Split, Croatia

Sunset in SplitSplit is the second largest city in Croatia. Its origins go back to 450 BCE. We visited the Diocletian’s Palace in the center of the old city. The palace is a marvel of ancient construction dating from 305 AD. Split
Wandering the streets and alleys around the palace reminded me a lot of Venice and are home to restaurants and shops. The shops include a wide mixture of tacky, trendy and snooty.

Diocletian's PalaceRendering of the original Diocletian’s Palace

Diocletian's Palace
Cavernous rooms in the lower level of the Palace

Don't mess with me!He looks formidable!

Arched ceiling in the Diocletian's Palace
Arched ceiling

Original timber in the Diocletian's PalaceOriginal timber

A marvel of ancient architecture in the Diocletian's Palace
Beautiful arches

Diocletian's Palace

Ancient sewer pipes in the Diocletian's Palace
Original sewer pipes. Those Romans were very clever!

Diocletian's Palace

Having fun touring Split Split

SplitKitty guards the mosaic floors
Kitty guards the mosaic floors

SplitSplit
Bell tower

Another lovely Rose

All that walking made us hungry and thirsty. We discovered a lovely restaurant called Bokeria and enjoyed a leisurely lunch.

Mussels for lunch
Mussels for me

Fancy burgerJuicy burger for Skip

Hotel Marmont in Split
Our hotel is tucked away in the walls of the Diocletian’s Palace.

After lunch the guys went back to the hotel to chill while Eva and I checked out the shops. We got back to the hotel with time for a nice, long shower. The first ‘land shower’ after being on a boat all week is the best!

We found a quiet place for dinner with decent food and wine. I had enough of fish and lamb so I opted for the home-made ravioli. You can definitely see the Italian influence with Croatia being so close to Italy.

Waterfront promenadeThe waterfront promenade is the perfect place for people-watching Split

Wandering around the waterfront after dinner gave us a splendid view of the sunset.

SplitSplit
More guy talk while eating gelato

The alarm went off at 3:45am to catch a taxi ride for our early flight back to London. It was pouring rain! We got to the airport before 5am and lined up. The workers didn’t start until 5:30 but the still managed to get everyone processed through and loaded up for the 6:15 flight. Guess they’ve done this before!

Leaving SplitLeaving Split Leaving Split
Split

Our flight to Zagreb took 45 minutes in a prop plane. We grabbed a quick breakfast (coffee!!!) before catching our connection to London. We arrived in Heathrow in a little over 2 hours.

We parted ways with Rick and Eva. They were on their way back to London for a day at Wimbledon. Skip and I boarded the express bus to Gatwick where we would spend the night before our flight home the next day.

We were exhausted but not in a big rush to get to our B&B near Gatwick so we sat down at the airport for a big English breakfast complete with tea.

English BreakfastThat’s a lot of food! Latchett’s cottage is a small B&B out in the English countryside about 10 minutes from Gatwick airport. Yes, we could have stayed in a non-descript hotel at the airport but I thought a last night on vacation should be more special. Latchett's Cottage

The hosts were lovely and Kerry kept us amused.  It was a lot like staying with your grandparents!

Kerry loves tennis balls
At one point Kerry had both tennis balls in her mouth

We took a long walk in the countryside and stopped on the way back at a pub for a bite to eat.

Our flight back home was long and uneventful. What a great way to end a memorable trip!

Sailing in Croatia – Part 3

Our next stop was Stormorska, a small village on the island of Šolta.  When we arrived there was only one spot left at the dock (thanks to Roko getting a reservation.)  He squeezed us in with little room to spare!

StomorskaWe walked around the pretty town and wandered up the hills to breathtaking views.

Stomorska
The houses on the hillsides had lush gardens full of vegetables and flowers.

Stomorska

StomorskaStomorska

Stomorska
Looking towards Split

Stomorska

StomorskaPizza meal in Stomorska
For dinner we had pizza cooked in a brick oven. The view was amazing with the sun setting behind the hills.

Stomorska

StomorskaEvening at the dock was very lively with people partying on their boats and the locals sitting at nearby cafes.  Young children were out playing in the late hours.  It’s nice to know that there are still places where children can run wild without worries.

