
Since we were leaving early the next day for Phil’s in Gillette, WY. Carol spent the night at my place. There was nothing to note regarding our first day except lots of construction happening on I90; we arrived in Gillette about 6:00 p.m., checked into our rooms at the Best Western where we had reservations, Phil came to our hotel, and we had dinner at Wyoming’s Rib and Chop House a short distance from the hotel. Good food, good wine, and good conversation. It was a short evening with lights being out early; we planned on being on the road by 7:00 the next day.
On the road again; since he had to leave Fosters late Wednesday afternoon, Phil drove his own car and Joyce rode with him. While on the road, I got a message from the folks who test drove my Miata; they made an offer, I gave a counter offer, and the car was sold…what a relief! Because we were going to arrive around 12:30 or so in Bozeman, we contacted the Fosters to see if they wanted to meet for lunch which they thought was a great idea. We met up at Biankini’s right off of I90 in Bozeman. After lunch, we settled in at Fosters with Joyce and I taking the beds in the basement. The Knapps arrived around 5:00 p.m. Tom had fixed his famous BBQ ribs; after appetizers and a few drinks, we had dinner which included the sweet corn we had brought with us. It was so great to be together again!!
On Tuesday, the 9th, we went to the Museum of the Rockies located on the campus of Montana State University which resides not too far from the Fosters. It was an excellent day exploring the museum plus seeing a showing the first man to step on the Moon in the theater. We had lunch from a food truck outside the entrance. And I could not pass up visiting the museum gift shop although I did not make any purchase. That evening we had steaks that we had brought from Iowa. After dinner, we went to the Community Band concert in a local park; Carol’s brother, who lives in Bozeman, played the tuba in the band so it gave her an opportunity to visit briefly with him.
We ate breakfast out on Wednesday with Barb and Bill treating us at The Coffee Pot Cafe; as we waited for our orders, I journeyed thru the pottery shop that is part of the cafe and, of course, made a purchase of tiny bowls that go well with my dinnerware. After breakfast, the ladies shopped downtown while the men went to beer tastings at a couple local breweries. Good time was had by all! Phil took off about 3:30 or so to return to Gillette and, after our good byes, we sat outside on the patio visiting. That evening we had pizza at MacKenzie River Pizza Co; while there, I got a text from my brother who was in Bozeman picking up a new camping trailer. Bob and Linda were going to stay at the WalMart parking lot for the evening so, after we ate pizza, we went there to view their new trailer. Very nice and very big! Back at the Fosters, we visited for awhile and then departed for our respective rooms.
After a leisurely morning, we loaded into Carol’s van and headed to the Spanish Creek Trailhead which is part of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness; we were having a picnic lunch and taking a hike. It was a hot but beautiful day. The picnic was delicious and everyone, except Barb who was having some leg problems, went hiking. About mid-afternoon, we decided to head back to Bozeman but we stopped at Stacey’s Bar in Gallatin Gateway on the way for some liquid refreshment. That evening, after eating leftovers, the boys were busy in Tom’s workshop with the laser while the rest of us relaxed. However, for some reason, my stomach became quite upset and I rushed to Fosters bathroom but did not quite make it in time. After getting sick, I went to bed because of feeling very tired and weak; went to sleep quite early which was good because the next morning we were leaving quite early for home.
Got up at 5:00 a.m., got dressed, packed our luggage in our vehicle, gave everyone a good bye hug, and we were on our way back to Iowa by 5:30 a.m. That evening we checked into Baymont Inn and Suites at Oacoma, SD. After settling into our room, we walked to Al’s Oasis Restaurant which was located right next to our lodging. My stomach was feeling slightly off so had ordered a shrimp cocktail for my meal. After we ate, we ventured to the gift shop and grocery stores attached to the restaurant. At the grocery store, I purchased some food items for home the next day; this avoided my having to go food shopping once I got there. The drive on Saturday was uneventful with the major excitement was purchasing a blizzard at a Dairy Queen. Got home around 3:00 in the afternoon; after unloading our luggage, Carol took off for her home in Marion. Joyce was attending a conference in St. Louis but it did not start until Wednesday so she did not leave my place until after lunch on Tuesday. Good time was had by all and it was animous decision that we would meet again next year in Arkansas.
