Orne Harbor

From Half Moon Island, we sailed on to Orne Harbor for promised spectacular views from atop the ridge. 

The expedition crew set out on arrival and surveyed a safe pathway that zig-zagged its way up the steep slope for us to follow. The kayaks were brought out for those who had opted for that activity.

The weather was very changeable. In the morning, it was overcast and gloomy, with a thick layer of fog. By the time my group- the giant petrels- got to go ashore after lunch the sun was shining and the winds were calm.

I made it only to the first stage. Sadly, I did not get all the way up to the top of the mountain. I was really struggling, slipping and sliding around in the snow. Due to my ongoing work situation (not having any), I have to be super-careful not to do anything where I might hurt myself. I could just see myself tumbling down the mountain, rolling like a tumbleweed all the way down to the sea and then having a heart attack in the freezing cold water. 😦

After making that decision, I made my way back to the landing site and watched the zodiacs come and go. The scenery was so beautiful. I didn’t need to go anywhere else to see even more of it.

I sat in the snow and watched the penguins and the people come and go. Absorbing the sunlight and the immensity of the atmosphere, I was so grateful of the fact that I was able to even just sit there- in Antarctica!

penguins
more penguins

I even managed to get a decent shot of a couple of penguins in the water. They’re so fast when they’re swimming!

Gentoo penguins in the water

I’m glad I made it as far as I did. Turns out, this would be our only landing on Antarctica. All the rest of our stops were on nearby islands. I was a little disappointed to learn that, but I have to admit the places we did go were pretty much just as wonderful. What difference does a name make? I’m not sure, but I am still glad I get to say I got to go to Antarctica and not just close to it.

Spigot Peak as viewed from MS Roald Amundsen

Half Moon Island

Our first landing in Antarctica! We’re all so excited. We pulled into the bay early this morning at Half Moon Island. Technically, we’re not landing in Antarctica- we’re still only in the South Shetland Islands. 

Close enough for government work.

We’ve already collected our Hurtigruten jackets, group patches (petrels, seals, penguins & albatrosses) and muck boots. As groups were announced on the PA, we assembled in the “black box” (tender pit) to be shuttled ashore in the RIBs.

Our key cards securely inserted into our jacket arm pouches, we’re all scanned as we leave the ship. We’re helped into the tenders and slide along the sides to fill the boat. Then we’re off, the cold wind biting at any inch of skin left uncovered.

We had a couple of hours to wander around. The expedition crew had arrived first and marked off a trail for us with cones and flags. We were not allowed to approach the rookeries, or wander too far afield. Not that it would be easy to loose us with those red jackets against the white snow, ‘but just to be safe’.

our first close up penguins!
Chinstrap penguins

Returning to the ship, boots washed (for bio-security) and scanned back in, it was time for a nice buffett lunch and relaxing in the Explorer lounge with a cup of hot tea before trying my hand at a watercoloring workshop.

As the afternoon passed on, the Roald Amundsen sailed on to our next stop and I enjoyed watching the scenery from the Explorer lounge while working on a jigsaw puzzle with some new friends. The sun came out as I was leaving Half Moon Island and it turned into a beautiful afternoon.

We passed more icebergs, and islands with glaciers. The scenery was captivating, but soon to get even better.

PS- all that red goop in the photos is penguin poop- just in case you’re curious 😉 

Drake Shake or Drake Lake for the MS Roald Amundsen?

Anticipation was high, people were concerned. We were crossing the Drake Passage- the area where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet- between Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands. It’s notorious for bad weather. 

Winds and currents circle the entire globe, swells have thousands of miles of open ocean to build so they can grow to enormous heights. The Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties refer to these latitudes. Dozens of ships have been lost in the area. How would we fare onboard the MS Roald Amundsen?

Turns out we had nothing to worry about. We enjoyed crossing the Drake Lake. The winds were only about 20-25 knots and the seas 2-3 meters. It was lovely for this area and the season. I was actually hoping to see something of the famous nasty weather, but a few people were complaining of mal de mer so I guess we were lucky. I wouldn’t want to spend a couple of days with a shipload of seasick passengers.

view from my cabin

The ship’s crew had plenty of things prepared to keep us occupied for the time we would be at sea with no landings to look forward to. They always had interesting lectures and workshops for us to choose from. There was a nice stock of games and puzzles to play with. Or you could always choose to visit the sauna, the spa, the pool and jacuzzi, or chill out in a comfortable chair with a drink while watching the scenery pass by.

Some of the members of the expedition team were also scientists and encouraged us to participate in their studies. There was one that collected information about the clouds and weather, to compare with what was picked up by the satellites (observer.globe.gov). Another was gathering data on the birds we saw (www.ebird.org). 

They had presentations in the ships science center where we could look through the microscopes (one was projected onto a large screen) to see the details of different kinds of ice, plants, krill, feathers, etc.

Krill

I enjoyed a couple of arts & crafts workshops. Watercolor painting one day and clay modeling another time.

My emperor penguin model

I joined a rotating group of ladies working on jigsaw puzzles in the Explorer lounge on the 10th deck where we always had a wonderful view out the starboard side. We had snacks and piano music there in the afternoons.

Our crossing was altogether uneventful. We had a couple of relaxing days to look forward to arriving in Antarctica and our first landing at Half Moon Island. 

Cape Horn

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After cruising the Beagle Channel, our ship the MS Roald Amundsen arrived at Cape Horn the morning of November 14. We were all excited to experience our first ride to shore in the ships RIBS (rigid inflatable boats).

The morning was cool and windy, overcast with a light rain. I had on long underwear under my jeans and the windbreaker jacket the ship supplied. I wore my old Helly Hanson overalls I kept from when I used to work in Alaska. They went on over the muck boots the ship supplied. I kept my good camera in my waterproof backpack and my lifejacket on for the ride ashore.

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It took longer to dress than it did to zip over to the beach. The expedition team had gone over first to check it out and make the landing easier for us on the rocky shoreline. They set out some rubber mats and pallets for us to walk on. Then we had to climb up a tall stairway to the top of the hill- about 200 ft straight up. There was a track for a rail car to go up, only used for supplies (too bad). It was a long climb up those stairs and even tho I took my time on the way up, I was sweating by the time I reached the top.

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The landscape was totally different at the top of the stairs. Rolling hills covered with long grass, small bushes and lichen covered rocks. There were wooden walkways from the funicular landing to the lighthouse and over to the albatross monument.

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With the wet weather, the boards were slick and I wasn’t comfortable in the boots yet, so I took my time to walk to the lighthouse and the rustic little chapel next to it.

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The keeper, Chilean Navy officer A. Otaiza, invited us in to meet his wife and daughter. They lived there all alone for a couple of years. Their only contact was with their supply ships (due every 2 months) and the few cruise ships that stopped by.