On Friday we had a leisurely morning.  Everyone went their separate ways for a morning walk.  We made it all the way across the street and joined Pat and Emily at a cafe for coffee and wifi.

We left the marina and motored with the wind on the nose to a lovely anchorage near the Agana Sunsail base.

Relaxed sailing

Sailing back to Agana
Not ready for the sailing week to end

The multi-colored water was reminiscent of the Bahamas and it was a great place for a final swim.

Lunch anchor near Agana

We concocted a lunch of whatever was left – more cheese, ham, tomatoes, egg salad, olives and bread.

Lunch anchor near Agana

Swimming in the Aegean Sea
One last swim

Roko attempted a final sail on our way back to the base.  We had about 1/2 hour under reefed main before the wind got too squirrely.

Back in port we did our best to drink up whatever was left – wine, beer and grappa.

What's in the freezer?
Our freezer contents. It was all gone by morning.

Agana Marina
Back at the Sunsail base in Agana

We said farewell to Roko and gave him a generous tip. He really made our week relaxing and fun. We learned a little about Croatian culture and language from him. He also introduced us to some dining experiences we would have never discovered on our own.

We had an adequate dinner at one of the local places near the marina — more octopus salad and pizza. Afterwards, we headed back to the boat to pack and finish off the liquor.

Good Croatian beer
Good Croatian beer

We cleaned up the boat and did a last run through in the morning.  I couldn’t believe all that beer was gone!

We had breakfast at the marina cafe.  They make really good espresso coffee in Croatia.   Our breakfast eggs have bright orange yolks.

We said goodbye to Emily and Pat who were staying a few days extra in a resort.  The rest of us piled into a taxi for the 45 minute ride to Split.  Our driver only spoke German so at least we didn’t have to make small talk.  He left us close to our hotel but we still had to wander around the narrow alleys to find it.  Thank goodness for Rick’s navigation skills!

The Marmont hotel is a small boutique hotel within the walls of the Diocletian’s Palace.  We couldn’t check in yet so we left our bags and went on a quest for more coffee at the waterfront.  I already had my quota of coffee and indulged in my first Coke Zero in almost 2 weeks!

To be continued…

Sailing in Croatia – Part 2

We awoke to grey skies and thunderstorms on Wednesday.  With open seas and waves 3-4 meters (not feet!), we ditched the plan to visit Vis.  Roko contacted a friend in Stari Grad who reserved a space for us at the docks.

We motored out in drizzly rain.  That power boat poking way out into the fairway didn’t phase Roko.  He passed between the boats with inches to spare.  The sun started peeking out just as we arrived in Stari Grad.  We were happy to have a reserved spot and tipped Roko’s friend for taking care of us.

Emily
Emily prepared for the chilly weather

Stari Grad means ‘old city’ in Croatian.  It’s one of the oldest towns in Europe and one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.  Most of the buildings are made from white marble mined on Hvar, the same material used to build The White House.

Stari Grad
Stari Grad

Official greeter
The official greeter at the dock. He was very interested in our lunch!

Narrow walkways

We wandered the narrow alleys near the harbor and saw several ancient churches.

Stari Grad

Walking around Stari Grad
Wandering tourists

Cathedral

Weathered

Local market
Fresh fruit in the local market. The peaches and tomatoes were delicious.

Stari Grad
Quintessential Croatian scene

Stari Grad
Building made of Hvar stone

Stari Grad
A future painting?

Stari Grad
The view from our stern was a private estate turned into a classy hotel

Lots of neighbors in the marina
Plenty of neighbors at the docks

Stari Grad
I love the driftwood sailboat

Vino store
Eva and I went into the Vino store and sampled the local wines poured from large kegs. We found a white that was drinkable and filled up 2 liter water bottles for less than $10.

Gangplank of doom
The gangplank to get on and off the boat was tricky. You needed momentum and commitment to succeed!

For dinner we took a 15 minute taxi ride up into the hills to Konoba Vrisnik, another fabulous restaurant experience arranged by Roko.

Dinner outing

Dinner outing

Beautiful restaurant in the hills near Stari Grad
We were greeted warmly by the owner.