My sister-in-law, Sarah, arranged for me to join them for a performance of the musical, Hamilton, in Chicago during May so I decided to visit both sisters at their respective homes before heading to Chicago. On Friday, May 17th, I left home early in the morning to drive to sister-in-law, Lynda, and her husband’s place outside Stryker, OH. Arrived at their place around 4:00 in the afternoon; the drive was uneventful and traffic not very bad. That evening, Lynda fixed hamburgers on the grill; we spent the evening catching up with each other’s lives. The next day we went shopping in Defiance, OH. Because the weather was much colder than the forecast had shown, I needed to purchase some warm clothing so ended up finding a sweatshirt and pair of dressy knit pants. Lynda had pulled a pair of jeans she was giving to Goodwill out of her box and gave them to me. That evening, we ate at “Mom’s” Restaurant in Archbold.
On Sunday, the 19th, we drove to Sarah and Mike’s place in Adrian, MI. Once there, we loaded into their vehicle for a drive to Chelsea, MI where we were having a family dinner at nephew, Jason, home. What a beautiful home, nestled among the trees, with design similar to Frank Lloyd Wright. It was an afternoon of delicious food, and great conversations. We arrived back in Adrian around 5:15; Lynda and Jim left for their home while we drove to niece, Jana’s, and her family home. Spent a couple hours talking to Jana, Mark, and the kids. Went back to Sarah and Mike’s where we settled in for the night.
The next day Sarah and I drove to a new garden nursery she had been wanting to explore. After that, we drove into Tecumseh where we visited a few shops, including one winery where I purchased a bottle of local wine, and had lunch at a real cool place called British Tea Garden. Once we arrived back in Adrian, Sarah and I walked the downtown area where I saw many changes. We also stopped in the Croswell Opera House, an historic theater, that Sarah and Mike support; it is a beautiful place. Mike was playing on a golf league so Sarah and I had pizza at the Pizza Bucket. Since we were leaving early the next morning to catch a train in Jackson for downtown Chicago, we got our bags organized and ready to go.
Early, early, early is the best way to describe the over hour drive to Jackson the next morning. Got on the train for downtown Chicago; because of some delay on the tracks, it took about 5 hours to get to Chicago’s downtown station. Upon arrival, we grabbed a taxi for a ride to the hotel, Hilton Garden Inn, that we had reserved. After checking in and taking luggage to our rooms, we met downstairs and walked to Grand Lux Cafe, a place Sarah and Mike had experienced before and really liked, for lunch. More walking familiarized us with the area. Back at the hotel, we got ready for the evening performance of the musical Hamilton. Before the performance, we met up with the gal who was raised in Adrian and worked at the supervisor of the Costume Department for the theater company; she was able to get us very good seats close to the stage. We met at the bar/restaurant, the Grillroom, across from the theater. After she left to get the cast ready for the performance, we stayed for a bite to eat. When it was time, we walked across the street to the theater where we experienced a fantastic performance; it was very, very enjoyable! After the performance, we were able to go on stage and meet one of the major actors. And then a walk back to the hotel where we settled in for the night.
Wednesday found us, after breakfast at the hotel, heading to Millennium Park which is an award-winning center for art, music, architecture and landscape design. The last time I was in downtown Chicago, I did not have a chance to visit the park so really wanted to see it this visit. And it was very enjoyable to walk around and see all the sculptures. We grabbed a taxi for Northerly Island where Hamilton The Exhibition was located. A very detailed, informative exhibit in which we spent close to three hours exploring. And, like many visitors, I had a buy a souvenir at their gift shop. We returned to downtown Chicago where we had lunch at the Weber Grill Restaurant. We then walked down the Miracle Mile; stopped and purchased popcorn at Garrett’s which is well known in Chicago for their caramel popcorn. Back at the hotel, we went to our respective rooms for a few hours of relaxation. That evening we had dinner at an Italian place called Pizzeria Due. After dinner, we stumbled upon a place that had restaurants, gourmet food, deli, and merchandise all rolled into one. It was a great place to explore…even though I cannot remember the name of it. Back to the hotel for the rest of the evening.
Thursday was our last day in Chicago before our catching the train back to Jackson at 5:45 that evening. We were checked out of the hotel but left our luggage in storage and took off to explore some shops. There was a Canadian store called Roots that was having a grand opening of a new store in Chicago; Sarah was familiar with the store from their many visits to Canada so she wanted to see what the new store had to offer. And I wanted to find Patagonia for another shopping experience. First, we found Roots but it was not opening for another hour; however, the manager let us into the store and gave us free leather passport handlers that we could have engraved when the store officially opened later in the morning. We proceeded to the address of Patagonia; I found a pair of lightweight sweatpants that I purchased. By the time I completed browsing and made a purchase, Roots was open so we went back to the store. All of us had our leather passport holders engraved with name and design. Purchases were made and we walked back to the hotel. It was mid-afternoon, so we decided to find a lunch/early dinner spot; we went to Rock Bottom Brewery down the street from the hotel. After having a drink and appetizer, we spent time in the lobby of the hotel. Around 4:00, we retrieved our luggage and found a taxi to take us to the train station. Because of the traffic, it took about an hour to arrive at the station. Our train arrived and we were on our way to Jackson. Dinner was a glass of wine from the dining car and the bag of cheesy popcorn I had purchased the day before. We got there around 10:30; found the car and drove back to Adrian where we arrived around 11:45; all of us off to bed.