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We could buy post cards and stamps to send home (which I did). They also had a few other souvenirs like t-shirts and small penguin statuettes. The view from the light house was spectacular. You could see about 360 degrees.

The climb down the stair was so much easier! It was still slippery and it was best to pass at a landing, but it went much faster going down.

While we were up top, another ship joined us in the bay. It was not a DP vessel like ours (I heard it drop it’s anchor). I would think DP would be a big advantage for traveling in this part of the world. For one thing, it doesn’t tear up the bottom of the ocean like anchoring does.

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As the afternoon wore on, the sun came out. It turned into a gorgeous day. We got underway late in the afternoon and watched Cape Horn fade behind us as we looked forward to experiencing the Drake Passage and Antarctica.

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Cruising the Beagle Channel

We left Punta Arenasa little late due to delays bunkering with the ongoing Chilean protests. After only 3 hours sleep the night before, I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open long enough to observe our departure. I was assured there would still be plenty to see throughout the next day so I hit the sack by 10 pm. 

View from my stateroom

I woke up to beautiful views of the Chilean Fjords passing by my windows. Green hills and sheer rocky mountains capped by deep piles of ice and snow kept my attention all day. The weather was beautiful. Cool, but sunny and calm- it was perfect for hanging out by the pool with a cup of hot chocolate.

View from the pool deck
Nice view from the jacuzzi too

As we made our way South down the Beagle Channel, the captain announced important sights to be sure we knew what we were looking at. We passed a couple of whales that day, but all I could see was their spout. They were too far away for me to see anything else. Not much traffic in the area. I only saw one other cruise ship- and one brave little sailor.

We passed valleys filled with glaciers and mountains covered with snow and ice from top to bottom. Announcements were made for passing Garibaldi Glacier, Pia Glacier, and Glacier Alley. The scenery was just spectacular.

glacier
Ushuaia Argentina on our port side

We passed Ushuaia Argentina around 6 pm- dinner time. I was assigned the first seating 1800-2000. Tonight was assigned seating (I have table 6) and a set menu , with appetizer, soup, choice of 3 entrees and choice of desserts.

As I watched the scenery scroll by through the large windows surrounding the dining room I had a delicious dinner of vegetarian options (since I didn’t like the other choices of fish or lamb). Tonights appetizer was a chorizo and pork terrine, main of red beets bourguignon and dessert of pineapple mousse. Yum.

After attending the preview of the next days events in the auditorium and the Captains welcome in the Explorer Lounge where he introduced the crew, I headed to bed. Strange to go to bed when it’s still bright daylight outside but it’s not getting dark until almost 11 pm.

Expedition team leader Stefan introduces his team

The ship continued on to Puerto Williams where we had to stop for customs and immigration. All of that was taken care of by the ships crew. Next stop would be Cape Horn. Then continuing on across ‘Drake Lake’ to Antarctica.

Punta Arenas

My bucket list trip to Antarctica with Hurtigruten started early Monday morning, with a quick breakfast at 0500. We loaded up the buses for the short trip to the airport by 0630. Keeping our shades drawn so as not to incite any protesters we might encounter, we arrived in plenty of time for our 0900 flight to Punta Arenas. 

Upon arrival we were loaded into buses again. We were taken on a tour of the highlights of Punta Arenas before joining our ship.

Since Punta Arenas was also having some problems with protestors, our guide tried to route us around to places they were not expected to be.

First we stopped at a viewpoint high on a hill. We could see our ship from there. It looked tiny.

There were some locals selling trinkets and beautiful soft woven and knitted items. Hats, scarves, sweaters came in all colors and sizes. They did alright with our group.

Next stop was the municipal cemetery- or Sara Braun cemetery. Our guide told us it is famous for the beautiful columns of trees that line the avenues of family monuments. I liked seeing all the colorful flowers blooming on the family plots and the details of the decorations on the monuments. I was thinking about how different our graveyards look in the US. Ours are not usually nearly as interesting.

Next we were treated to the museum. For a fairly small place, it had a lot of interesting exhibits. Everything from the local flora and fauna to the history of the native peoples up to and after the arrival of the Europeans.

There was quite a bit of information on Antarctica and the explorers who spent time there and in Chile. Darwin, Scott, Amundsen, Magellan, and others. I would’ve liked to have spent more time there, but we still had to get through the port security to join our ship.

The ‘Roald Admunsen’ (named for the Norwegian explorer) looked bright and shiny. She should, since she’s almost brand new, this is only her second cruise. She was only just christened last week (Nov 7), the first ship to be named in Antarctica.

After a little confusion getting checked in onboard, I found my cabin and settled in. This is my first real cruise- tho maybe not- they refer to this as an ‘expedition’ not a cruise. My cabin is very spacious and comfortable.

There’s plenty of space, I even have a separate sitting area with a full size couch and a coffee table in front of a large flat screen TV (where I can see the daily schedule and watch the lectures in comfort). The bed is very comfortable, with thick padding on the mattress and fluffy comforters and wool blankets on top if you want to use them. The temperature is adjustable and you can even control the heated floor in the bathroom. There’s a small fridge and I can make hot tea in the mornings before breakfast.

my cabin has a large window where I can watch the scenery outside

We had a buffet dinner soon after our mandatory safety briefing. This was my first time I’ve seen it done like this- on a movie screen with a crew member demonstrating. Usually we all have to put on the lifejackets and gumby suits (the suits here are much lighter than the ones I’m used to). I guess this is more practical for a cruise ship with so many people. I did appreciate the way it was done here.

I was very impressed with the food and the service at dinner. There was soup and a selection of breads, a salad bar, a seafood section, a variety of meats and cheeses, 3-4 choices of entrees (plus a vegetarian), pasta to order and roast beef carved by the chef. He likes to wander around and see how we’re enjoying his food. The wait staff (mostly Filipino) was very friendly and helpful, they’re really on the ball.

Then, dessert of course. Three to choose from there too: vanilla creme brûlée, chocolate brownies and mixed berry compote. I sampled all three. 🙂

After a last look at Punta Arenas, I headed to bed. Sorry to see the flames scattered around the city, the protesters were still at it. At least we were able to get our bunkers loaded finally when the port workers finished their protest for the day.

An Interesting Day In Santiago

I’ve been taking a break from blogging. I didn’t really intend to, but I’ve been so preoccupied with other things I just didn’t feel up to it. Now, I’m finally getting back some motivation and should have something interesting to post about as well. 🙂

I somehow managed to find a super good deal on a cruise to Antarctica. I’ve been wanting to do this for decades. I remember thinking when they stopped the big cruise ships from doing anything there that it would soon be impossible for regular people like me to go.