Stari Grad
Beautiful scenery

Dinner near Stari Grad
Another great meal

We tried Peka which is the signature dish of Croatia. It’s vegetables topped by meat and drizzled with olive oil and herbs slow-cooked on a brick grill. We ordered lamb and octopus. Both were delicious but I preferred the lamb. Octopus tastes a lot like lobster but I can’t get past the appearance of octopus tentacles! I also tried squid ink risotto – it’s very black and tastes like the bottom of the ocean.

Peka cooking
Peka is cooking. Those heavy lids covered with coals top the pans while cooking.

Lamb Peka
Lamb Peka. The vegetables cooked in lamb juices were delicious.

Our meal ended with the traditional flavored grappa.

The big boats were all in party mode when we got back to the docks. We walked along the waterfront and did some star-gazing. The moon was visible most of the week along with both Venus and Jupiter.

The next morning Skip and I found a bakery with fresh-baked croissant and crazy-good chocolate donuts.

Yummy chocolate donuts
I love these!

We left Stari Grad and motored into light winds to a lunch spot near Milna.  After lunch we jumped in for a swim in the brisk waters.

Leaving Stari Grad
Leaving Stari Grad

Happy sailors
Happy sailors

Lunch anchor near Milna
Pretty water

Sailing to Stomorska
View towards the mainland

Our next stop was Stormoska, a quiet fishing village. To be continued…

Sailing in Croatia – Part 1

We left early for the Tube and express train trip to Heathrow airport.  The flight to Split, Croatia was about 2 hours.  Upon arrival, we caught the Sunsail bus to their charter base in Agana, about 1/2 hour north of Split.

Sunsail has everyone departing on the same day so it was pretty crowded with people anxious to get on their boats and leave.  Because we had a skipper, we didn’t have to go through the normal checkout routines on the boat.

Emily and Patrick had arrived earlier and were waiting for us, beer in hand!  We met our captain, Roko, a nice young guy who’s English was pretty good.  He got out the charts and suggested a route for the week.  As soon as our pre-ordered provisions were on board, we cut the dock lines and headed out.

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Croatia is on the Adriatic Sea across from Italy.

Croatia Cruising map

We cruised around the islands of Solta, Brac and Hvar.

Our first views from the water were beautiful – rocky shores, mountains in the distance and clear deep blue water.

The marina in Maslinica on Šolta, the closest town, was full so we spent our first night in a little cove nearby called Šešula.  The cove has one restaurant which is also called Sesula.  The owner comes out in his dinghy and directs boats to moorings.

Moorings are very different from what we’re used to.  You use lazy lines to pick up your bow lines that are connected to concrete blocks anchored to the sea bottom.  All boats keep rows of fenders on both sides that allow you to squeeze between other moored boats.

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Explanation of mooring from the Sunsail guide.

I couldn’t believe how many boats they jammed together all along this small cove!

SesulaThe boats kept coming and coming, even into the dark.  Somehow, they all squeezed in. I have to say that the Europeans were very respectful of their neighbors. In the US, people would probably be very chatty or party too loud. Not here. In all the crowded anchorages and marinas throughout the week people ignored their neighbors. When we put music on we usually asked our neighbors if it was too loud and honored their requests to turn it down. Dinner at Sesula was good, not the best we had all week as our captain predicted. Most of us shared a whole red scorpion fish that was delicious.

Fresh fish for dinner

After the meal and some very potent grappa we were waiting for a dinghy ride back to the boat when Eva decided to step into the shallow water to test temperature. She slipped on the slimy rocks and landed in the water. She was laughing as we were all trying to pull her up. First casualty of the trip!

Vacation time!
After a great meal and wine

We took a walk in the morning over the hill to Maslinica in search of some fresh bread and fruit.

Maslinica
A typical Croatian village with colorful fishing boats, palm trees and red rooftops

Sailing to Brac
Light winds left us motoring to Brač for a lunch hook and swim

Pat and Skip Chillin
Our 44ft catamaran had an easily accessible front cockpit that was perfect for lounging in the shade…

Everybody is chilling
…or sun

It took me a few days on the boat to relax and realize that I didn’t have to do anything.  I’m not used to that!

