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Anacortes, WA with Joe and Sheri

Joe and Sheri Rowe picked us up at the Cruise Terminal in Seattle on May 31.  They live part time in Corona, CA (our neighbors) and the rest in Anacortes, WA.   Their home is on a hill overlooking the Puget Sound and the house and views are beautiful.  We spent 3 days with them and, despite cold and some rain, had some fun touring Anacortes, the surrounding area, and Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, via ferry.  June was a little early for good weather, but one day we did get some sunshine and a pretty sunset!  Thanks to them for a great end to our travels; flew home June 3.

Alaska and B.C. Canada on the Sojourn

Our first port after crossing the Bering Sea was Kodiak, Alaska; our first time there.  The only Kodiak brown bear that we saw was in the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.  We did see many bald eagles, but didn’t see close enough to photograph.  We walked around the town and enjoyed being on terra ferma.

After a day at Sea, we docked in Juneau; our 3rd time to visit this city.  Again, it was cloudy and cold with some rain.  We were 1 of 3 cruise ships in port with Carnival Legend, HOL Vaandam.  We decided to visit the famous Red Dog Saloon; and were pleasantly surprised.  The interior is a throwback to the gold rush days with lots of memorabilia, saw dust on the floor, a piano player doing old songs and ladies in saloon girl costumes.  We tried their clam chowder which has smoked salmon in it and it was some of the best we have had.

Our last land day in Alaska was Skagway.  It was beautiful, sunny, but cold and windy.  Our plan was to take the tram to the top for views, but it was too foggy up there and didn’t like the wind; so just walked around.  I think the wind is what set off my cold, which started that night.  We also heard some sad news from home, one of our best and longest known friends was dying.  We thought about her, family and friends, all day and made many phone calls.  Wish we could have been in 2 places.

One of our favorite parts of our cruise in Alaska, in 2016 was Glacier Bay National park and it did not disappoint us this time.  The weather stayed clear and the Margerie Glacier calved for us.  We love the scenery, but were sad because we heard that JoAnn Brown had died.  Just as we learned that, we arrived at Margerie and champagne was handed out.  We toasted to her and dedicated that beautiful scene to her.

The next day was warm and sunny for our cruise through the Canadian Inside Passage.  In the afternoon, we were able to be on deck without coats and there was a fun Deck Party.  Good timing!  The next day, in Victoria, B.C., the cold and rain came back, but we had a nice visit with our snowbird friends, Don and Wanda.

The next day, the cruise ended in Seattle, Washington.  A fun 21 days!

More Sebourn Cruise across the Bering Sea

From May 15 to May 23 we were at sea, including the International Dateline which meant we repeated Friday, 19th.  We changed our clocks 1 hour forward at 2 p.m. for 7 days.  Again, that messed with our internal clocks, so that we woke at odd hours.  We love the days at sea, so had no problems, but it was mostly cold and cloudy with some rain.  One day the sun peeked out and though still cold, several passengers took advantage  and sat on the open deck.

On Seabourn, you can request special dinners, so one night we requested Paella and invited 6 others.  It was good, but the rice was not crunchy on the bottom.  All enjoyed, but we could not finish it, hated to sent any back!

We did get to see a sunset and Jim photographed a sunrise, but mostly sea!

Seabourn Sojourn Japanese Ports

Our cruise started on May 11; we traveled to the ship by train, ferry and monorail.  The first couple we met, Mike and Angela from UK, continued to be table mates at different times.  A very fun couple.

On leaving Kobe, Japan on the ship, we had a sail away concert by the Kobe Community Fireman’s Band.  They were very good and played “Anchors Away” as we moved away, very appropriate and enjoyable for Navy guy, Jim.  We had 2 days at sea on our way to our first Japanese port of Aomori, where we visited an Onsen or Hot Springs baths.  This was our first time to pay for a cruise ship tour, but it turned out well, with only 20 of us and a good tour guide; also included a huge lunch.

Next was Hakodate, known for squid; it was everywhere in the Marketplace.  Some really cute 15 – 16 year old school girls greeted us in English.  They were out of school in order to practice their English.  We spoke with 3 girls for several minutes.  One plays trombone and another saxophone and all plan to go to college.  Later, as we sailed away, 50 of them entertained us by singing and dancing the “Squid Song.”  It was really comical!  As you may see, many of us have on the same Blue Coats.  They were a gift from Seabourn and very welcome with all of the cold weather; in Hakodate it was also raining.  We spent a little time at the Morning Marketplace and then returned to ship to warm up!!

Last port in Japan was Kushiro and we took another Seabourn excursion.  Our first stop was to see the Red Crown Cranes, which we could see up close.  They are quite large, but not as large as our Whooping Cranes.  After that we went to the wetlands, which were too wet and foggy!!  Lastly we had a nice rice bowl with Sashimi lunch in the marketplace.  Our guide, Tete was very good and spoke clear English.  After this port we headed across the Bering Sea for 7 days (including the International Date line and 2 Fridays).

Eight Days in Japan

We are home after 33 days (including 2 Friday 19ths due to International Dateline), including Japan and Seabourn Cruise.  It was a very full trip with sights, experiences and tons of photos.  As you saw in my last post, of our Itinerary, we were on the move.  In Japan, we learned to use their railway and subway systems.  At first it was confusing because they have several different companies.  But after figuring it out, we saw that their system was very well organized and efficient, but expensive.

