Monday, 26 March 2018

Vancouver, Washington

I’m enjoying my time here in Oregon. Great to see friends and family again. Almost like it was only yesterday that I was here. (Well, so of…)

I’m keeping my visiting schedule in an Excel spreadsheet so I don’t double book. I have a list of 32 people or couples that I’m meeting and the list keeps growing. It keeps me busy.

I’ve been shopping and cooking for the past few days. Fun to walk through Fred Meyer and see all of the food options. Nothing like it in Europe from what I’ve seen so far, but I don’t get out to the suburbs when I travel so maybe that is where I could find the larger stores.

I’m looking forward to going to Hood River on Wednesday with my cousin Donna. We are meeting with our attorney who is handling Cousin Bobby’s estate. I expect a few more trips to Hood River over the next couple of weeks.

I still haven’t made reservations in Poland. Think I’ll stay for a week in NYC before making the jump back to Europe.

I’m looking for some sunshine, but I have to remember where I am. I still have a couple of weeks here and I’m sure I’ll see the sun eventually. Where I’m staying you can see Mt. Hood, but the clouds are getting in the way. No matter. I’m here to see people and totally understand how the weather can be.

I’ve decided to only post a few pictures on my blog. I’m running out of space where my pictures for the blog are stored and will use Instagram and put in a link in each posting I publish. It might be better using Instagram so I can organize my pictures and put descriptions with the pictures. I’ll try this out in the next few days.

 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Vancouver, Washington

I left Frederick, Maryland just before a significant snowstorm hit the area. I stayed in a hotel near the Baltimore airport so if the snow started falling earlier than planned I would not have too far to travel.

My last day visiting with Paula concluded with a quick visit to a few places within Washington D.C. On the way, Paula showed me where she used to live and also drove by the Kennedy Center before heading into D.C.

Paula dropped me off at Union Station, which was close to the National Portrait Gallery where we saw the recently installed pictures of the Obama’s. It was a quick train ride up to the BWI station and taxi ride to the hotel. Once I was checked into the hotel, a friend from Portland stopped by and we talked for nearly 5 hours. It had been a long time since we’ve seen each other.

The journey to Portland was easy. The first leg of the trip was to LAX, and after a two hour layover, another flight to PDX. At PDX I rented a car (Jeep Renegade) and drove to Scott’s house in Vancouver. I’ll stay with Scott while I’m in the Portland area.

Over the past few days I’ve been catching up with friends and making plans to visit more people while I’m here. I’ll leave on April 15 and fly to New York where I’ll stay for about a week.

While I enjoy seeing friends again and the Portland area too, I miss being in Europe. Perhaps more of my friends and family will visit me while I travel.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Frederick, Maryland

March 16:

My first full day back in the U.S. Paula suggested, after we drove around Frederick, that we take a drive out to Harper’s Ferry. I had been in this area back when I worked for Norm Thompson to visit our distribution center.

Was a real treat to take a close look at the old homes and buildings that have been preserved. We stopped off at the Harper’s Ferry visitor center, mainly to use the restrooms, and had a nice chat with the volunteer working in the center.

The view point that overlooks the Potomac was special. You could see all up and down the river. Still a bit chilly outside. We also drove out to Boonsboro and had tea in a bookstore and visited some more.

I was still a little tired from traveling the day before and decided that I could get in a quick nap before dinner.

By the time we finished dinner and chatted some more, it was time to call it a day.

March 17:

We had breakfast at a local restaurant that served a good selection of breakfast meals. I opted for biscuits and grave and Paula ordered a quiche. I had suggested getting a pedicure and just as we drove out the parking lot we found a shop that did nails and haircuts. I got a pedicure and Paula had a manicure. The staff at the stop we very nice and we left happy.

From there toured the Deliplane Art Center then we walked around Frederick and stopped in a couple of furniture shops and a antique mall. So much to see! I started to get a headache and we left so I could take some aspirin and lay down before dinner.

We met a couple for dinner that Paula has known for many years. David, who Paula knew from the National Symphony Orchestra and his wife Susan were great dinner partners and we talked a lot about travel. We got to hear about David walking the Camino de Santiago. Something that I thought about doing, but who knows, maybe I’ll walk part of it sometime in the future. David and Paula entertained us with stores from the years with the orchestra.

They stopped by Paula’s house afterward and we ate the rest of the birthday cake and talked some more. We’ll see them tomorrow at the Frederick Symphony Orchestra concert.

 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Frederick, Maryland

(Note: Will add pictures later…)

March 14:

On my last full day in London I decided it was time to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I’d seen parts of the ceremony, but this time I’ll have a guide I downloaded to help me through the guard-changing process. A little birthday gift to myself.

You never know about the weather in London, but today I’m thinking it will be sunny most of the day. As I walked from the Green Park station to Buckingham Palace, you could see the clouds partings and a clear day developing.