Lunch spot - Lucice
We picked up a mooring in Lucice, a small cove on the island of Brač.

For lunch we feasted on fresh bread, cheeses, tomatoes and prosciutto. Next on the agenda, swimming in the clear chilly water.

Swimming in the Adriatic

Lunch spot - Lucice
Pretty

Gulet
We saw a lot of these boats called a gulet.  It’s a traditional Turkish sailing boat. They take small groups out for week-long cruises.  It looks like a good alternative to the mega-cruise ship.

Going to Boboviscie
On our way to Bobovišcá

Sailing to Boboviscie

We motor sailed around to Bobovišcá where we picked up a mooring at the dock.

Boboviscie
Bobovišcá

Boboviscie

The small town had 2 restaurants that Roko said were just average. He arranged a taxi for us to go up into the hills for a lovely local meal near the town of Dračevica, about 20 minutes from the dock.

The restaurant owner greeted us warmly and invited us to try her home-made flavored grappa – almond, pear, lemon, herb… We were the only guests in the beautiful place that looked like a movie set with wooden tables under a spreading 100-year-old tree.  Everything served in the restaurant was grown or sourced locally.

Dinner in the hills of Brac
Flavored grappa

Home made cheeses
Home made cheeses

Zuchinni Blossoms
Zucchini blossoms

Lamb is cooking
Lamb cooking in the brick hearth

Delicious appetizers
Appetizers included anchovies (can’t believe Skip ate one!), tomatoes with cheese and olive oil, fresh vegetables, ham and plenty of wine. Thank goodness the wine was better than the swill provided in our Sunsail provisioning. The red was drinkable but the white was awful.

Dinner in the hills of Brac
Dinner in the hills of Brač

Lamb and potatoes
The lamb cooked in the open oven along with potatoes cooked in herbs were delicious, salty and tender…the best we had all week.

Lovely meal
Enjoying the lovely evening with a dessert of fresh cheeses with honey, caramel and more wine.

Eva and Rick
It was an unforgettable evening

Boboviscie
Morning in Bobovišcá

Boboviscie
Bobovišcá

Monday brought calm seas and clear blue skies.  We motored across to the Pakleni islands near Hvar and tied up at a large municipal marina in Palmižana.

Motoring to Hvar
Skip enjoying the view

Captain Roko
Captain Roko

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Beautiful day

Enjoying the sail
Happy sailor

Oh joy, the marina was full of Yacht week boats.  There were about 30 boats of kids in bikinis and speedos partying furiously.  At least they were 2 docks away from us.

It's Yacht Week
Yacht week in full swing. Apparently, it goes on every week.

I spy a Maryland flag
I spy a Maryland flag

After lunch we took a water taxi over to Hvar town, a stunning, vibrant city with a fortress sitting high, ancient castle walls and cathedrals.

Hvar harbor
Hvar town

Fortress
Fortress – We didn’t climb up that high…

Hvar harbor
Harbor view

Having a great cruise with our friends
Having a great time with our friends

Splendid palm
Majestic palm

Wandering in Hvar town
Wandering in Hvar

Ancient walls
Castle walls

Hvar harbor

Cute couple
Cute couple on the water taxi

In the evening we walked to the other side of the island for dinner at Toro. I had monk fish in a white wine sauce with a lovely sparkling Rosé. Others tried octopus, prawns and squid ink risotto.

Dinner at Toro
Dinner at Toro. Note the calm anchorage in the background.

Tuesday we awoke to a breezy sunny morning.  Roko had planned for us to sail to the distant island of Vis but there was no space at the marina.  The weather was keeping people in port.  With predicted 30 knot winds and building, we decided to stay put for the day.

Many boats left in the morning, some having difficulties with the cross breeze and a power boat that was sticking way out in the fairway.  Free entertainment (we’ve all been there!)

We just chilled for a while and then walked to the other side of the island for lunch.

View from the restaurant
Not so calm out there today.

