Monday, April 9, 2012

I want to “Go with Oh” to Barcelona

We spent a bit of our Easter Sunday determining how we’d spend our time in Barcelona if we were to return for a stay in a self-catered apartment. . . pretending we lived there, like we did for a week in Madrid last year.
DSCF1989We’d have a daily ritual of setting out to see ‘our’ neighborhood come to life – that early morning time when the only thing disturbing the quiet is the crash and clang of shopkeepers raising their heavy metal gates.

We’d admire flower-decked balconies above us and greet passersby with a nod of the head and “Bon Dia” as if we were locals.  We’d  pick a different café each day to sip cafés con leche (hot milk laced espresso) while planning that day’s adventures.

Among the things we would do in this Catalonian city by the sea are:

DSCF19601. We’d eat and drink!  Finally we’d have time  to try those tempting cheeses (like Cabrales and Manchego), and hams (Jamon Iberico and Serrano) for which Spain is famous. We’ve had to pass up those seductive selections on display at municipal markets on previous short cruise ship stops.

So we’d be regulars at the famous Mercat de Boqueria, Rambla 85 –86; a market whose origins date back to1217 when meat was sold from tables set up near a door of the once-walled city. The present-day market built in 1840, still has a metal roof that was added in 1911. Other days we would head to Mercat Santa Caterina, Francesc Cambo, 16, in the Ribera District in Cuitat Velta.

DSCF19472. Late in the evening we’d stroll through the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) letting our imaginations run wild. . .do ghosts lurk in the shadows of the narrow streets that twist and turn through this centuries-old area?  The buildings -- most of which date back to the 15th Century -- are interesting in the daytime but become simply magical at night.

DSCF19533.  We’d tapeo through the city, stuffing ourselves at Tapas Bars. Returning to our favorite places and finding new ones – we’d seek out the best deal, the best atmosphere -- the kinds of places we’d tell you that ‘you must visit’ when in town.
Some of our favorites are tiny places so small you could almost miss them. 

Often times the only place to sit at these bars is outside, at tables wedged into a small corner of the sidewalk. That’s my empty stool there, inches from the street’s curb.

DSCF19594.  We’d visit museums like the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona and Museu Picasso. We’d finally visit Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia or Casa Batilo’ and ponder his wild, wonderful architecture. . .…all of those places we’ve never quite had enough time to get to.  And on the way home we’d buy flowers from the many flower stands that line La Rambla to fill ‘our’ apartment with the color and scent of Barcelona’s fall.

DSCF19625. Sometimes we’d take advantage of the fact we were but short-term visitors here. We’d catch those double-decker buses that whirl tourists around a city pointing out important sites ~ a moveable feast of history and culture served in easily digested bite-sized bits.

  So what travel bee got into my Easter bonnet? 

badge[1]It was seeing an announcement of a blogger’s competition on  “Go with Oh” a company that got its start in Barcelona and has grown to include 9 other European cities. They rent hotels and apartments.  I spent time on their site picking out apartments to show Joel where we ‘could live’ whether we won the contest or not.  Yes, the prize is a stay in one, maybe more, of their apartments for up to 30 days.  Our travel juices started flowing and our imaginations ran wild. 

Information about this contest as well as another one they have going on Facebook (with other great prizes) can be found at:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When Travel Bug and “Love Bug” Meet

You know by now that we suffer from the travel bug.
I also have a “Love Bug” – the Volkswagen type. . .a Herbie, VW Bug.

Herbie, is my loved Bug. So when I travel I am always on the lookout for ‘cousins’ and on this Travel Photo Thursday I thought I’d show you where I found them and what they were up to:

lovebugs 005

This travelin' Herbie was heading out into the southwest desert after getting filled up at a station in Tonopah, Nevada.