I found a place near the palace where I could see the troops coming and going from the palace. If I had been here a couple of hours before I could have had a place outside the palace gates and had a front-row view, but that didn’t happen. But I was happy where I was.

While waiting, I saw a helicopter land behind the palace. I kept my eye on the royal flag flying over the palace to see if it was the queen who was riding in the helicopter, since the flag only flies over the palace when the queen is in residence. But the helicopter took off and the flag was still waving, so someone else must have been on the craft.

I took pictures from several different angles. Asked someone next to me to take my picture too.

After the ceremony was over I walked down the Mall then over to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Saw that Big Ben was now fully encased in scaffolding. The Palace of Westminster also had scaffolding and could see work being done on Westminster Abbey. It could be several years before we see the newly refurbished buildings without the scaffolding.

I returned back to the hotel and posted a funny birthday message on Facebook. Since I’m now 64, posted a YouTube video of The Beatles, “When I’m 64” on my page. Will be fun to read the comments later, after I take a nap.

When I woke up from my nap I started responding to Facebook, Messenger, and Email messages. Somewhere during this time I started to get ready for my dinner with Prean and Viktor.

At 6:15 I left for dinner. There was some underground work being done so I had to make a detour, but arrived at the restaurant a little late and ready for a glass of wine while I waited for the guys to arrive. I asked if we could meet at Tuscanic Belgravia, a Tuscan restaurant where we ate last October. I was in the mood for Italian food.

We ordered a bottle of wine for dinner, a starter of mixed cheese and meats, then ordered dinner. The guys each had a fish dish and I opted for cannelloni. Very relaxing restaurant and popular with the locals. One of the owners sat down with us and visited for quite a while and offered us a couple of rounds of limoncello after we had our tiramisu for dessert.

Took a picture of Prean and Viktor as we parted ways after dinner. I’ll try to return to London in July, but we’ll see.

March 15

Today I leave for the U.S. and will stop by and visit with Paula for a few days before flying to Portland.

While at breakfast I started to wonder if I was leaving early enough to catch the plan that was scheduled to leave at 10:35. As a result, I hurried to pack and left an extra 30 minutes.

I took the train from Shepherd’s Bush to Charring Cross station, then to Gatwick Airport. I arrived in time to check my baggage, go through security and got to the gate in time to board the plane. Glad I left a little early so I didn’t have to rush through the airport.

The flight was an easy one to Keflavik Airport where I waited for a couple of hours for my flight to Baltimore. I kept myself occupied looking for an outlet to recharge my phone and laptop. Also had some lunch while waiting. Before long it was time to board the plan. Again, we left on time and were on our way.

I sat next to an American couple who were touring Iceland for the past week. The three of us were sitting in an exit row and were enjoying our extra leg room. I had downloaded a few programs to watch which helped pass the time. Also took pictures out the window of the takeoff from Keflavik and a couple of pictures of the frozen land (Greenland?) below.

We arrived in Baltimore 20 minutes ahead of scheduled. And after passing through Passport Control and another checkpoint, I was standing in front of the terminal waiting for Paula to pick me up.

It was great seeing Paula again! She is now settled in Frederick, Maryland with her doggie and three cats. We talked nearly non-stop for five hours while she prepared dinner and had a birthday cake too.

Tomorrow we will drive around Frederick and the surrounding area. Not 100% sure what we’re doing and will play it my ear. Very helpful to have Paula help me reacquaint myself with the U.S.

 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

London, England (Kensington Hilton, Holland Park)

Today (11 March) I’m returning to the National Portrait Gallery and continue where I left off last year and re-visit some of my favorite paintings and see what I didn’t see before. I left in the early afternoon and went to Trafalgar Square and looked around for a few minutes then walked over to the gallery.

What I’m discovering is that I’m very visual and when I see too much at one time, it gets a little overwhelming and I need to stop because my brain turns off. I like returning to places that I’ve visited so I can see what I didn’t see before. This visit, I focused on a few exhibits of Queen Victoria then reviewed the Tudor and Stewart exhibits. No doubt I’ll return again.

I was thinking about the excellent Chinese food that I enjoyed when Paula was here and returned to the same restaurant, Joy King Lau, and had spring rolls, green tea and chicken cashew with rice. Was very full when I left and returned to the hotel.

On Tuesday, 13 March, I needed some new socks so walked over to the nearby Westfield Mall. What a great mall! Much larger than anything I’ve ever seen and has all of the high-end stores. I ended up buying the socks at S&M’s and also had a late lunch at a Chinese food court restaurant in the mall, which was quite good.

I’ve been going through my suitcase and carry-on and weeding out what I don’t need and will take a couple of items to a nearby charity shop tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing the clothes that I left with a friend when I return to Portland. I’m getting a little tired of wearing the same clothes.