Yep, the prices shot up sky high. You’d spend a fortune for a week long cruise- not counting flights to get to/from the ship. And as a single person? Forget it.

But this super deal showed up in my email and I just couldn’t pass it up. No matter that I really should be trying to be working (not that there was any work to be had). Yes, I’m still in the same situation there. Oil prices still have not reached even $60/bbl. My last job was in July and no signs of anything since than.

interesting mixture of old and new architecture in central Santiago- also, notice the spy camera on the light post 😦

So. I flew into Santiago Chile early Sunday morning. I suppose I should’ve done some research beforehand, but I was too busy and exhausted at night. Turns out, the Chilean people have had about enough from their government and have been protesting since mid-October.

They’ve been marching all over Santiago and some other cites. There have been some riots and fires. There have been some gassings by police.

I didn’t know any of this, so I checked into my hotel (in the old part of the city- beautiful central neighborhood) and went for a walk. It was Sunday morning so I didn’t wonder too much about why everything was closed, but the churches? I didn’t see a way to get inside until Monday morning.

my hotel, I was very comfortable there
outside my hotel in the historical section of town

There were people around, nothing seemed dangerous, but the lady who checked me in at the hotel warned me not to wear my favorite necklace outside in the streets. As I walked around I tried to decipher the graffiti splashed across the walls of the buildings.

My Spanish was not good enough to understand much of it, but I did get the general idea that they were against the police, military and president (assassins, murderers, etc). Knowing a little (a very little) of their history I actually thought all of that was a long time ago. I haven’t had the chance to look into it, but at this point I assume I’m wrong.

My Spanish is not that good, but I think this says something like ‘you can’t wash the blood from your hands’. Any Spanish speakers, please correct me, I would appreciate it.

After I found something to eat I was done for the night. Those long night flights where I can’t sleep do me in.

In the morning I headed out again to explore. I needed to find a travel adapter (since I forgot to pack mine). I stopped in a phone store and tried to buy one with dollars since I hadn’t been able to change any money yet. The manager insisted on giving me two of them! So nice of him, really shows how good people can be, even when things around them are so bad.

interior of the Cathedral on Plaza de Armas

I was wandering around, wondering why the street was so quiet on a Monday morning (it was barricaded off), when I started noticing groups of protesters passing by. Some of them just had flags and placards. Some of them had drums, whistles and horns. More and more of them were passing by.

Soon I saw groups of police (in body armor) forming up, their military style vehicles called “guanacos” (because their water cannons spit like the animals) splattered with paint parked along the street. As I kept walking along (I was looking for a bank that had an international ATM), I started paying more attention to the crowds that were forming on the other side of the street.

A police “guanaco”

They kept coming, and coming, and soon there were hundreds then thousands, then hundreds of thousands. All chanting, drumming, clanging on pots and pans, blowing whistles and air horns. All kinds of ordinary people. Some of the younger ones were jumping up and down. The police stood by calmly (thank god) and it all seemed pretty peaceful. I did not see any gassing, beating, arrests or anything like that.

Santiago, Chile- police line up to monitor parading protesters along a main street

There were more protesters outside the justice building, the parliament building and I assume a lot more places around the city. Later I heard the protesters had been rioting, smashing windows, lighting fires, trashing the streets, etc. and the police had been gassing and arresting them.

Santiago protests in front of government buildings

I felt very proud of the people for at least TRYING to do something to fix the situation. For trying to tell their government “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”! It was inspiring. At least they care enough to try. I wish we Americans would turn off the boob tube and do the same.

Too bad they’re doing the same thing we always do the few times we do manage to get together to stand up. They trash their own instead of going after their real enemies. There’s no point in smashing windows, trashing the streets and stealing TVs. What’s the point of that?

The people behind the things they’re protesting about don’t really care about any of that- it doesn’t affect them. Go after the banks, the stock markets, the big corporations, the government institutions- those are the things those people in power care about.

It’s ALWAYS the people against the state (the deep state). Conspiracy theory? No, just the truth. Easy enough to see if you just do a little bit of research, read a little bit of history, pay attention to who gets what

Too bad the protesting has stopped a meeting of the Apec trade summit and the COP25 UN climate change conference as well as some big football (soccer) games. Those events would have brought in a lot of people and business to Chile and that would have benefited a lot of the people who are protesting.

Now, a lot of the poor and middle class are suffering even more, with the loss of business. Stores shut, businesses closed, etc and no way to get to work even if there was still a job to go to since the public transportation system has been just about completely shut down. How is this helping the poor and middle class (the protesters)?

Hey, I think they’re right to protest. I agree 100% with them on a lot of their issues (fairness, justice, accountability). I just wish they would figure out a more effective way to go about things, and especially figure out how not to hurt the people they’re trying to help. 

Cabo’s Marina

I’m sorry about neglecting this blog lately. It’s a combination of being busy doing the tourist thing- checking out all the new things to do/see/eat/drink- and just plain laziness. I’ve been meaning to get back on here for at least a week now. So many cool things to talk about…

First, I should explain what I meant in my last post re: wandering around the marina in Cabo San Lucas. 

really wanted to catch a marlin, especially since Cabo San Lucas is known for catching marlin. Those big game, fantastic fighting fish. In all my years of fishing, I’ve never caught one. Never even come close to catching one. I would’ve also liked to go out whale watching or swimming with the whale sharks, but it definitely was not the right season for that, so I ‘settled’ for going out for the marlins. 

I’d been walking around the marina, checking out the boats, trying to see if any of the docks were open so I could talk to the crews (sadly, they were all locked up tight, with guards even). Walking around the marina you run a gauntlet of people trying to sell you everything you can imagine: fishing trips, tours, swim with the dolphins, jet skis, parachute behind the speedboats, souvenirs, restaurants, shops, weed, tequila and of course time shares.

Time shares. The dreaded 90 minutes of hard core pressure. If you want to go and waste that 90 minutes of your hard earned vacation in exchange for a ‘free’ breakfast, or a fishing trip for only $20, then you better have an iron clad wallet (and no credit cards). 

I already have a time share. I’m using my weeks for my accommodations for this trip. I have NO desire to go and waste 90 minutes of my vacation time to hear about any more of them. When anyone mentioned ‘timeshare’, I told them that.

But still, somehow I wound up going fishing through the efforts of ‘Oswaldo’- one of the guys who’d been trying to get me to go look at a timeshare (which he insisted was not one). I should have known better.

We made arrangements that I would meet him at the dock at 0800 Tuesday morning. I made it 100% clear that I was ONLY interested in fishing for marlin. He assured me that his little pangas (small fishing boats) would go out far enough to catch them.

Right. First off, he was 45 minutes late getting to the dock. There went 45 minutes of my fishing time. Then, he insisted that he needed $50 so he could get my fishing license and bait for the trip. I was more than a little upset by this point, but since Ireally wanted to catch a marlin, I gave in and let him “borrow” the money. He promised he’d return it by the time we got back to the dock (with the marlin).

