A Lost Soul Returns home from Europe

The last time I posted I was darned set to travel the world in order to experience different cultures and view history first hand. With two trips within a six month period, I lost my way and can only talk of it now.

The trip to New Zealand was fabulous.  What a kind and gentle culture.  Almost everyone we met was gracious and unpretentious – strangers became family and for the moments in time we were together, we became friends.

But then May brought a much anticipated trip to Europe.  Sorry, but I just do not get it.  Rudeness and rip-offs prevailed.  Perhaps setting the tone was a bummer of a Rick Steves guided tour.  You heard me right.  The famous travel guru also sells guided tours so we signed up for “Seven days in Rome”.  Did I mention that it was actually less than 6 days?  And that the tour for active types (no grumps or wimps) consisted of folks who spent most their time napping, eating, and shopping?  What was that all about?  It serves no purpose to name names but an antisemetic guide did not help.  Please, fellow readers, investigate those Rick Steves tours thoroughly.  They are not what they seem – very expensive, somewhat boring, and definitely for the retired set!

Throughout Western Europe, I suceeeded in experiencing history first hand.  I did not always like what I saw.  The activities of the ancients (and not so ancient) church were apalling with their riches built on the backs of the poor who were not allowed seats in the very structures they built and supported with their meager wage.  There was no joy in learning this but it was an important lesson in that the trip to Europe instilled in me a renewed sense of patriotism. 

So perhaps the mission was accomplished.  I experienced history and learned enough to bless this moment in time, here in the United State of America, where freedom should never be taken for granted.  Where choice is embedded in our core, and where  religion is as private or as public as we wish.  I do not take it for granted and neither should you.

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A taste of things to come

We leave in a few hours for New Zealand and Australia.  Here is a taste of things to come – a list of the ports we will be visiting over the course of the next few weeks.

 

Auckland, New Zealand
The “City of Sails,” known for its sparkling waters, bustling harbor and cosmopolitan flair, and an ideal spot for water sports and sailing

 

Christchurch,New Zealand
New Zealand‘s “Garden City,” featuring numerous parks and gardens as well as Victorian architecture, avenues and squares

 

Doubtful Sound
One of three amazing sounds featured on most itineraries. An unusual sound with two distinct layers of water: fresh mountain water atop cold,heavy, saline water teeming with remarkable deep-sea species

 

Dunedin, New Zealand
Dramatic scenery and some of the finest historic buildings in New Zealand, including remarkable architecture that reflects the city’s Scottish roots.

 

Dusky Sound
One of three amazing sounds featured on most itineraries. The largest and most complex of the many fjords along this coast, with steep-sided cliffs and hundreds of cascading waterfalls.

 

Melbourne, Australia
The capital of Victoria and Australia’s second largest city. A cultural melting pot of Greek,Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese and Lebanese and host to major international events.

 

Milford Sound, New Zealand
One of three amazing sounds featured on most itineraries. Situated within Fiordland National Park, part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site and surrounded by sheer rocks and lush forests.

 

Napier, New Zealand
Arguably one of the prettiest cities in New Zealand, with elegant art deco architecture,captivating beaches and award-wining vineyards

 

Newcastle, Australia
A significant coal shipping center with surfworthy beaches and recreational pools filled regularly with ocean saltwater

 

Sydney, Australia
Among the world’s most exciting cities with dazzling beaches and the Sydney Opera House, an architectural marvel and arguably the most recognizable performing arts venue

 

Tauranga,New Zealand
Located at the entrance to one of the largest natural harbors in New Zealand and nestled beside magnificent Mount Maunganui.

 

Wellington, New Zealand
The cultural, commercial, cosmopolitan capital of New Zealand and home to one of the largest wooden buildings in the world.

 

Packed and Ready

Just a few more days and we head off to New Zealand and Australia for the month of December.  I am going to attempt to update Clouds with sights, scenes and comments from the road but as a blogging newbie, no promise.

One thing I did do is prepare my show and tells.  There is a local confection called Almond Roca that comes in a log shaped foil wrapper.  Irresistible.  Since tipping somewhat insulting down under, I am bringing along the Roca and some photos showing where we live on San Juan Island.

the-steet-where-we-live.jpgThere will be the street where we live – that’s us just past the large tree.  And then there is a typical Roche Harbor sunset and finally, the marina all decked out for the 4th of July.  

Roche Harbor at Sunset     

So what do you think?  Does this tell a story?

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Giving Thanks

Earlier this week I listened to an audio clip from Harry Chapin relative to Thanksgiving food drives.  You know the ones.  Everyone in school brings cans of food, bags of rice, and oh yeah, remember the sacks of potatoes?  They weighed so much that the class that brought them always won.

Anyway, for one or two days a year, including Christmas, the poor and the homeless eat well.  Big deal.  I agree totally with Harry.  We should be worrying about the remaining 363 days of the year.  Let’s feed people then.  Let’s come up with a plan.  Let’s get to the bigger issue which is why the richest country in the world can not feed its poor.

So kids, we know you are well meaning.  Heck, so was I when I sent my hundred bucks to the Union Gospel Mission this year.  But maybe, just maybe, there is a bigger issue here.

Connection

We all remember our twenties, right?  But what about those people that made it happen for you?  I am not talking about bosses, or boyfriends, or family you are stuck with.  I am referring to those two or three people that made a difference in your life.  Then.

A few years ago I was thrilled to locate George Ure and re-connect.  Last month, I was even more thrilled to get together with him for a few hours over breakfast.  Yes, he is a wee bit nuts, but since that different drummer has always been my beat, I march right along and perhaps together we make granola.  Two or three important people from your past. How hard is it to connect?

So I’ll bet you are expecting a message and a moral. Well here it is.  Don’t be embarassed or ashamed to reconnect with friend after years of silence.  You tend to remember the goodtimes anyway. And the new times may be even better.

You can see for miles and miles and . . .

You can see for miles

Mount Young is located adjacent to British Camp.  (British Camp is a rare reminder of European settlement in the Northwest. In the mid 1800s, ownership of the territory was in dispute and both American and British forces occupied sections of the San Juan Islands. In 1872, peaceful arbitration resolved the territorial issue and the British abandoned the fort.  But that’s another story for another day.)

On a clear day such as today, hike to the summit and you can see for miles:  Victoria BC north to the rest of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.  If you are really lucky, you can see the Olympic Pennisula (but not today).  This was our first hike up to the 700 foot summit is 3 years.  It was easier than I remember.

All Critters Large and Small . . . And even Smaller . . .

Everyone knows about the deer and the whales, but there is so much more.

Hummingbirds are a daily treat - I call them my “kids”july-025-frog-medium-web-view.jpgjuly-025-frog-medium-web-view.jpg

These little darlin’s are tiny, some no larger than an inch or two.  They are starting to flock to the feeders and are fascinating to watch as they both congregate and avoid eachother at the same time.

And then we found this little guy on the railing.  Look close, only about an inch in size.  Not sure how he got there and have never seen a frog on my porch before!

july-025-frog-medium-web-view.jpg

Hello world!

Summer Sunset in July

This has been a beautiful week at Roche Harbor.  Stunning sunsets and the discovery of a hidden lake.  It is officially called “Quarry 9” but for our purposes, we have named it “Gaye’s Lake”.  We think that is justified since we have adopted the lake and started clean-up patrol.  I cannot imagine why anyone would want to spoil it with litter.

Quarry 9 aka Gaye’ Lake