Lunch at Zori
Lunch at Zori

Our lunch at Zori was delicious. The experience was marred by our waiter who we believe scammed us for more money. We left cash on the table and split up to wander back to the boat. He came running after me claiming that we didn’t leave enough money. He said we left 2 20 kuna bills instead of 200 kuna bills. I gave him more money. When I got back to the boat Emily, who left the cash, said that both she and Pat counted it and they didn’t have any small bills. Her cash was all fresh from the ATM and the 2 bills he gave back to me were crumpled and used. If he hadn’t been a bit of a jerk serving us, I probably would give him the benefit of the doubt. Moral of the story – don’t leave the table until the waiter picks up the bill! I wrote it up on Trip Advisor and the owner responded kindly but stood by his waiter’s story. They probably just think we’re stupid Americans. At least maybe he’ll think twice before trying that scam again.

Crowded beach
Crowded rocky beach – not like the ones we’re used to.

Garden art
Garden art

Full marina
Marina at Palmižana

To be continued…

London and Sailing in Croatia

Our latest adventure took us to London for a few days followed by a week’s sailing charter in Croatia.

Big Ben

Our flight over was uneventful (for a change!)  The man who sat next to me was from Croatia.  I thought I would find out some useful information but he was hard to understand and only wanted to talk about himself.  Thankfully, I had earphones!

Arriving in Gatwick tired and disoriented, we managed to get on the wrong train to London.  I had paid for the express train but somehow we got on the local train.  We slowly rode to Victoria station crammed in with all of the people going to work. Oh well, at least we got to the right place!

Our 2 bedroom flat that we rented in London was on Baker street close to the trendy Marylebone area.  I liked being outside of the usual tourist center where we could just fit in with the regular folks.

We crashed for a few hours and then revived with some coffee and went for a walk.  We discovered Regent’s Park only a few blocks away and gawked at the beautiful roses and delphiniums in bloom.

Roses in Regents Park

Regents Park

English rose

Regents Park

Such vibrant shades of blue in the delphiniums.

Regents Park

Skip found the Beatles store and was a happy camper!

The next day we took a boat ride down the Thames to Greenwich. We visited the last time we were in London (18 years ago) but got there too late to go into the museums.

Brave kayakers on the Thames

Brave kayakers on the Thames. There’s an astonishing current with a 25 ft tide.  It makes Hell Gate look like a kiddy ride!

London Eye
London Eye

Going under the Tower Bridge
As we went under the Tower Bridge the guide kept saying that we should try and time coming back when the bridge opens. No thank you…I’ve seen plenty of bridges open!

Boat ride down the Thames
Going past the Tower of London

Cutty Sark
Since our last visit they built a fancy museum around the Cutty Sark.

Shiny Hull of the Cutty Sark
Based on her shiny hull, the Cutty Sark hasn’t seen water in a while!

Collection of figure heads
Colorful figurehead collection

Hmmmm
How did I get by without these??!

Watch the red ball
The red ball atop the Greenwich Observatory drops every day at 1pm to indicate 0 hrs Greenwich Mean Time. Ships leaving the city could coordinate their clocks to make sure that they can calculate their coordinates and not get lost.

After a mediocre lunch at a pub recommended by Rick Steves (poo on him!), we toured the Naval museum and the Royal Observatory.

Straddling the east and west
The obligatory photo standing on the line that separates east and west longitudes.

Dolphin sun dial
Cool dolphin sundial

I'm in the Bahamas!
One floor of the Naval museum was a giant map. Look, I’m in the Bahamas!

In the evening we had fish and chips with mushy peas for dinner. It was delicious but they didn’t serve beer. WTF!!!

Rick and Eva arrived the day and after they rested a bit we walked around the neighborhood. We were drawn back to the beautiful gardens at Regent’s Park.

Smelling the roses

I've never seen so many colors of delphiniums

Guy chat
Guy chat

English rose

On our last day in London we took a 3hr Gastronomical Tour provided by Context Tours, a company we used when we visited Italy.

We started at the food hall in Fortnum and Mason, the elegant store known for it’s fine foods, teas and picnic hampers. Our tour guide, Catherine, guided us through the various rooms and talked about the history of F&M which started in the early 1700’s. We tasted scotch eggs (an acquired taste…) and delicious violet flavored chocolates favored by the queen.