He even gave me his ‘drivers license’ that he ‘needed to do anything’, just as collateral so I’d be sure he’d pay me back.

Of course, he was nowhere to be found when we returned to the dock.

Of course, we did not even attempt to go out far enough to look for a marlin.

I had the entire boat to myself. I would’ve preferred to go with a group, but when I asked around I was told that was very hard to arrange. For $150, I was supposed to go out from 0800-1300, to catch marlin, in a panga.

I have to say, the captain was OK, he was very helpful, even if he wasn’t really into the marlin fishing. We caught dolphins (mahi-mahi) instead. I let him keep them all since I don’t eat seafood anymore. Too many years of nothing else to eat has cured me of any desire to taste fish ever again (weird, but I will eat canned tuna fish if there’s enough other stuff mixed up with it so it doesn’t taste like fish). 😉

It’s always a blast when you’re catching fish. I had a good time on the boat. I always enjoy being out on the water. I know there’s never any guarantee to catch anything so it’s nice that I did catch something (and dolphins are much better eating than marlin anyway).

The big issue came after we got back to the dock. Oswaldo, the guy who set all this up, was nowhere to be found. OK, I was a little pissed, but I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and come back later. I did. I came back later that night and talked to him. He didn’t have my money but promised he’d have it by morning.

Turns out his ‘drivers license’ was nothing but a voter ID. I don’t know what they do with that in Mexico, but it sure as hell isn’t the same as a drivers license and so now I knew for sure he was lying to me.

I came back in the morning (Wednesday). He didn’t have my money, but promised he’d have it that afternoon. I came back that afternoon. After arguing with him over going to the police about my $50, one of his friends gave me $25. Oswaldo still didn’t have any of my money, but swore he’d have it that evening and would bring it to my hotel. He did not.

I returned to the marina the next day (Thursday). He promised he’d have the money by noon. He did not. He promised he’d have the money by 1600 (said he got paid at 1500). He did not have it at 1630. After more arguments, I told him I was going to the Tourist Police station (right next door to the little stand where he was working/hanging out).

Of course, he knew they would already be closed by that time. By now, I was really pissed off. I was making a scene, people were looking at me like I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I was wasting my entire vacation going back and forth to the marina looking for this asshole! I’d already wasted half of Tuesday, all day Wednesday and all day Thursday and I was leaving Cabo Friday afternoon.

I stalked off to find a real policeman. I found a sympathetic guard and told him my story. He called for the police for me. They showed up in force. A half dozen of them interviewed me while another bunch went after Oswaldo. Apparently, they all already knew Oswaldo (and not in a good way).

They asked me if I wanted to ‘press charges’ (that was all in Spanish, so I’m not exactlysure what they said). They had him in their police car and I was told he was going to jail. He was threatening me with all kinds of shit from the cage. So what! When I get pissed, I won’t back off. 

Of course I wouldn’t get any money back from him, but at least he’d be off the streets for a couple of days and not able to screw over any more gullible tourists.

There was a big misunderstanding with the police who thought at first that some men who ran a business where I had met Oswaldo had cheated me out of the fishing trip I’d paid for. I finally got it straightened out, explaining that no- I got the fishing trip and those guys actually had nothing to do with anything. They didn’t do anything wrong and actually tried to help me.

One kind man even paid me back $20 out of his own pocket. So after all the aggravation of the whole thing, I was only out about $5. Lesson learned?

Should I just be a cold hearted bitch and not talk to anybody? Or try to be nice, treat everybody with respect and understand that every once in a while I’ll get taken for a ride, but most people are decent and worth getting to know?

I do have to give a big thumbs up to the Tourist Police. They take their jobs seriously and really want to help keep their city safe for their visitors. Thanks to them, I got all but $5 back and some peace of mind for the rest of my time in Cabo San Lucas. 

Off to Mexico!


Hola amigos. 😉

I’ve been in Mexico since last Saturday night. The plane was only a few hours late arriving. First we had an engine problem, but they managed to fix that and put us back on the same plane in only a couple of hours. No worries. 😉

Next, as we were heading down the runway, they announced some kind of medical emergency onboard. We waited to see if we would need to go back to the gate again, but after conferring with the doctors over the phone it was decided the person could fly after all.

Two and a half hours after we finally took off, we landed in Cabo (Cabo San Lucas and Cabo San Jose).

After running the gauntlet of time share sellers outside the baggage claim area, I took the shuttle in to town. I’ve been staying at Cabo San Lucas. I wanted to be near the marina, shopping, bars and restaurants, etc.

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I got settled in to my hotel- the Siesta Suites-where I have a nice big room. It has a big comfortable bed in a separate bedroom and plenty of storage. I hang out on the couch in the living room/kitchen. It has a full size refrigerator which is great for leftovers, but no stove for cooking. I have been heating up water for my morning cup of tea and leftovers in the microwave.

There’s a fantastic Italian restaurant that’s almost part of the hotel, a Mexican BBQ pit across the street along with the Fenway bar- Boston centric (“Yankees Suck”)-next to a small crepe place. Next door is a small shop selling souvenirs and also basic groceries. I was able to get one stick of (real) butter and good strawberry jam for my toasted bagels in the morning.

I’ve spent most of my time here just wandering around the marina. I’ll say more about why later. I did go fishing one day, it was OK, but not really what I was looking for. I really wanted to catch a marlin. This is supposed to be the marlin capital of the world. I did see that people were catching them.

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My neighbors here at the hotel caught one each! I may try again when I get to Puerto Vallarta. I’m heading that way this afternoon, but since no direct flights from here to there, I will stay tonight in Guadalajara. I will get to explore just a little bit of that city, but hoping it will give me at least some idea of the atmosphere there.

More later…

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Lesson learned: don’t go to the local beach on the weekend! The rest of the week, there is no one there. 🙂

Friendly Friday: Meeting the Sunrise in the Sky

I meant to get this done earlier, but a lot’s been going on the last couple of days. I found this “Friendly Friday” blog challenge last week on the Manja Mexi Moving blog and made a post for it. This week there’s a different host- the Something to Ponder About blog- and a different subject. 

It’s already Thursday so they’ll probably come out with something new tomorrow. Check out everybody’s posts for sunrise this week. Here’s mine…

I was able to fulfill another bucket list fantasy- ballooning over the incredible landscape of Cappadocia. We floated silently around rock spires and canyons, with only the occasional burst of the burner to give us more height and the clicks of the dozens of cameras. 

We headed out before dawn so we’d be in the air to see the sun rise. it was spectacular. My photos don’t do it justice at all. We slowly drifted down where the ground team met us in a dry field to pack up the balloon while we had a champagne toast to celebrate our morning. 