On Friday, the 24th, I got up at 5:00 in order to be on the road by 5:30. Filled my traveling mugs with coffee and water. Because it was the start of a holiday week end, I wanted to be around Chicago by 11:00 in order to avoid traffic. Made very good time; got around Chicago with no problems and arrived home around 3:30 pm Iowa time. Another successful adventure; it was good to spend time with Tom’s family and being able to see Hamilton at the same time.
On Sunday, January 27th, my friend Joyce and I departed for a two week vacation on four of the Hawaiian Islands. The first three islands would be part of a tour group while the fourth island was on our own. Cedar Rapids departure was at 7:00 a.m. with arrival in Honolulu on Oahu Island at 3:50 p.m.; their time zone is 4 hours behind central time.
Monday, the 28th: I got up at 5:00 a.m. Hawaiian time and read until Joyce woke at 7:30. After getting ready for the day, went down to breakfast in our hotel (which was included with the tour). Good buffet with fresh fruit and made-to-order omelet bar. And then we walked and walked for a total of over 10 miles for the day. Had lunch at LaCucaracha Mexican Bar & Grill where we shared an order of chicken nachos.
Met our guide from Perillo Tours later in the afternoon; he is called cousin Bert. He explained the activities of the next few days and asked us to meet him at 8:00 in the morning for the beginning of our adventure. At check in, we were given a fresh lei and he said to wear them because a group picture will be taken. Joyce and I walked some more and came upon King’s Village which was one of the first shopping malls of the area but will be bulldozed down to make way for a hotel; very sad to see something with such history being destroyed instead of preserved. We ended up having dinner at Cheeseburger Paradise where I have an excellent Ahi tuna salad. Went back to our room and settled in for the night.
Tuesday, the 29th: Went to breakfast before meeting our tour group at 8:00 a.m. At the meeting, introductions were made; a very small group of 8. Our guide gave us additional details about this week’s activities. On this day we went to ‘Iolani Palace which is the only palace within the United States. Hawaii used to be ruled by a monastery. The palace was built in 1882 and construction cost $360,000. The tour was self guided with audio tape being the guide; it was very clear and well produced.
Upon leaving the palace, we went thru downtown Honolulu where Bert and our driver pointed out various points of interest.
Next stop was Pearl Harbor where we saw a 30 minute documentary of the events leading up and including the dropping of the bombs on December 7, 1942. After the viewing, we boarded a Coast Guard vessel which took us out to the memorial honoring those who died on the US Arizona. Upon our return to shore, we released the flowers from the leis we were wearing into the water in memory of those who died. After venturing thru the gift shop, we boarded the bus and headed to Punchbowl, the Pacific National Cemetery.
Returned to the hotel, relaxed while Joyce wrote postcards, and then we went to the farmers market being held on the lower level of our resort. Met up with the rest of our group and walked to the Hula Grill where we had dinner reservations. Saw the sun go down while drinking a Mai Tai. Excellent meal of Mahi Mahi baked with macadamia nuts.
Returned to the hotel and read until time to turn off the lights.
Wednesday, the 30th: We were on our own until late afternoon so we had a leisurely breakfast and spent the day relaxing with a book on our balcony. In the late afternoon, we all gathered for an adventure at Nutridge Estates. A beautiful drive into the mountains with Joe providing the cocktails.
Arrived at the estate and were given the traditional welcome when someone asks permission to enter the gate in Hawaiian and a response from the other side granting it with the gate opening.
What a fun afternoon and evening we had filled with hands on experiences such as how to make sweet potatoes over a fire or how to make head bands and waist bands out of palm leaves. There was a wonderful buffet of Hawaiian foods such as salad, vegetable, pork, and chicken. After our feast, we were shown how to do the Hula dance…what a fun time and no one wanted it to end. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped for pictures of Honolulu at night from an overlook above the area.
Maui was the next island on our itinerary.