Our hotels in Japan were nice, although smaller than in USA, but they both had the Toto toilets, really deluxe (bidet and back shower with heated seat and music!).  We were visiting during their Golden Week, initially, so the tourist areas were more crowded than usual.  Our visits were to Osaka Castle,

Nara Park, Dotonbori District (Carnival atmosphere in shopping/restaurant area), Kobe, and Kyoto.  Even with all of the trains and subways, we still walked about 3 miles a day.  Jim was able to do that, with stops and utilizing his cane, especially on steep roads, such as in Kyoto.  The biggest problem was adjusting to the time change; 16 hours between CA and Japan.  At first we were waking up at odd hours and having to take naps, but we adjusted.  I had ordered a “pocket wifi” prior to our trip and it was delivered to our hotel.  That was a big bonus and able to use with unlimited, secure access.  Google maps has a setting for trains, so we utilized that to get to the correct track, along with asking assistance from agents and fellow travelers.  English was not as common as we expected, but the ticket machines had an English setting.  We did not meet any locals, but spoke with several English speaking tourists during our outings.

After these 8 days, we boarded the Seabourn Sojourn for 21 day cruise.

Japan and Seabourn Cruise

We leave tomorrow for our first big trip since Jim’s medical issues.  We fly from LAX via San Francisco to Osaka, Japan.  After 8 days on our own (we have hotel reservations only), we board the Seabourn Sojourn for a 21 day cruise which includes Alaska and ends in Seattle, WA.  Cheryl’s first time in Japan; Jim was there briefly in the Navy; and first for both of us in Kodiak, Alaska.  The following is our itinerary.  Love to all

Here’s our Itinerary for Japan trip
May 1, LAX Hotel, Quality Inn, Century Blvd
     310-671-7213
May 2, United flight to San Fran
     Flight UA 1294, 7:18 am
May 2, United flight from SF to Osaka, Japan
     Flight UA 35, 11:05 am
May 3, arrival in Osaka, KIX, 3 pm
May 3 to 6, Hotel Brighton, Osaka
May 6 to 11, Comfort Hotel Sakai, 1-5-1 Ryujimbashi-cho, Sakai-ku, Sakai
     +81 (72) 2337111
May 11, Kobe, Japan, board Seabourn Sojourn ship
May 11-13, at Sea
May 14, Aomori, Japan
May 15, Hakodate, Japan
May 16, Kushiro, Japan
May 17 – 18, at Sea
May 19, Cross International Dateline
May 20 – 22, At sea
May 23, Kodiak, Alaska
May 24, At sea
May 25, Junea, AK
May 26, Skagway, AK
May 27, Glacier Bay National Park, AK (cruising)
May 28, Inside Passage, AK (cruising)
May 29, At sea
May 30, Victoria, BC, Canada
May 31, Seattle, WA
May 31 to June 3, Anacortes, WA, with Joe and Sheri
June 3, Southwest flight from Seattle to San Diego
     Flight 5559, 1:35 pm to 4:15 pm

Cheryl’s BD, Morro Bay and more Flowers

For my birthday, we decided to take a short road trip to visit the Central CA coast at Morro Bay and Pismo Beach and then continue east to see the “Super Bloom” in the central valley.  We saw some lovely scenery, ate some good seafood, and enjoyed more of the fantastic wildflower display that happened in 2017.

We spent the first night, April 5 in Morro Bay.  On the 6th, my birthday we toured that area.  Montana del Oro State Park was new to us and worth the drive.  We also found a cultivated bush with purple cone shaped flowers, that we really loved.  Had to stop at a nursery to get the name, “Pride of Madera” (knew they looked familiar, we’ve been there) or Echium.

One of our favorite spots in Morro Bay is Giovanni’s Cafe.  It’s right by the bay and close to the Morro Rock.  We ate outside with a quart of fantastic clam chowder and a bottle of some decent white wine.  Very nice Birthday lunch!!  Then we drove to San Luis Obispo and enjoyed a driving tour of Cal Poly.  We stayed that night in Pismo Beach and went to another place that we knew, Scotty’s Bar and Grill.  Good food and drink.

Scotty's Bar and Grill

Birthday dinner at Scotty’s in Pismo Beach

On Friday, the 7th, we headed east on CA 58 to find the Central Valley “Super Blooms”.  They were definitely that.  Hills and fields full of flowers in many shades.  Botanists say that the seeds for all these plants had been laying dormant throughout all the drought years.  Then, since 2017 was very rainy, they all burst forth at once.  The recommended spot was Carrizo Plain National Monument, also new to us.  Really awesome.

After an overnight in Bakersfield, on April 8th we went further east to Tehachapi and then south on Willow Springs Road; on the way to the Poppy Preserve near Lancaster.  We saw many Joshua trees and more Wind Turbines than the I-10 corridor near Palm Springs.  They also had many solar panels; great to see natural power being harvested.  As we got closer to Lancaster, we started seeing many Poppy fields around Ave. I and 110th St.  Golden California Poppies mixed with blue/purple phacelia along with goldfield were all around us.  So glad that we were able to see this display on our way home!

We arrived home to find one of my most beautiful Iris’s had bloomed!

Beautiful Iris

Lavender and pink with orange, Iris