Casa Colon

I’ve been able to go ashore a couple of times this hitch. It’s just so nice to be able to get off, walk around, see something different, maybe have a nice snack. Try the local flavors. I love to explore, I live to travel! It’s one of the main reasons I chose to go to sea as a career. I don’t get around anywhere near as much as I’d like to, so I take every opportunity to go out as I can. 

I’ve never been to Las Palmas, or Grand Canary before. We did stop at La Gomera (one of the other islands) for a week or so and a short stop on Tenerife when I was on the sailing ship in high school. I remember the small town, white washed houses and hiking through the dry, rocky hills to go swimming at the beach. 

Las Palmas is nothing like that. 😉

I love looking at beautiful old architecture and the old part of the city- Vegueta– has plenty of it. The cathedral was one great old building, another was the Casa Colon. The house of Columbus. They didn’t open ’til 10, so we (me and my local friend Josito) went to look around a couple of old churches, wander the neighborhood peeking into courtyards, and had a snack. It was still early when we were allowed entrance (4 euros) to the restored house/museum. We were practically the only ones there for the first hour. 

After that, the tour groups started arriving and in the small rooms of the house, it got quite crowded and noisy. The place impressed me. Not only the rooms full of interesting articles, but the house itself.

I especially loved the intricately carved designs of the wooden ceilings. I’m pretty sure they must be modern replacements, but I wonder if they’re copied from the original? I tried to ask at the museum, but no one there spoke English well enough to answer my questions. I’ve since sent an email, but no response yet.

I also wondered about the exterior doors. They’re surrounded by a thick stone mantle, carved with all sorts of decorative motifs including 2 large upright dogs. There are priests and centaurs, I saw a mermaid and a cow. I wonder what, if any, the significance is? I assume the large dogs (I think they’re dogs) represent the Canaries (canis is Latin for dog- canine is English). I’m just guessing though. They’re posted at either side of the entrance along with the shield of arms.

Inside, the house is typically Latin. Two stories surrounding an open courtyard filled with gardens, fountains and a couple of brightly colored macaws that freely wander around the place. We were warned, don’t get too close, they bite.

The recommended route through the house starts with a replica of Columbus’s ship. Wooden masts, blocks hanging from the rigging and barrels line the bulwarks. Steps lead up to the master’s cabin where he’d have slept and kept his charts.

From there, you enter a long room with models of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. The ceiling is covered with the zodiac and the walls hung with flags. Continue on and there are documents (copies) from the times of his voyages of discovery including his logs, letters he wrote to Queen Isabella, important treaties like the Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the world between Spain and Portugal.

Charts showing each of his voyages are hung on the walls. I didn’t realize he did so much exploration. All I remember from school was his discovery of the islands of the Caribbean. I know he went to Hispaniola only because I was there and saw monuments to that effect. He actually spent many years exploring the “New World” before retiring.

The ground floor continues on with the theme of exploration, showing the trade from the Canary Islands and the Americas. The people of the Canaries wound up in some places I wouldn’t have expected. Texas, Louisiana and Florida for example (tho I’m not sure how much I trust their figures since their map shows Louisiana up about where Missouri would be).

Further on, a couple of rooms full of antique nautical instruments (astrolabe, quarterstaff, compass, etc) and historical charts from the age of discovery complete the first floor.

The second floor is full of paintings (mostly oil) from the 16th to the 20th centuries. A lot of them (especially the earlier ones) are of religious subjects. The later ones are mostly portraits, but a couple of nice landscapes are there. I’ve never heard of any of the artists, but that doesn’t mean anything. They’re very good. I especially liked the “Bather” and the landscape with a tree.

Then we focus on the Canary Islands, theres a room with models and maps. There’s a model of the original fort that formed the foundation of today’s city of Las Palmas. Another one of the Castle de la Luz. It’s still there, you pass by the ruins in the surf on the way in from the airport. A model of Grand Canary shows the volcanic origin of the island.

My ship is docked at the end of the long pier off the peninsula

In the basement- the “crypt”, the focus is all on the New World. The cultures of the Amazon, Ecuador and Mexico. There are cases full of ceramics and all kinds of small objects. Careful not to step on the graves (I couldn’t read the Latin-or old Spanish- to figure out who was in there), we passed through fairly quickly and back up to the courtyard.

The macaws were entertaining a group of local school kids, so we decided to head on out. I needed to pick up a few things before heading back to the ship to get some rest before going on watch for the night, so we headed up Triana street. It’s a famous shopping street. Pedestrian only, hung with baskets of brightly colored flowers, benches along the way, occasional musicians busking the people meandering through.

It was easy enough to catch a cab back, and only about 11 euros. I spent 9 for a bag full of snacks to last the rest of the hitch. I love all the history here, but maybe next time I go ashore I’ll look for something different. 😉

Morning in Vegueta

I’ve been working here in Las Palmas, Canary Islands for about 3 weeks now. This hitch I’ve been working nights on the DS-11 (drillship-11). I like it. It’s been pretty quiet so far, so I have some time to catch up on writing and photos. I can even go ashore once in a while in the daytime when things are open. 

It’s not often we get the chance to go ashore any more as mariners. At least not when we’re working for any of the oilfield companies. It makes such a huge difference in crew morale. I don’t even know how they get away with it. In the Deep Sea fleet, companies must pay overtime if they restrict us to the ship. No such thing in the oilfield. 😦

I do very much prefer sailing deep sea. Of course I would be doing that if I could. I have been looking for the opportunity to get back out there since I was laid off my last ‘regular’ job- late 2015. There still is nothing out there. 

In the meantime, I’m happy to get any work anywhere. It’s been so long between jobs! This gig is one of the best I’ve had lately. I love working overseas (outside the USA). The traveling was one of the main reasons I chose to sail as a career. The other was that the job depended on your skills and knowledge- not what you looked like or how you dressed or talked (too bad that’s changed so much).

I’ve been able to go ashore a couple of times this hitch. It’s just so nice to be able to get off, walk around, see something different.

Plaza de las Ranas

Tuesday morning I met my friend Josito who lives in town. He works here too, but he’s on his off time. I took a cab from the ship in to town and we met at the Plaza de las Ranas (frogs). I get off watch at 7 am and need to get some sleep before watch, so I wanted to get to town as early as possible. But the people here like to stay up late and they don’t get started early in the morning.

Nothing was open, the streets were empty at 0800 when I met Josito. We decided to go to the market in Vegueta- the old town. The market was old too, it opened in 1863. It was full of individual little shops selling fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, breads- and pastries that made my mouth water (I skipped breakfast). Josito explained that lots of the shops were closed because so many locals go on vacation this time of year.