Start of our gastronomic tour

Katherine has a masters degree in anthropology with a concentration on microbreweries. She has a wealth of knowledge about food and beer!

Our next stop was Paxton & Whitfield, cheesemongers for over 200 years and known for their fresh, local cheeses.

Tasting lovely cheeses
Learning about cheeses

I liked the Stilton
Tasting!!! The Stilcheton was my favorite. It’s a blue cheese from Nottinghamshire made with unpasteurized milk.

Who drank all those giant bottles of wine?
Snooty wine shop. Who drank all those giant bottles of wine?

Tasting beer with our tour guide
A mid-tour stop to taste some beers that Catherine brought.  They were a little to hoppy for me.

Fine chocolates
Fine chocolates at Paul A. Young. We tried the hot chocolate which is pure, liquid happiness!

We wandered through Soho and Chinatown and ended up at Covent Garden where Catherine left us on our own.  We found a pub, of course!

Taking a break at the pub
Touring made us thirsty

We wandered down by the Thames and saw the Houses of Parliament. Eventually, we made it back to Fortnum and Mason to pick up some delicacies for dinner.

Big Ben

City reflections

Eagle in the eye
Eagle Eye

Coming back on the Tube we couldn’t stop at Baker Street due to a security situation. Taking the next available stop made for a long walk back to our apartment. We were ready for happy hour to start!

Saturday began with traveling to Heathrow for our flight to Croatia. I’ll continue in the next post…

Jazz Fest

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  There’s really not a lot to write about — just living the good life in Florida!

In late April we took a little trip to New Orleans to meet up with friends at Jazz Fest. Rick and Eva graciously offered us accommodation at their time share and arranged some amazing dining. Friends, music and good food are what it’s all about!

Jackson Square

It’s a 10 hour drive from home so we stopped overnight in Destin, FL. I think I’ve finally ended my quest to find the perfect gulf beach!

Destin
Destin has the powdery white sand that everyone talks about but I’ve never seen

A good margarita
We had dinner right on the beach where Skip had a good margarita experience!

Morning
I had one last look at the beach in the morning. Love these calm layers of surf.

On our first night in New Orleans we joined Rick and Eva for dinner along with friends they met while cruising in the Bahamas last year. Would you believe they were on a boat called Moondance?! They are affectionately known as ‘the other Moondance’.

Before heading to the first day of Jazz Fest we had lunch at Cochon where they serve up a variety of pork concoctions. I ate pigs feet for the first time – prepared in a strawberry glaze.  Everything we had was delicious.

At Jazz Fest we met up with Jeff and Ginger and settled in to watch the performances at the big stage.

Jeff & Ginger
Jeff and Ginger enjoying their first Jazz Fest

Tedeschi Trucks band rocking
Tedeschi Trucks band were rocking

Look who's having a good time
Skip is having a good time.  Not sure what’s wrong with the guy behind him!

Enjoying dinner on Bourbon St
We had dinner with Jeff and Ginger that night at Desire on Bourbon St – sitting in an open window watching the sights!

Bad weather all around
This is what the next day of Jazz Fest looked like

We planned to see a few acts at one of the outdoor stages but, being good weather-conscious sailors, we decided to stake out a good seat in the Blues tent before the storms arrived.

Sure enough, the downpours brought everyone into the tents. We were happily situated in good seats on the aisle with good ventilation. We stayed there all day. It wasn’t a hardship since we preferred hearing blues anyway.

Blues
Terry “Harmonica” Bean

Sonny Landreth
Sonny Landreth

Sunday was full of sunshine, mud and crowds. There were plenty of acts I wanted to see but it was difficult moving around. We decided to join our friends at the big stage where Jimmy Buffet would play later in the afternoon. During the day we enjoyed seeing Cowboy Mouth and Irma Thomas. It was hard to move to other stages due to the crowds and mud so we happily stayed where we were.

Eva in her colorful Jazzfest attire
Savvy Jazz Fest’ers like Eva know to bring stylish rubber boots in case it rains

So many food choices
There are so many food choices.

Cochon de Lait, round deuxCochon de lait is a pulled pork po-boy with horseradish slaw. So delicious – we had it twice!

Muddy mess after the rain
Stinky mud everywhere. I may never forget that putrid smell!