Thursday, the 31st: Had breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and met up with Cousin Bert in the lobby. We departed for the airport, went thru Security, and boarded our flight for Maui. Flight time was only 30 minutes. Upon our arrival and baggage retrieval, we boarded transportation for the ride to the Hyatt Maui which was our home the next three nights. Joyce and I had a surprise of water leaking thru the ceiling into wastes paper baskets when entering the room reserved to us; we were given another room. Once we settled in, we walked the grounds of the resort. It is very beautiful with oceanfront views, flamingos walking the grounds, swans/ducks/fishes swimming the crystal clear waters, and penguins walking in their own enclosure. That evening we had dinner at the Son’z Maui Restaurant; I had their lamb chops along with a couple glasses of wine.
Friday, Feb. 1st: It was a free day for us until later in the afternoon so I, along with another tour member, made appointments at the spa located in the Sheraton for a facial and massage. We were able to take a shuttle from the hotel to the spa; what a relaxing, refreshing experience! Rene and I decided to walk back to our lodging and it was a wonderful walk with view of the ocean the whole way. Joyce and I met up in our room, put on our suits, and went down to the patio for lunch of veggie wrap and chips that we split. We then walked into the ocean and swam in the pool.
Cousin Bert called and said the whale watch for the afternoon was cancelled…much to everyone’s dismay; due to the perseverance of one of our group, Bert arranged for us to participate on a watch the next morning. That evening we went into town for some shopping and dinner at Kimo’s. We returned to our hotel and settled in for the evening.
Saturday, the 2nd: Got up early this morning in order to have breakfast before our 7:15 departure for the whale watch. We boarded a catamaran and spent the next two hours watching whales jumping out of the ocean. It was raining so everyone got wet but no one cared because it was such a beautiful experience. The naturalist told us we were really spoiled because many trips are lucky to see a couple whales where we saw at least 50 which included females, males, and babies.
Returned to my room, got off wet clothes, warmed up in the shower, and spent the afternoon updating these notes, writing out post cards, and reading in the room; with it raining outside, this was the perfect activity. In the evening, we went to the “Drums of the Pacific” Luau. Food was good and show okay but participated in better ones on a couple Windstar cruises.
Sunday, the 3rd: Had breakfast, checked out of our hotel, and boarded transportation for the airport where we departed Maui for Kauai which is known as the “Garden Island”. Arrived at the Grand Hyatt approximately 2:00; found our room for the next three nights. We went to a convenience store within the hotel and I purchased a bottle of wine. Returned to the room and watched the Super Bowl on the big screen TV in the room instead of joining the others at the pool bar.
After watching New England beat the Rams, we joined the others at 6:00 for dinner at Tidepools which is a restaurant within the resort. My meal was Ahi Tuna with a garden salad; dessert was chocolate lava cake. Went back to the room and read until lights out around 10:00 pm.
Monday, the 4th: After an early breakfast, we were picked up by a Sunshine Helicopters van for a journey to their office and helipad; we had signed up for an optional tour of a 50 minute helicopter ride over the island. After a safety briefing, we were assigned a helicopter; Joyce and I were on the same one in the front row by the pilot. What a fantastic experience! We saw areas of the island that a person would only be able to see from the air…and a rainbow came out as we were descending over the ocean. Will worth the money!
Returned to our hotel around noon; we checked with the tour desk for information about island’s tropical garden. We decided to venture to the gardens so, after gathering our belongings, we grabbed a taxi and took off. We signed up for the 2.5 hour tour of McBryde and Allerton Gardens with the majority of the tour being in the latter one. Our guide walked us through various garden rooms of reflecting pools, fig roots/trees, mermaid room, bamboo room,etc. with each room being described as an uniquely designed area of landscaping, outdoor art, and intriguing stories. Dick Van Dyke, John Wayne, Nicholas Cage, Johnny Depp, and Steven Spielberg all filmed movies on the property. Recent famous one was Jurassic Park.
After making a purchase at the visitors center, I downloaded the Uber app to my phone so we could get transportation to Pizzetta in Koloa. Upon arrival at the pizza place, we ordered drinks and a vegetable pizza/garden salad to split. After eating, we went into a couple shops where I purchased a t-shirt plus greeting cards. With Judy from Uber responding, we returned to the Hyatt in time to walk the area in search for a good place to watch the sunset.
After the sun went down, we went to our room and spent a quiet evening updating notes and reading.
Tuesday, the 5th: Had an early breakfast this morning due to meeting the group for an 8:00 am departure of sightseeing tour of Waimea Canyon, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The canyon is approximately 10 miles long and up to 3000 ft. deep; this vast canyon is very colorful with reddish hues, some waterfalls, and tall cliffs. After viewing the canyon, we proceeded on to the Sprouting Horn which is narrow openings caused by the waves eroding lava rocks on the coastline. We were able to see the water gushing up thru the hole. There were some stalls of vendors selling their merchandise so we walked up the sidewalk viewing their wares. Once we got back into the van, we drove to the Kauai Coffee’s Koloa Estate. This is the largest coffee farm in the U.S. with 3,000 acres and 4M coffee trees. After tasting their various coffees, I purchased some for gifts to family and friends.