I wasn’t really shopping for food anyway. I just like to see how other people do. I always like to go look around the grocery stores whenever I travel. Just to see what’s the same and what’s different.

Here, we met a very friendly storekeeper who answered all my questions about his exotic wares. He had so many things on display: guavas, mangos, papayas, passion fruit, huge (6″) tomatoes, raspberries, dragonfruit, lychees, kumquats, loquats, 4-5 different kinds of bananas, all kinds of spices fresh or dried and packaged.

Jose and Josito
me and Jose at his fruit and vegetable stand

He had things I’d never seen before like guanoabana (not sure of spelling). It’s the big green fruit in the photo, above the tomatoes. It was white and fibrous inside, full of juice, and tasted very tart. Jose let us taste anything we wanted. I have to admit, I was not thrilled with a lot of the tropical fruits. We bought a big bunch of Canary Island bananas to bring back to the ship.

Vegueta is compact, it’s easy to wander around the old cobblestone streets and find all the major attractions: the Cathedral, casa Colon, the market and lots of little shops, bars and restaurants. We stopped for a snack as we wandered the neighborhood.

The Cathedral de Canaries (or Cathedral of Santa Ana) is one of the most important historic sites in Las Palmas. They started building it around 1500, they built and rebuilt it over 500 years (that’s why the different architectural styles- gothic, renaissance and neoclassical). It’s dedicated to St Ann.

The people here haul a float through the town with her statue and a huge silver ‘crown’ that surrounds the entire statue. They keep the float in a barred off section of the cathedral. There’s Semana Santa (Easter Week) and Corpus Christi in June, and the feast on the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral on November 26. I imagine these processions must be a real sight to see.

You’re allowed to go up the towers of the cathedral. The view should be fantastic, since these towers are the highest point for miles around. There’s an elevator, it costs 1.5 euros, but there was no one in attendance so we had to pass on going up.

The walls of the cathedral are hung with beautiful old paintings of Jesus, Mary and the saints. A gorgeous pipe organ stands close to the entrance on the left. They were having a small funeral in one of the chapels while we were there. I felt like an intruder so didn’t get too close to that side of the church.

I took a close look at the pulpit, with its excellent carvings of angels and saints. I’m not really religious, so can’t say much more about the place except that it was cool, quiet and peaceful. A nice place to relax and rest and meditate or pray if you want.

Next to the famous Viva Vegueta sign, we found the Iglesia de San Agustin, another beautifully decorated church. It’s not as grand as the Cathedral, but had some very interesting artwork inside. It’s also mentioned as the Sanctuary ofSt Rita, patron saint of “impossible causes” (also of abused women). I had an aunt named after her. Mary Rita- quite a saint herself. 

There were quite a few more churches to explore around Vegueta, including the Ermita de San Antonio Abad, which was where Columbus prayed while he was here. I would’ve liked to check it out, but it wasn’t open while I was there.

I never have enough time to explore when I’m working, but at least I got the chance to see a few of the more interesting things around Las Palmas. The old area of Vegueta was a perfect choice to spend the morning. I did get to see the Casa Colon too, but it would be too long a post to write it up here. Check back later. 😉 

Friendly Friday: Istanbul

I was looking at everybody’s posts for this week’s Friendly Friday challenge, and I just had to post one more time. 🙂 

When I made my post the other day, I totally forgot about all the other places in Istanbul where they had such beautiful tile work. Different than the gorgeous stuff some people were posting from Portugal, but beautiful in another way altogether. Combined with the architecture, the artistry with the tile work makes so many of their buildings really special.

Here are a few photos I took in the mosques. I was really affected by how much time and effort went into building these places. The total devotion it must take to spend years, decades, centuries even- to build something so impressive.

Istanbul’s Blue Mosque with thousands of blue tiles decorating the interior

Those were from the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The photos below, I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure they were in the Hagia Sophia. It was a Christian cathedral before it became a mosque and it’s now a museum. The shimmering gold tiles of these mosaics really shine when the sun hits them. 

Imagine the skill and patience it must’ve taken to make these things. How to make sure all those little pieces go together just right. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle! And all such a long time ago too. Of course, they didn’t have the internet to distract them back then. 😉

One more note re: tile. Have you heard of Dixie Friend Gay? She’s a modern day mosaic artist with some absolutely stunning projects. Here’s a photo I took to pique your interest. Check out this earlier post...

Great Palace Mosaic Museum

This looks like another fun challenge to join. It’s called Friendly Friday. The subject this week is: Bricks and Tiles

I always like to see what everyone else comes up with. I enjoy taking photos of just about everything, so I’ll usually have something to add that fits the scenario. Here’s one to start with.

This was one of a collection of fantastic tile work at the Istanbul Mosaic Museum. The mosaics were found buried underneath the ground during construction. The mosaics date from Roman times. Most of them are in very good shape- still clear and colorful. 

The museumis right next door to the Arasta Bazaar and the Blue Mosque. It’s well worth a detour when you’re tired of the bazaar. I spent a couple of hours there, but I really enjoy both art and history. 

Weather Delays

I was supposed to fly out of Houston yesterday afternoon. A friend drove me up to the airport so I didn’t have to leave my car at the parking lot for 30+ days. I was waiting at the gate for my flight to depart when I noticed they had posted it was delayed.

It was now due to depart about 3 hours late. I was told weather in Miami had delayed all the flights. If I had waited around for that flight, I would’ve missed my connection in Miami by about 2 hours!

The company travel lady set me up with a hotel for the night near the airport and new flights for today. I made it out of Houston this morning. I’m in New York now, waiting for my connection to Madrid.

It’s ‘only’ a 7 1/4 hour flight. The one I was supposed to take was almost 10 hours! I’ll get to Madrid about 9:30 in the morning and then on to Las Palmas. I should get there around 3 pm. I just hope my luggage also makes it (they refused to send it all the way through- I’ll have to pick it up in Madrid and go through the whole rigamarole with check in, security, etc all over again).

I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post once I get to the ship, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, that’s why. I hope internet is better than the last ship, but it’s always a toss up these days. 

Munich Layover

I’m feeling much better today, even tho I’m pretty darn tired. I FINALLY got called for a job that didn’t get cancelled. I only got the call on Thursday and didn’t know for sure until late Friday and didn’t get my flight information (so I would really know for sure) til yesterday.

I’ve been keeping myself fairly ready to leave since I got back from my trip around the world. I left right at the beginning of November and got home right before Christmas. I was supposed to go to work January 3. I’ve basically been on call since then. I’ve had about a dozen calls to go to work since that first job got cancelled.

I still had a few things to take care of before leaving. Laundry, cleaning out the fridge so I won’t have to come home to a fridge full of rotten food, paying any bills that might come due before I’m due back home, calling my property manager to clear up any issues that might come up while I’m gone, arranging a ride to the airport, get my ‘smart phone’ working again for the trip, and finish up packing.