Another hard-working Herbie was spotted in Las Vegas, Nevada’s Town Square Shopping Center.  As the dill pickle on top reads, “We Dill iver”.

lovebugs 003

This precious purple Herbie was parked on a street near a pile of garbage in Trabzon, Turkey.

lovebugs 004

Hellenic Herbie came zipping into the parking area to await a ferry on the island of Poros, Greece.

lovebugs 001

Cousin cool dude Herbie was in the Fashion Show Mall on The Vegas Strip, doing nothing more than being admired by shoppers.

lovebugs 002

Herbie, the Hawaiian, was sitting in the shade in Haleiwa on O’ahu’s North Shore.

lovebugs 006

This Baja Bug of a Herbie was in Cabo San Lucas,  Mexico last week.

herbie 012 For those of you who’ve not yet met my Herbie. . . here he is: a 69 VW Bug (stick shift, automatic) that my dad bought used in 1972 to serve as my college car. This photo was taken two years ago; four decades, two engines and nearly 200,000 miles later.

How about you?  Any Herbie’s in your life? Any icons that you seek out when you travel?

Don’t forget to hop in the driver’s seat and head on over to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox for more travel photos.

Monday, April 2, 2012

In the “Spirit” of Spring Break ~ American-style

College has obviously been too many decades ago for these two travelers. Because it didn’t cross our minds that our five-day cruise to Cabo San Lucas would take place during a time traditionally known as “Spring Break” in the United States.

While Spring Break can fall at different times in March and April depending on the school; it is a week when those with young children can enjoy family travel and when college students can get as far away from school and families as possible as they seek sun and fun. . .

carnival spirit 009

It would therefore make sense for large numbers of both groups to be on our ship, the Carnival Spirit.  The company’s known for sailing “Fun Ships”.

carnival spirit 020 And so they came, by the hundreds, it seemed. Families with eager wee ones and giggling gaggles of scantily clad girls with suitcases the size of steamer trunks. Groups of young guys in similar abbreviated duds were drawn to those girls like magnets.

carnival spirit 021

And speaking of magnets, as we entered the Cabo marina from the small tenders that brought us from the ship, one business in particular drew the college students  like a magnet. It was standing room only at Senor Frog’s, a place that played party tunes at the highest decibels making it hard to resist its pull. (Notice the foot-tall glass the young man in the right hand corner is holding!)

carnival spirit 007 On Celebrity and Holland America cruises we are often the ‘youngsters’ – that wasn’t the case with his cruise.

Don’t get me wrong. . .we found it delightful atmosphere. In fact, it was a good reminder that with the right “Spirit” . . .fun can be had ~ no matter what your age.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Los Colores de Cabo ~ The Colors of Cabo

We are sailing the Carnival Spirit towards the United States on this Travel Photo Thursday.  We’ve spent two days at Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. 

It was our first- but now, definitely not our last — trip  to this area that we’ve dubbed “Scottsdale by the Sea” because the leather-brown landscape and surrounding hills remind us of Arizona.

Cabo’s colors livened the muted desert tans:

carnival spirit 022

This corner in the Marina flea market doubled as an ‘internet cafe’and a souvenir shop.

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Even the trees were in bloom; blossoms in bright orange intensified against a cloudless blue sky.

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Cafe table clothes and chairs were fiestas of brilliant colors
carnival spirit 037    Fushia colored bougainvilla blossoms lined driveways and filled pots along the sprawling marina.

For more photos from around the world, visit Budget Travelers Sandbox, the host of Travel Photo Thursday. And I’ll have more cruise tales coming in future posts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Carnival Spirit: What a Difference a Day Makes!

The weather forecast for San Diego called for rain.

Not a good way to start a five day cruise that we booked because we needed sun.

We thought our forecaster was off base when Sunday morning we arrived at the cruise terminal under blue skies. There was a strong wind and it chilled to the bone but it wasn’t raining.  That was a good thing. My ‘carefree’ wind-blown hairdo illustrates the wind power (and yes I was holding the rail to fend off some of the stronger gusts).

carnival spirit 001 We were bundled up but determined the strong cold wind wouldn’t dampen our spirits.