We arrived back at the hotel and, after taking our packages to the room, we changed into our swimsuits, got towels and selected our beach chairs, and had lunch at the pool bar. And then it started to rain so we retrieved our bags and went back to the room to wait out the rain; after three attempts to sit by the pool but having rain come down, we gave up. Joyce took a nap and I read. Met up with our fellow travelers at 6:00 pm for dinner at Dondero’s Italian Restaurant within the resort. It was a very good meal of salad, Parmesan Chicken (not on the menu but made for me at my request) and dessert accompanied with a couple glasses of wine.
Because of our leaving for the Big Island the next morning while the rest of the group were flying to their respective homes, we said our farewells to everyone. Once in our room, we packed our suitcases for a 8:30 pick up and retired for a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday, the 6th: Got ready for the day, checked the room for any items we might have left, and went for our final breakfast on Kauai. Checked out of the hotel and met up with cousin Bert at 9:00; he had arranged our transport to the airport. Arrival and check in at the airport was uneventful; there were two legs on our journey with the first flight flying into Maui and the second into Hawaii. Both flights were timely and we arrived on Hawaii around 1:00 pm in the afternoon. After retrieving our luggage, we found the rental car shuttle bus (although I did get on the wrong bus…thank heavens Joyce was aware 😊). We got our rental car and headed to our home for the next three nights, Westin Hapuna Beach resort. I was quite surprised to see the surroundings were black lava rock; totally different than the green of the other islands. Arrived, dropped off luggage, parked the car, checked in, and found our room which had an ocean view from our balcony. Both of us were hungry so we had lunch at the pool restaurant. After lunch, we drove to the nearest town with shops and food stores. We found Island Gourmet, a grocery store recommended by the waitress we had at lunch. Our purchases was food for the next two evening meals along with a bottle of wine for myself. Upon arrival back at the hotel, parked the car and stored our purchases in our room refrigerator. And then we explored the hotel but returned to the room in time to watch the sunset. Returned back to the lobby to watch a celebration of the Chinese New Year which was two dragons weaving through the lobby and bar area to the sound of drums beating. It was a fun sight! Returned to the room and settled in for the evening. We had an island tour scheduled for the next day with pick up at 6:45 a.m. so a quiet evening was welcomed.
Thursday, the 7th: We got up at 5:15 in order to be ready for 6:45 pick up by Wasabi Tours for a “Big Island Grand Island” tour. Our driver and guide was Dan Malloy from Billings, MT who works as a tour guide on Hawaii during the winter and Yellowstone Park during the summer months. He was very knowledgeable of all the natural wonders of the area; it was an excellent way to get an overview of the massive island. On the tour, we walked through an ancient lava tube and got an overview of the historical Kona Coffee Farm. We made a stop at the Black Sand beach where we looked for green sea turtles but, to our disappointment, did not spot any. Onward to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where we walked by steam vents and viewed the Kīlauea and Halema’uma’u crater outlooks. At the visitor center, we watched a short video of last year’s Kīlauea eruption.
After eating a lunch provided by Wasabi, we explored the visitor center of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm. We continued along the Hamakua coast; we made stops at the Waipi’o Valley lookout, the famous Rainbow Falls, and Akaka Falls where we took a walk through the rainforest for an up-close view of the falls. We saw views of the southernmost point of the United States, South Point, and Kealakekua Bay.
We continued on our journey making a loop around the whole island and ending back at our lodging 11.5 hours after we were picked up in the morning. An excellent experience! Because we realized we would be tired after the day’s activities, we had picked up salad/sandwich the day before for our dinner which we ate in the room. There was nothing on the agenda for the next day so we could sleep in which was a pleasant thought after such an action packed day.
Friday, the 8th: We had breakfast in the dining room around 9:30; afterwards, we returned to our room, put on our swimsuits, found pool side chairs, swam, sunned ourselves, and walked the beach. Returned to our room where we changed clothes and headed out to explore another nut farm called Hamakua plus the historic town of Hawi. Both Joyce and I felt Hamakua had a better variety of items than the one we visited the previous day.
And we enjoyed walking the town of Hawi with both of us making a few purchases but felt it was another “tourist trap”. We drove to the Island Gourmet which was south of our lodging and I found more items to purchase for gifts back home. Returned to our resort and had diner, while watching the sunset, at the ocean front grill of the resort. Very tasty food and beautiful sunset. Upon return to our room, both of us organized our luggage for departure home late Saturday evening. Had a quiet night of reading before turning out the lights.