I left home yesterday around noon. Got to the airport and for some reason they wouldn’t check my baggage all the way through to my destination. My flight was delayed for about an hour, but thank goodness I have a club pass and could spend my time chilling out there. It was about a 10 hour flight to Munich and of course I really couldn’t get any sleep.

So here I am now in the Munich airport, waiting for my flight to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Thank goodness I have a long layover here. I had to get my passport stamped into Germany so I could collect my luggage, then run across the street to another terminal and go through security again. I thought we were ridiculous with our security theater in the US, but Germany takes it to an even more absurd level!

I’m so glad I was able to get the TSA pre-check in the states, but as far as I know they don’t have any kind of international program like that. I really wish they did! I didn’t have to take my shoes off (I’ve still got my flip-flops on), but I had to take out EVERYTHING from my pockets including cash (which I HATE to do since it’s so easy for someone to walk by there and steal it all), credit cards, passport, etc. Remove not only computer, but ALL electronics from my bag. Thats kindle, cameras, phones, iPod, etc. What a bunch of insanity!

Apparently the world is overrun with suckers that are completely willing to trade their freedom for ‘security’. Its as true now as it was when Benjamin Franklin said it over 200 years ago.

You CAN’T make that trade! You give up your freedom for NOTHING but an ILLUSION! It infuriates me that we ALL have to put up with this violation of our rights all because the majority of the people on this planet are so gullible.

While I wait for my flight to Las Palmas, I have a little bit of time to blog. I can’t connect to the wi-fi here. I don’t know why. There’s supposedly free wi-fi here in the airport. I should arrive at 1800 and someone should be waiting to bring me to the ship.

I’m going out as Chief Mate this time. I did sign on this time as Chief Mate, not like the time I signed on to the Sevan Louisiana as Second Mate and they made me Chief Mate anyway and then refused to pay me for it! I’m a little nervous since I haven’t sailed Chief Mate for quite a while snd never really on anything so complicated. I’m hoping everything will go well and I’m looking forward to a great learning experience. It would really build my confidence to get through this trip without any major issues.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to get online once I get to the ship. As Chief Mate I expect to be a lot more busy than I usually am as DPO. Will be spending more time on deck instead of stuck on the bridge for 12 hours a day. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Wish me luck! 🙂

PS- I finally got the wi-fi to connect! 🙂

Safari!

Ever since I went on my first photography safari with GEP in November 2016, I’ve been saving up and hoping to go on another. I just returned from a fantastic long vacation and my second GEP safari was the catalyst for the entire trip.

If I hadn’t made the decision to go on the safari, I wouldn’t have stopped in Paris on the way over. Or Bangkok on the way home. Or gone to the travel writing workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I tried again to make sure that I was ready for the safari. Awake and alert from the beginning. Last time I did a layover in Istanbul, so I could avoid flying direct to Arusha and getting no sleep for 2 days. This time, I did the layover in Paris. I even flew into Arusha a day early so I could rest up. It helped a lot. I was only up for 24 hours beforehand instead of 48+. I felt much better for the first couple of days of the safari, before the early mornings started to get to me.

We started out from the Lake Duluti Serena lodge, about an hour outside Arusha. It was a beautiful place, with flowers and gardens everywhere. My flight from Paris arrived at 0600 on November 15th. I had been up for over 24 hours, so I spent most of my time there sleeping. If I had more time, I would’ve taken them up on some of their suggestions for things to do like hike around the lake, or have a spa treatment. Instead, I just spent the day chillin’.

I met up with the GEP group over breakfast on the 16th when the safari trip actually started. We even met our first wild little visitors who wanted to join us for coffee and biscuits. 🙂

We had our first official meeting from 0800-1000, for introductions and orientation, then loaded up the jeeps and took off for Tarangire National Park. We sped along the highways, passing small towns and farms. Beautiful Mt Meru (continued on page 2)…

Happy New Year 2019


Well, it’s over- 2018 is done! Hard to believe isn’t it? To start 2019, I’d like to say thank you for sticking with me- I know I haven’t been very consistent on here lately. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything. Writers block or just plain laziness? Both, I think. Last year seemed to drag on forever, but now it seems to have gone by so fast.

I have to say, I’m very thankful that 2018 was better than 2017. My computer wasn’t giving me near as much trouble (until just recently- I wonder if the bats have returned). I was able to get a little bit more work. Not enough, not nearly enough to satisfy me and get me to the point of being comfortable, but enough to survive on. I was even able to dig myself slightly out of the hole the last couple of years of basically no work had put me in.

I actually had work every month last year (except Nov-Dec when I decided to take my long planned trip instead of hope for work). It wasn’t all offshore, well paid work. Some months, the only job I had was my role player gig at Maersk Training. But even that little bit kept me from having to use up the last of my savings.

I also sold a couple of articles (with photos) and paintings. That was a real boost to my confidence (tho not so much to my bank account).

I was able to take that 2 month long trip and still come out a couple thousand dollars ahead of where I was on New Years Day 2018. 🙂

So, I’m thankful, very much, that 2018 was better than 2016 and 2017. I was able to get enough work and even to take a couple of trips (not including work). In March I went to Roy Stephenson’s travel writing/marketing class in Seattle. In September I attended GEP’s Travel Writing & Photography Workshop in Austin. I spent November and December traveling around the world, stopping in Paris, Tanzania, Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I may be ‘greedy’, but I’m really really really hoping that 2019 turns out to be even better than 2018. I sure as hell don’t want a repeat of 2016-2017 which just sucked! I hate being broke and watching everything I’ve worked so hard for just slowly disappear.

I hope things will pick up offshore so there is more work this year and the agencies actually have more than a single job to fight over! It feels great to get 3 calls in a day from 3 different recruiters, but it really sucks once you talk to them and realize they’re all pitching the exact same job.

I don’t know what to think now. I had a job lined up before Christmas. It was supposed to start on the 3rd. Friday I asked about details and was told the job was cancelled. 😦

I got another call yesterday. It sounded like a good job, but I felt I had to turn it down. I just don’t feel confident that I could handle the particular position on offer. I’m hoping tomorrow will bring some business. There have been some hopeful signs in the news lately.

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year. I never seem able to follow through on them. They’re always the same: lose weight, clear out the house, write more. I never make any lasting progress.

Instead, I think about the things I would like to do. Top of the list this year: get residency visa for Mexico and make that first move, find a decent room-mate (which will make that move to Mexico SO much easier), take my bicycle in to get it repaired and adjusted so no more excuses not to ride, have at least one garage sale and get rid of unused stuff cluttering up my living room!