But by the time we set sail at 4:30 we not only had wind, but rain as well. This is my shot of leaving San Diego:

carnival spirit

The decks were nearly deserted. . .of course many were closed:

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It was beginning to look like we might have made a mistake in picking this cruise.  One of the ship’s photographers told us, “I’ve sailed two cruises out of San Diego recently and they were warm and we had blue skies.  . . .Can you believe this?!”   No, we couldn’t.

But as we continued south the sea calmed and by today I am happy to report the Carnival Fun Ship Spirit is back:

And guess what?  It is Spring Break!  And not every college student goes to Florida. . .we’ve got a thousand or more of them on board with us.  I’ll tell you more of those stories as the week goes on. . .  for now I’m off to sun tan. . .

Friday, March 23, 2012

Waikiki’s SPAM® JAM Festival. . .no joke!


It's time to celebrate SPAM®. . . the kind you eat, not delete.

A conversation with two blogger buddies earlier this week found us in agreement on spam, those nuisance bulk emails that clog inboxes, but we had vastly differing opinions on SPAM®, the food. 

I’m the lone SPAM® fan in this trio.

Blogger Ann, who normally muses about life, mused about eating anything that slides out of the can in a wiggling gelatinous wrap.  Blogger Dick, whose focus is community and education, simply pondered SPAM® and its relationship to public education. 

SPAM®, we agreed, was a worthy blog topic for us all. Lucky for me, this announcement arrived in my inbox two days later:

10th Annual Waikiki SPAM® JAM Festival
is set for Saturday, April 28, 2012 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, Honolulu

DSCF0080More SPAM®, according to one of the conference sponsors, is consumed per person in Hawaii than any other state in the United States, which makes it somewhat appropriate for their signature food festival.

SPAM® stands for ‘spiced ham’; a product introduced in 1937 by the Hormel Foods Corporation.  The food cube inside the can is a mix of ham and pork shoulder and now comes in low-salt, spicy and original (simply salty) versions.

Two key statistics in the news release caught my eye:

* nearly seven million cans of SPAM® are eaten every year in Hawaii. (Hawaii’s population was 1.375 in 2011 – that’s a lot of SPAM® per person!)

* in the decade since it began, the Waikiki SPAM® JAM, has become one of the most popular festivals in Hawaii. More than 20,000 are expected to attend this year’s festivities.

!cid_D0112F1spam photo3

Waikiki’s main beach front drag, Kalakaua Avenue, will be closed to vehicular traffic. You can see why in this photo from a previous SPAM® JAM.

Some of Hawaii’s favorite entertainers will perform on two stages, and a dozen restaurants are serving up some crazy ono grindz (that’s ‘really good’ in Hawaiian) SPAM® dishes. A sample of the dishes being created and served include:

!cid_C212A5D2-207F-41A1-A7CC-1CFE8BFDF2DD@hawaii_rrP.F. Chang’s: SPAM® Lettuce Wraps and SPAM® Lo Mein

Duke’s/Hula Grill: SPAM® Loco Moco with Shitake Mushroom Cream Gravy.

Cheeseburger Beachwalk: SPAM® Babies

Aqua Café: Ono Mac and Cheese with SPAM® and a SPAM® Bento.

Atlantis Seafood and Steak: SPAM® Mahi Carbonara.

Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber: Will have three dishes including Hormel’s Grand Prize Winning Recipe from the Great American SPAM® Championship. . .drum roll. . .Mini Maple SPAM® Doughnuts (created by Jason Munson, at the Puyallup Fair right here in Puget Sound)!

Admission is free.  But if you plan to attend keep in mind,The Hawaiian Food Bank will also have a booth at SPAM® JAM.  Since 2004, more than 10,000 pounds of SPAM® have been donated to the food bank thanks to this festival.

For more information, visit,   Ever been to the festival? Tell us about it, or tell your own SPAM® story by adding a comment below or drop us an email.

Note:  Thanks to Wiki Commons and photographer Matthew W. Jackson for use of the SPAM® photo at the top of the post and to SPAM® JAM organizers for the other two photos used in this post.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

TP Thursday: A Blooming Good Trip!