Saturday, the 9th: Our departure to home was not until 11:00 p.m. in the evening so we were able to get a late check out time of 3:00 p.m. It was a very leisurely morning with late breakfast and beach walking. We decided to check out around 1:00 or so in the afternoon. Our destination was historic Kailua Village which is located about 15 miles south of our departure airport and along Kona coast. There were shops that we explored along with viewing historical sights of Hulihee Palace, built in 1838, along with the oldest Christian church in Hawaii that was built in 1820. A dear friend of Joyce’s had given her some money for the two of us to have a dinner on her so we found a seafood restaurant, selected seafood dishes, and toasted Joan for gift.
Decided to go to the airport early; dropped Joyce off at the terminal with luggage, returned rental car, and took their shuttle bus back to the terminal. And then the fun began with our not being able to check luggage for another couple hours; unfortunately, there were no benches or places to sit. But we did luck out with an earlier American flight occurring so was able to check in about an hour earlier than thought. Once we got thru security, we found a place where we got some liquid refreshments. Because of high winds over the Pacific, our incoming plane was delayed arriving so we did not board until 40 minutes after original departure time. Both of us were very disappointed in the first class section on all our flights because the seat did not lower enough to make it comfortable to sleep; certainly different than on our flights at the start of our journey. The good news was the high winds provided us with a tail wind which meant we got into LAX early instead of late; Joyce and I departed company at that point with my taking a connecting flight to Dallas and she to NW Arkansas airport. Once in Dallas, I had another connection to Cedar Rapids with my arriving before the scheduled time.
Meet my sister-in-laws, Sarah and Lynda, in New Orleans on November 11, 2018. Upon arrival, we caught a taxi and went to the Embassy Suites which was our home for the next five nights. After settling in, we attended the evening reception at the hotel which was not near as good as previous ones at other Embassy Suites; definitely will not depend upon it for our evening meals.
On Monday, we had an early pick up scheduled for a New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina tour but we did time for the breakfast buffet offered to all guests of the hotel. The tour company picked us up and we were off on an adventure. Our guide described the various districts of New Orleans as we drove along; we went through the French Quarter, the historic park of Jackson Square, and by the Cabildo where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. We arrived at St. Louis Cemetery with is one of the oldest in the city; we walked among some of the tombstones with the guide providing an overview along the way. Next we headed for the City Park and the Besthoff Sculpture Gardens with a stop at the Morning Call restaurant for a brief rest stop and our purchase of beignets. The last area we visited was the Lower 9th Ward where Hurricane Katrina broke the levees and swept away people/homes; there is still areas in which rebuilding is still occurring.
We were deposited at our hotel at the conclusion of the tour; after stopping in our room, we decided to walk to Riverside Mall where we picked our late lunch from the various vendors in the food court. After eating, we walked around the river front and then back to the hotel where we attended the evening reception; the food offerings did not improve from the evening before.
On Tuesday, the 13th, we did not have any activities prearranged so, after breakfast, we took off in the rain for Rouse’s Market which is the leading grocer in the New Orleans area. It was fun to explore the market and compare to back home; we did purchase gifts for people back home. After depositing our purchases at the hotel, we took a walk through the Riverside Mall, walked into the French Quarter where we passed Jackson Square, explored Bourbon Street on our way to Pat O’Brien’s bar for a Hurricane, a well known strong drink of New Orleans. After our drink, we proceeded to Market Street where we came upon a store called Papier Plume. What an excellent discovery! I found an ideal birthday gift for Steev. By this time, we decided on a late lunch at the Royal House Oyster Bar where we hoped to get some fresh seafood; however, we were disappointed in what was served. We continued to walk back to our hotel.
Wednesday we had arranged for an all day plantation tour with an airboat ride into the swamp. It was a very cold, rainy day but that did not stop the airboat ride from happening. Even with the bad weather, it was good trip through the swamps; however, there was no way we were going to see any alligators in the rainy, cold weather.
After the boat ride, we proceeded to Oak Alley Plantation where we were served a very tasty Cajun buffet lunch. After lunch, the three of us took a tour of the plantation house and surrounding grounds. This plantation is quite well known for its oak trees that lined the road from the house to the edge of the property.
Next we went to Laura Plantation where we were given a tour inside and outside. Even though it was smaller than Oak Alley, it was an enjoyable tour. Both of the plantations were very well maintained.
We headed to New Orleans and our lodging. It was early evening by the time we returned so we ordered pizza to be delivered from Magazine Pizza; it was good.