I’m making good progress at scheduling visits with friends and family when I’m in Oregon. Also, I made plane reservations to fly from Portland to New York City on the 15th of April. Haven’t make reservations to fly from NYC back to Europe, but I’ll do that in the next week, I hope.

Tomorrow I plan to actually watch the whole “Changing of the Guards” at Buckingham Palace. I’ve seen small bits of it, but not the whole process. I’ll have to get there by 11:00 to get a good spot.

 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

London, England (Kensington Hilton, Holland Park)

I’m enjoying my stay in London. I’ve been dividing my time between preparing for my trip to the U.S., seeing London friends, and walking around to some of my favorite places in London.

Saturday, after doing a little shopping, I met a friend and we walked around Hyde Park for a couple of hours. Earlier I moved to another room that I’m enjoying much more since I no longer hear the housekeeping staff as much.

On Sunday, I finished my visitation schedule for my trip to Oregon. Well, not totally finished, since I need to finish including dates, times, and locations. That will be the fun part. Later, I met up with Prean and Viktor for tea. Prean got me thinking about what kinds of questions I’ll be asked. We agreed the number one question will be, which place did I like the most.

Tomorrow I’m thinking of visiting the National Portrait Gallery again. When I went through it last year, I left before seeing everything. And there is a lot to see!

Friday, 9 March 2018

London, England (Kensington Hilton, Holland Park)

I’ve been lazy, for the most part, while here in London. I managed to get unpacked yesterday and found a place that could print and scan the document for my attorney. And today I found a nearby self-service laundromat to wash my clothes. The woman at the self-service laundry place was very helpful and I was in and out (with my one load of wash) in a little over an hour.

Today, I met up with Prean and Viktor after I finished with my laundry. I was thinking over the past couple of days about how much patience it takes to travel, and today I got a chance to practice my patience.

In order to meet up with Prean and Viktor, I was to meet them in Battersea Park, which I assumed was to meet where we met before in December. And I thought the bridge’s name was Battersea Bridge. To meet up with them, I decided to take the underground to Victoria station then take a taxi to meet them. I should have told the driver to take me to Chelsea Bridge, but even that wasn’t correct since Prean and Viktor were waiting for me at Battersea Park’s Chelsea Gate. As a result I was let out a couple of kilometers from the meeting point. And I was late. Now to practice my patience. My new (or reinforced) practice, that I haven’t perfected yet, would be to immediately think about what I can learn from this experience. Perhaps I’ll find something new and interesting as a result. “This, or something better.” Otherwise, I’m just grumpy – especially on a rainy day in London. And looking forward to meeting up with my friends and enjoying afternoon tea. And getting out of the rain.

I eventually met them at the coffee shop that was just closing. (More patience practice.) We went to a couple of other places that also had closed at 4:30. We found a hotel with a coffee shop that was open and where we could finally take off our wet coats and hang up our umbrellas. I really enjoy my time with Prean and Viktor. I hadn’t seen them since the day after Christmas and we had so much to talk about.

As for “the something better” part. At the hotel coffee shop we were told they didn’t have any cakes to go with our tea, but they could make up some croissants for us. Fresh croissants! Perfect! And one of the jams served with the croissants was raspberry jam. I had told them I’m practicing my patience and they agreed that this place was a much better choice than the others.

We talked about visiting Russia next year. That would be fun. Looks like I have this year plan set, for the most part.

We took a taxi from the hotel and dropped them off at their place on the other side of Chelsea Bridge and I went on in the taxi to the Sloan Square station. Victoria station was closed due to a security threat. (Which turned out to be a false alarm.) I took the underground to Holland Park and stopped by Tesco on the way back to my hotel to pick up something to have for dinner.

I had a few shows to watch on Netflix and Amazon and then I was more than ready for bed at that point.

Tomorrow I need to start working on my visitation plan for my trip to the U.S. I need to get my scheduled visits documented in one place so I don’t over-commit myself. Also, I’m probably going to move to a new hotel room. Though this room was an upgrade, it is located across from the room Housekeeping uses to store their supplies. The front desk said another room is opening up tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Hilton Cairo Zamalek Residences (21 Mohamed Mazhar Street)

Enjoyed having a week off from touring a new city. This is my fourth time in Cairo and the newness seems to have worn off and its now like any other big city. Except, it is Cairo, and it is a very big city with many people, cars, and many buildings that go on for miles and miles into the horizon. Cairo isn’t a city for everyone, but if you want to see the pyramids, you have to land at the Cairo airport and drive through the city. An amazing experience and I always feel safe when I visit.

Hussein and I met at the hotel and we arrived within five minutes of each other. He was coming from Luxor and I was flying in from Madrid. Good planning? Think it was more like a good coincidence.