We had such a blooming good time on our trip last spring to Madrid, London and Paris that I decided to create a bouquet of memories today:


High above us on the side streets of Madrid, flowers cascaded over the railings of even the narrowest of balconies.


Parks were tapestries scattered throughout Madrid; their designs created by endless beds of red roses.


It felt as if we were staying in London’s Chelsea Flower Show each time we entered our Chancery Court Hotel.   The pungent peonies filled the lobby with a springtime aromatherapy.  (As well as providing inspiration:  “Why it’s simply flower stems and candles mixed. . .why couldn’t I do that at home?”)


It seemed all of London was in bloom – even the bench in the hotel’s courtyard.


A cold, blustery wind swirled street dust during our too-brief overnight stay in Paris. Despite the harsh chill that cut through our coats, balcony blooms reminded us that it really was springtime in Paris.



When someone asks, “But, . . .is there anything to see there?”  these are the images that come to mind. What every day images are in your bouquet of memories?

It is Travel Photo Thursday and there’s a lot of places to see in the world by just clicking this link to Budget Travelers Sandbox and see where our fellow travelers are this week. been.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

‘WA’ Wednesday: 'Our Kind of Place' at Copalis Beach

Heading to a new destination over an unfamiliar route in a downpour doesn’t make for a pleasant travel experience. Compounding the matter was leaving the road map at home. We use maps – the old paper kind. We don’t 'do' GPS.

We were heading to two destinations: one a resort where we would stay and the other a place where we planned to eat that night.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 008Windshield wipers flung rain off the windows as we traveled north on Highway 109, a two-lane road that snakes along Washington’s coastal North Beach area.

Our ultimate destination was Iron Springs Resort, where we were spending the weekend, but we were also seeking the Green Lantern Pub in the town of  Copalis Beach. We had just enough information about it to believe it was  ‘our kind of place’.

A handful of Yelp reviews and a hearty endorsement (“They serve the best steaks!”) from a cheerful lady in the tourism office at nearby Ocean Shores (where we got a map) convinced us to dine at the Green Lantern that night. 

The Green Lantern Pub

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 091

Easily spotted on the corner of Highway 109 and the road that leads to Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park, the place has had only five owners  since it opened in 1928. It’s also had the same name for all but two of those years.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 023We literally bellied up to the bar at the Green Lantern Pub – the place was packed with others who were there for Friday’s Prime Rib dinner special. Sitting on those old round seat-bottom stools without backs we were within arm’s reach of a shuffle board table and not far from the lone pool table.

Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 022I watched the woman next to me nurse a beer – served in a pint canning jar – for more than an hour while she tested her luck at a 10-cent pull-tab game (like the one pictured on the left).  She spent $40 but when she left, she carried a jackpot prize with her: a giant-sized box of Rice Krispy treat bars!

The Prime Rib dinner, at $14.95 per person, got us such large cuts of meat that had enough leftovers for another meal.  We passed on the large baked potato and still had a selection of five other sides from which to choose.  A dinner salad was included.

 Iron Springs Alderbrook 2012 020The wine list – red, white, pink, - served from large bottle or box – didn’t impress, but the pours were hearty and with 10 brewskies on tap and a full bar from which to order, there was no room for complaint.

The “Daily Specials,” including barbequed ribs on Saturday night and a few days later, a $9.95 New York steak. . .had us nodding in agreement: it was our kind of place! 

We will certainly be coordinating our return visit to Iron Springs Resort with the nightly specials at the Green Lantern.

Perhaps during our next visit we’ll even meet some of the . . .ahem. . .tavern ghosts.  Our waitress  told us they have some regulars ~ she’s seen them. We didn't.

If You Go: 

Green Lantern Pub is at 3119 State Highway 109, Copalis Beach, 98535, 360-289-2297; because this place is a bar, no one under 21 is allowed.  It is an easy three miles from Iron Springs Resort, 3707 State Highway 109,, 1-800-380-7950.  Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is a 364-acre marine park with beach, and low dunes. For information, 360-902-8844,


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