Thursday, the 15th, was our last day in New Orleans; we decided to return to the Garden District so we rode the oldest trolley in New Orleans and were deposited on the edge of the district. Our first stop was a book store where we made a few purchases including a book for a self-guided tour. Then, following the book, we explored the neighborhood which was lined with beautiful homes, schools, and churches. Next we walked to Magazine Street, known for its shops and restaurants, within the district. After asking some local shop owners where to eat lunch, we went to Red Dog Diner which has a farmhouse decor with indoor and outdoor areas; good food and great atmosphere. After lunch, we decided to return to Market Street in the French Quarter so Sarah called for Uber to take us instead of our walking. The driver dropped us off at Market Street where we continued shopping at the point we had stopped on Tuesday. All of us made some purchases; we stopped at a coffee shop because I needed some caffeine in my system. Onward toward the hotel with a detour through the Riverside Mall for a wine shop where I hoped to purchase local wine; however, it tasted awful and what did taste good was made in California so there was no point in making any purchase. When we got back to our hotel, we proceeded to pack for our departure the next day. Sarah called Uber and ordered through them for a pizza to be delivered to our hotel; it worked quite well.
Friday, the 16th, we departed for our respective homes. It was a great week of catching up with my sister-in-laws lives and making more wonderful memories with them but, like all trips, it was good to get home.
The tour ended the morning of the 26th but Ginni and I had decided to extend our trip with two nights in Milan; Allan and Jeannette were meeting us there and I was traveling with them to their home in Freiburg, Germany after touring of Milan. Tauck provided us with a water taxi which took us to the local train station. Their representative got us on a train to Milan where we grabbed a taxi, checked into our hotel called Best Western Hotel Galles Plus, and got another taxi to the Duomo area where we met up with Jeannette and Allan for our 5-hour city walking tour. We saw the inside of the La Scala Opera House, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and the Monastery of S. Maria de Grazie, explored the roofs and inside of the Duomo. After the tour, we found a delightful place to drinks and snacks.
When we went to leave, I discovered my purse had been stolen; after checking the places we had been previously without finding it, we walked to the closest police station to report the theft but they were closed so we ventured to Questura di Milano station which was open. After two hours of waiting, Allan and I talked to a very nice policeman who filed the necessary reports and gave me copies. My purse had a wallet which contained passport, credit card, debit card, drivers license, and some euros; my camera was also in the purse. The major concern was the loss of the passport for identification purposes for traveling thru Switzerland, Germany, and getting home the next Saturday; luckily, I had brought another credit card with me “just in case” which was back at the hotel along with more euros. After reporting the theft, we found a place for dinner. Returned to the hotel and, as Allan and I was contacting the credit and debit card companies via Skype, a woman called our room to inform us her husband had recovered my purse on the metro and she would bring it by in the morning. We were hoping my passport would be in there but, if not, we would change plans and stay another day in Milan in order to apply for a temporary passport at the US Consulate which was closed on Monday due to Memorial Day. The hotel had made a copy of my passport when I checked in so that would help enormously if I did not get the passport back.
On Sunday, Ginni and I took a day tour to Lake Como while the kids stayed in Milan. We departed from Milan onboard an English speaking bus, reaching the charming village of Como; Como. We explored the historical center, with stops at the most important monuments like the ancient Basilica of Sant’Abbondio. After the tour, we wandered thru some shops and stopped at a seaside restaurant for coffee and pastry. Then we boarded a boat to enjoy a nice cruise on the lake which is the third largest in Italy; Lake Como. As we cruised, we ate lunch of fresh perch while listening to a negative on the all the villages and homes we passed. The last stop we made was the village of Bellagio where we wandered thru the shops, had gelato, and sat on a bench located on the waterfront promenade.
We returned to Milan; my purse was at the hotel but it did not have my passport; my wallet and memory card within the camera that had the last two weeks of touring were taken but all other items in the purse were intact. For some reason, the card was removed but the batteries and extra memory card were not which seemed strange. We found a place not too far from the hotel for a very pleasant evening meal; after eating, we went back to the hotel where the kids and I made arrangements for next night’s lodging since we had to stay an additional day in Milan.
Ginni was leaving for home on Monday so we were up early in order for her to prepare for her one hour ride to the airport at 7:00 a.m. Went down to the lobby with Ginni where her driver was waiting; we said our good byes and she was on her way to the airport and home in St. Louis. It was raining but that did not stop Allan from walking over to help me transfer my luggage to another hotel for that evening; because we needed to extend another night, both places where we had been staying wanted to charge an exorbitant rate so we found another Best Western hotel that had availability for all of us at not such an exorbitant rate. The rain stopped and we had a very pleasant day exploring Milan on foot. Found some beautiful gardens and a contemporary sculpture which is unusual in Milan where everything is quite ancient.