Loving Jazzfest
Hanging out at Jazz Fest

Big crowd
Big crowd for Jimmy Buffet

Rick and Eva waiting for Jimmy Buffet
Rick and Eva are in their element

Jimmy Buffet
Jimmy

At some point, Skip was drawn back to the Blues tent to see Delbert McClinton. Rick also wandered off to see Beausoleil. When Eva and I left we had to navigate through the raucous crowd gathered for Pitbull. That was not fun!

We had our last dinner at another fine (but noisy) restaurant on Bourbon St. It’s easy to find good food in New Orleans.

The drive home was uneventful. We made it all the way to Ocala and got home early the next day to pick up Bailey. One thing I really liked was being able to stay in nicer hotels without having Bailey with us. I’m happy that La Quinta lets us stay with our dog without any hassles but it is definitely not like staying in a Marriott!

Denver, a few boring stops, Georgia and home!

Our trip to Denver was supposed to be a non-event.  We even left a little later to  arrive when Jen was home.   It’s a beautiful ride on I70 from Grand Junction through Glenwood Canyon where the Colorado river flows right next to the highway.  Just 1 1/2 hrs. from Denver we came to a dead stop.  Nothing was moving.  We went about 5 miles in 1 hour.  After all the discussions about pros and cons traveling in a motor home I now realize the ultimate benefit of having a bathroom handy when you need one!

When the traffic finally started moving we passed an area where a cleanup had occurred.  Later we learned that a truck full of grapes overturned.  It made a bloody mess!

Margaritas!
When we finally arrived at Jen’s we were so ready for dinner and margaritas!

We spent 4 fabulous days with Jen and Bill. They introduced us to some new dining spots. We also saw a concert at Red Rocks – Lyle Lovett for the 3rd year in a row!

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Tailgating before the concert

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Getting ready for the show

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Robert Earl Keen opened the show. He was great! He and Lyle are old Texas buddies. REK came out several times and played with Lyle.

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens
Our last night in Denver was drizzly and chilly but we still wanted to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit at the Denver Botanical Gardens. It was well worth seeing at night when the sculptures are lit.

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens

Dale Chihuly Exhibit - Denver Botanical Gardens
This isn’t a very good picture but the sculpture was massive and teeming with curly glass flames

Sadly it was time to head back east. We decided to head straight for home and take the shortest route. That made for 2 long driving days and 2 uninspiring stops – Kansas City and Nashville. We’ll have to visit them again to see the sights.

Bailey perches on the suitcase
Bailey does well in the car. This trip he decided that a perch on the suitcase was comfortable

We were happy to make an unplanned stop in Ellijay, GA to visit Skip’s sister, Nancy, for one night. She and husband Don live up in the mountains of Georgia full of lush forests and curvy, steep roads. It was so much fun to see them and take a break from driving.

Kitty? What kitty?
Kitty? What kitty?

We made it home with 1 more long day of driving. What a great trip! I especially enjoyed spending time with family. After helping Jen with a few projects she said that we could start a reality TV show where we drive around the country and help family and friends redecorate!

Canyonlands

We spent our last day in Moab touring Canyonlands National Park.  We got an early start expecting the same scorching weather and were pleasantly surprised with the cloud cover and cooler temps at higher elevation.

Canyonlands

Canyonlands was much less crowded than Arches.  It sits about 30 miles from Moab and is a huge park.  We covered the Island in the Sky section which is only a small section of the park.

Our first views at Grand View Point overlook were breathtaking.

Grand View

We followed a trail around the rim and each turn gave us impressive views.

Canyonlands

Grand View

It gave me butterflies to be so close to the edge!

Grand View

Green RiverOur next stop was the Green River overlook. You can see the river in the distance.

Upheaval Dome
This is Upheaval Dome. They’re not sure how it was formed – earth movement or meteor hit.

Flowers

Mesa Arch
Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch

Shafer Canyon
Shafer Canyon where jeeps and off road vehicles can take the spiraling road down. No thanks!