Hussein has been showing me now to relax and reminds me I don’t always need a plan. We specialized, during our stay, in doing as little as possible. For us, it was a high point of the day to order room service. And when (not too early) to order a pot of coffee and the croissants we shared each morning. We went to McDonald’s few times, but otherwise ate meals in our room.

Hussein’s English keeps improving and his accent is very slight, but still has many nouns to learn. (He makes up words or phrases to fill in the gaps.) My Arabic is virtually non-existent. When I listen to it, I can pick out some English words that many languages now incorporate into their everyday language. We have it worked out where I talk to the hotel staff and he talks to everyone else while we travel.

This summarizes our six days in Cairo. Sleep, eat, talk, watch a movie on TV, or go outside and look at the view of the Nile and Cairo. And it all ended today when Hussein returned to Luxor and I’m flying to London for a week before I leave for U.S. on the 15th.

After arriving at the airport, traveling to London didn’t start off very good. I knew it was going to be a close connection to change plans in Athens, but when we were over 30 minutes late taking off from Cairo, I knew that my connection to London would be in doubt. When I was proven right and informed while we were landing, all I wanted to know is how long of a wait will I have. I could have taken an earlier flight, but delays in finding my luggage caused me to miss the check-in time with the other airline. But I got a flight that left almost 4 hours later than my original flight.

The delay allowed me to get a bite to eat and to call my brother. He is looking forward to entertaining me while I’m in Oregon and has a number of adventures planned. I’ll start making a list and timetable to track my visits.

It was a good flight from Athens to London. The flight arrived a little early and I made it through Passport Control within 30 minutes, found my luggage and headed towards the entry to the Heathrow Express train. On my way to the train I asked for directions and the guys who gave me directions asked why I wasn’t taking the underground. It then occurred to me that it was late in the evening (fewer passengers) and the underground ride would be almost as quick and far less expensive.

I got off the underground at a station near to my hotel and hailed a taxi to take me the rest of the way. I was given an upgrade to a larger room on a higher floor and was in my room 90 minutes after I landed. We had a small meal on the plane so I really wasn’t hungry. Nor did I want to unpack. I was in bed not too much later after that.

The only thing I must do tomorrow is send back a signed copy of a document that our attorney sent to me a few days ago. The hotel in Cairo didn’t have a scanner, so I asked if I could send when I arrived in London. Other than that, I’ll make arrangements tomorrow to visit with Prean and Viktor and some of my other London friends.

 

 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Double Tree by Hilton, Madrid-Prado (Calle San Augustin, 3)

Woke up to rain. Not sure what I’m doing today, but I knew I wanted breakfast. I enjoy the consistency of the Hilton breakfast. Then came back upstairs and slept some more.

After taking a shower I thought about visiting the nearby Museo Nacional del Prado,¬†widely considered to have one of the world’s finest collections of European art. As I approached the museum I saw a very long line to get in. So I kept walking.

I then saw the church that I took a picture of when I was here last time. Today I went up to the church and went in. I didn’t take any pictures because it was dark inside. The church, San Jeronimo el Real, is a former 1500’s monastery.

Then I thought I should get a haircut. Via Google I found a barber shop located down the road. It was still raining fairly good, but I had an umbrella, so off I went. When I got there the barber said he was fully booked. Then I walked towards the next nearest place, according to Google. But sometimes Google doesn’t have all of the barber shops, restaurants, or grocery stores listed. Given that, as I walked I looked for a barber shop along the way. About halfway to the place listed on Google I saw a place across the street that advertised haircuts.

As it turned out, the barber was just finishing up with his previous customer and he started on my hair. It’s generally interesting to negotiate with the barber to determine which sized attachment to use on my hair. Some places have the sizes labeled by number, others have attachments in milometers. We agreed on the attachment to use on his shaver and away he went. Felt good to have my hair looking good.

It was a quick walk back to the hotel. I’ve been tired all day and wanted to lay down for a nap. Maybe the rain made me tired. In any case, I was soaked when I got back to my room even though I had an umbrella. I had been walking for over an hour in steady rain.

I’ve been looking at where I’ve traveled so far. Google has been keeping track of my travels. I published this same map last year, but now I can see the places I’ve been around the Iberian Peninsula. Coming up this year, I’ll fill in Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria in April and May. Then in June and July I’ll be in Scandinavia and perhaps the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. More red dots for sure by the end of 2018!

A wider view of where I’ve been.

In 2019 I plan to visit more of France, the southern part of Italy, Russia, and Turkey. I still have places in Germany that I’d like to visit too. I expect to slow down my travels in 2020 and plan for longer stays in some of my favorite places, like I do when I stay in Edinburgh.

Tomorrow I leave for Cairo and will meet my friend Hussein there for a few days before flying to London next week. Thankfully I found a direct flight to Cairo that leaves later in the day. More time to sleep in tomorrow!