We also located the US Consulate (US Consulate) so we would know where to walk early the next morning.
On the 29th, we had breakfast and walked to the consulate where we arrived at 8:10. The kids could not enter the building with me and, after 1.5 hours, I walked out with a 1-year temporary passport.
We then spent over an hour getting out of Milan because of heavy traffic; Jeannette was driving and had the patience of a saint! It was close to lunch time so we stopped at Burmet Bistro at Lomazzo, Italy for a sandwich and beer.
Drove into Switzerland; what a beautiful country! Allan switched places with me so I could have a front seat view of the awesome, beautiful countryside we were driving through. Around 2:30, we arrived at Lucerne, a compact city in Switzerland known for its preserved medieval architecture, where we spent time exploring and shopping. It sits amid mountains on Lake Lucerne; its Old Town is bordered on the north by Musegg Wall (a 14-century rampart) and the covered Chapel Bridge, built in 1333, links the Aldstadt to the Reuss River’s right bank. Absolutely beautiful!
Left Lucerne, drove into Germany, and arrived in Freiburg. I checked into the Mercure Hotel Panorama, we ate at a Thai place called Rose Restaurant for dinner, and returned to the hotel in time to watch the sunset from my balcony.
The hotel is very nice and has trails into the Black Forest right behind it; however, there was a problem with water pressure and lack of hot water in the bathroom.
Wednesday, the 30th, I walked from the hotel to the kids home which is about 1 mile away. Got a tour of their home; very nice and airy with a wonderful balcony for sunset viewing. And then we walked and walked and walked; through Freiburg’s botanical gardens, by Jeannette’s work place at the University, thru the farmers market and shops, and various points of interest. This included Freiburg Minster Cathedral, Martinstor which is a medieval city gate, Merchants Hall, splash pool where the Old Synagoge stood, and the little waterways called Bachle. We also went to the train station and found out what platform/area I would leave from on Friday for Frankfurt. We had lunch at the Hausbrauerei Feierling which is a beer garden with large outdoor seating area within their courtyard.
In the evening, we had dinner at Das Vorderhaus, a German restaurant not far from the kids; very good food but the spaetzle was not as good as what Jeannette’s father makes. It started to rain so the kids drove me back to the hotel where I discovered we had walked close to 17,000 steps. No wonder I was tired!
Thursday was my last full day in Freiburg so we journeyed out of town to the Burgruine Staufen Castle which is about 30 minutes away. We parked in a lot and walked up hill to the castle. Allan and I climbed the tower and was treated to a wonderful view of the countryside. Walked into the town of Staufen; because it was a German holiday called Corpus Christi, no shops were open but eating places and live music in the square were. We decided to eat lunch at Kornhaus, one of the restaurants, and take the food we had brought for a picnic back to the kids for our evening meal.
Got back to Freiburg mid-afternoon and, after driving by Allan’s place of employment, we went to the kids home. After spending a few hours talking and reading, I decided to walk back my hotel before the projected rain started. The walk was uphill the whole way but I made it without incident. Spent the evening in my room reading, finalizing packing, and relaxing while rain fell down outside.
The kids came to my hotel for a tasty, leisurely breakfast buffet on Friday. We gathered my luggage, checked out, and returned to their place for conversation and reading before leaving for the train station early afternoon. Got to the station, and waited for my train that would take me to the Frankfurt airport and an overnight at the Sheridan within Terminal 1. Got on the train with Allan’s assistance and finally located my seat once the train was underway. I was in a first class compartment which seated four; I was alone until the second stop when a woman originally from Hungary but living in Germany came on board and we had a very interesting conversation. Arrived at the train station located beside Terminal 1 of the airport, retrieved my luggage, and walked to the Sheridan. Frankfurt Airport is quite huge so anywhere you walk seems like you have gone for miles. After settling into my room, walked into the terminal so I could discover where I needed to check in the next day for my flight home. After a glass of wine in my room, I called room service for my evening meal. My vacation was great but, after being gone for 3 weeks, I was feeling quite strongly about wanting to be home to my own bed and the cats. Was very tired so lights were out for the night by 9:30. Got up Saturday, took a shower, had some coffee, checked out, and walked to check in for my flight home. Flight left Frankfurt on time so the day was spent traveling. Arrival and processing through Customs in Chicago was completed with minimal disruption; after 2-hour layover, I was on my way to Cedar Rapids where Mary and Joe picked me up. After a brief stop to pick up some food for my bare refrigerator, we were driving west; heading toward home and my cats.