Edge on the edge
Edge on the edge

We got a leisurely start the next day for the trip to Denver. We didn’t want to arrive too early since Jen was working. As it turned out, we didn’t have to worry about arriving early. There was a big traffic mess on I70 where we only traveled about 5 miles in one hour. A truck full of grapes had overturned and made a mess on the highway.

We’re in Denver enjoying our visit with Jen and Bill. Sadly, Jackson is not with them any more. He was such a sweet dog and it’s hard to be here without him.

Jackson
I did a painting of Jackson – He was a sweetie

Arches

After leaving Alan to enjoy his new kitchen we headed north and east to Moab, Utah for a few days of recovery.  We love visiting National Parks and wanted to cross Arches and Canyonlands off our list.

Landscape Arch

We got an early start on our visit to Arches since it promised to be very hot.  It was already over 90 degrees at 9am!  Thankfully our longest hike of the day was partly in the shade.

Hiking Park Avenue
We hiked Park Avenue, a long canyon with tall rock spires that resemble buildings

Arches National Park
Rock skyscrapers

Arches National Park

Resting rock
Wedged rock

Rock swirls
Rock Swirls

I made it to Landscape Arch
I made it to Landscape Arch. It got too hot for Skip.

Landscape Arch
Landscape Arch

Ancient rock walls
Millions of years of formation make beautiful colors

Devils Garden
This spot is called Fiery Furnace

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is the most recognizable but this is as close as we got. It was over 100 degrees in the sun and we had no enthusiasm for walking that far.

Arches National Park
Red scenery

The park was crowded with mostly foreign tourists and families with surly teenagers glued to their phones. The foreigners are not at all friendly. Most have that pinched, pained look that I saw in France. I practiced saying bon jour to people and got a few responses and strange looks!

Resting in the shade
Skip takes a break in the shade

Turret Arch
Turret Arch

North window
North Window

Under North Window
Underside of North Window

Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock

106 degrees!
106 degrees back in Moab!

Our first night in Moab we found an amazing restaurant with the best sushi I can remember eating. Sabaku Sushi was so good we ate there the 2nd night too!

We spent today in Canyonlands and, thankfully, it was much cooler.  Tomorrow we’re off to Denver where I’ll post more photos.  The wifi here is painfully slow!

Before and After

When we visited my brother Alan last summer, he asked us for some ideas to spruce up his cabin in Strawberry, AZ.  I picked out paint colors and he fixed up the bathroom on his own.  This trip we planned to update his kitchen in 3 days.  Skip and I love this stuff!

A family project
Me and my little bro enjoying the finished project.  (The cabinets are blue, not purple!)

He sent me some pictures and we did some planning ahead of time.  I have to say that I was a little skeptical that we could pull this off.

Untitled
This is the ‘before’ shot. The room was very brown and looked dated.  It also needed some major Harriet-style cleaning!

Big improvement
Here’s the ‘after’ shot. A big improvement, so much brighter.

Kitchen project underway
This is what the room looked like when we arrived. Alan had already painted the walls and removed the cabinet doors.

Alan sands the doors
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On the first day Alan and Skip sanded the doors and cabinets

Cabinets painted, primer coat on the countertop
By the end of day 1 we had the cabinets painted, sink removed and primer coat on the countertop

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On day 2 we hung the cabinet doors after Skip installed new hardware. Alan and I did a faux finish on the countertops to make them look like granite. The Giani paint kit was very easy to do and came out better than I expected. We applied 3 different colors over the black base coat using crumpled plastic bags. Then we used small brushes to paint veins. The last coat was a clear topcoat. It was very easy and fun to do.

Second coat
Countertop with 2 coats of faux granite paint applied

Looks like granite!
This is after I applied the topcoat. Looks pretty good compared to the ugly formica!

Bailey is interested
Alan hooks up the new sink. Bailey is interested in the flashlight!

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Day 3 – Skip and Alan install new lights and fan.

Alan's spruced up kitchen
Just about done. Alan installed the blinds after we left and hung up some pictures. It looks so much better!  He found the hutch at a local shop.

New rug
We even got a new rug. Alan is going to look for new chairs and paint the door blue.

It was a tiring 3 days but very satisfying.  Alan was so enthusiastic and not daunted by any task.  He also was not too proud to let his sister clean his kitchen!