If I manage to cross those things off my list, and if I manage to find enough work to strengthen my finances a little more, I’d love to do some more traveling. Next big trip I’d like to take is a cruise to Antarctica. 🙂

How about you? Do you have any New Years resolutions? Any trips planned? Where would you most like to go and why?

Bangkok: Market Day

I’m always amazed any time I visit a foreign market. They’re just so interesting compared to shopping at home. You never know what you’ll come across. The variety of products on offer is incredible. Not to mention the whole experience of all the different sights, smells, and sounds. 

Bright red and gold decorations for luck and prosperity hang from overhead. Colorful orange, purple, red and green fruits with weird spikes, scales or bumps overflow into the passageways wafting their exotic sensuous scents into the air. Frangipani incense competes with the smoke of numerous bar-b-que grills cooking up fresh caught prawns or satay on a stick. Occasional motorbikes putter through the lanes, beeping along to clear the way. Blind karaoke singers toting their tape decks tap their way along, hoping for tips of appreciation from the crowds passing through. 

I always go to check out the nearby markets when I’m traveling. Last time I was in Bangkok, I went to Pratunam (mostly clothes) and Chatuchak (humongous ‘flea market’). Since I was staying in Chinatown this trip, I only had to cross the street to find myself wandering through winding lanes packed with stalls selling everything from teacups to electronics, wedding supplies, shoes, toys, hair and makeup supplies, Christmas decorations, jewelry, coffee, tea and snacks. 

Then there was the food. 

I have no idea what most of these edible items actually were. The vendors were happy to offer samples, but I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try many of their wares. It seems strange to me that they always have so many more varieties of things to eat than we do. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of fruits or vegetables in a store in the US. 

Maybe I’m being paranoid, a germaphobic American,  but I always wonder how they can sell their meats and seafood out in the open like they do all day. They don’t get sick, or at least I don’t think they have any more digestive issues than we do with all our sterile, plastic packed, refrigerated grocery meat departments. 

I suppose if I ever get around to moving out of the States like I keep trying to find a way to do, I’ll get used to the idea. I’ll probably even work up the nerve to try some of those more unusual things I’ve wrinkled up my nose at. Here’s to hoping that day comes soon! 🙂

Bangkok: Shanghai Mansion

Bangkok Thailand is an exciting city, I think Chinatown is one of the more interesting parts of town. I was looking for some rest and relaxation but also a place where I could just wander around and soak in the atmosphere. The Shanghai Mansion was perfect.

The taxi from the airport ($15 + $1 tip) dropped me at the hotel and the doorman immediately took my bags inside where they offered me a cold eucalyptus scented towel and welcome drink. They explained a few things about the hotel and showed me to my room. Very nice, even a free mini bar- with sodas, chips and beer!

It was a nice size with plenty of storage, lit by large stained glass windows and  paper lanterns. They even put a birdcage in the bathroom (with a fake bird). It got a little dim at night, some would say ‘atmospheric’ but I like a bright light to read by.

I went down for a late lunch and a beer. The menu offered many Chinese treats. Lots of seafood, including shark fin specialties (very popular in the area). I try to avoid seafood unless I have no other choice. After years of having nothing else to eat, I just don’t want any more of it. I had a BBQ pork sandwich with french fries.

They did a good job with the fries, so many places come out with cold, soggy french fries- yuk! These were thick, but still hot all the way through and nice and crispy. The BBQ sauce was good, not too spicy like so much of Thai food. The bun was hot, fresh and just a little bit sweet. Very nice. The beer went down perfectly with the BBQ. 🙂

After the long trip from Tanzania, I was ready for a nice long nap. It was only about 1600, but I was still so tired from the week of getting no more than 5 hours of sleep during the safari. I headed to bed and slept until 0930 the next morning.

They told me when I checked in that they offered 3 ‘complementaries’ for me during my 4 night stay. Free stuff! A 20 minute massage, high tea, and a Chinatown walking tour. I started with the ‘high tea’.

They offered a choice of jasmine or oolong tea, I chose the oolong. It was OK, but not nearly as strong as I expected. They brought a whole pot and I finished it off while working on the 3 layers of little plates they brought out to sample.

I’m not sure if there was supposed to be any sort of protocol, so I just tried everything in random order. The top plate had 3 types of fruit: pineapple, dragonfruit and cantaloupe. The middle one had 2 sticks of very hot spicy beef satay (I tried to pick off the pepper seeds, that did help some) with a little bowl of soy sauce and some green vegetables that tasted a little like celery flavored spinach.

The bottom plate was the most interesting. It held a small bun that looked just like an ordinary corn muffin. When you bit into it you found it filled with a sweet, golden yellow ‘yolk’. Kind-of messy to eat and a big surprise when you bit into it.

There was also a piece of shrimp spring roll (which I didn’t eat), some delicate rice noodles, and another ‘bun’ made of starchy outside and minced meat and veggie spiced stuffing inside. That one was full of interesting tastes and textures. 🙂

I enjoyed the experience of trying all those different foods. I usually live on satay in Thailand since so much of their food is so hot with different types of pepper. Chinatown was a good choice for me in that too.

After ‘tea’, I went walking again. I found a big Chinese temple and Wat Traimit just a couple of blocks down the street. All around the Shanghai Mansion little back streets led to shops, temples, homes and restaurants. People filled the streets selling everything you could imagine: food, drinks, socks, shirts, jewelry, Christmas decorations, good luck charms, lottery tickets, shoes, birds, flowers, and on and on and on.

I am trying to avoid shopping ’til the end of my trip since I don’t want to lug any more ‘stuff’ all over Asia, but it was interesting to look anyway. You could bargain and get a decent price on pretty much anything you wanted. The people weren’t too pushy either. If you just tell them “no”, you’re not interested a couple of times they leave you alone.

I did go on the hotel’s walking tour one morning. I probably should have done that the 1st morning, since I had already walked by myself to the markets and temples it covered. The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, but it was hard to hear her most of the time and tho she tried hard to explain things I missed a lot of it.

My last night in Bangkok, I took them up on the massage. I probably should have skipped it. I got a Thai massage in Phuket a few years ago. That little girl was rough! This one was only a head and neck massage, but it still left me sore and aching! Those Thai women have some strong hands! I know some people really enjoy a Thai massage, but I think I’ll skip them from now on. 😉

I didn’t even try the highly rated spa or Red Rose Restaurant at the hotel, they both looked beautiful and if I had more time I would be sure to check them out. Just hanging out in the sitting area near my room was really nice, the hotel had some amazing scent going for it- incense with jasmine, ylang-ylang, a tiny bit of cinnamon? I’m not sure what-all they had in it, but it smelled sooooo good!

Yes, I was happy staying at the Shanghai Mansion and almost hated to leave, but my next adventure in Hanoi was calling.