Denali National Park, Alaska

We managed to get away for a twelve day vacation to Alaska before I have to have a medical problem taken care of. We flew up from Los Angeles and stayed one night in Anchorage and rented a car. The next day we drove up to Denali National Park. Of course, it took all day to get there because I had to stop to take photographs of the incredible scenery. We stopped in an old town; Talkeetna that maintained an historic main street. Many of the original log cabins were still standing.

But the best part of the trip north was a turn out to see Denali in almost clear skies. Just one cloud covered the middle of the mountain.

We spent the night at the Denali Princess Wilderness Resort where the mosquitoes were already roaming the area looking for fresh blood.

Today we went into the Park and met some very helpful and cute park rangers.

We drove down the one 15 mile road looking for critter and were very lucky to find a few. We saw a grizzly bear but he was too far away from us to take a photograph. But we did see an Arctic ground squirrel , and two caribou.

We leave tomorrow to return to Anchorage. It has been an exciting adventure.

We drove back to Anchorage from Denali Park. There were some stunning snow covered mountains. Thought I would add these photos to this blog.

Enjoy the beauty of this part of the world.

Advertisements

Cat sitting in San Diego

We are cat sitting in Hillcrest in San Diego. We love this city. It is a pleasure to take care of these two kitties in this fun part of San Diego. The sunset view of the downtown from Shelter Island is a beautiful photograph.

We got to spend some time walking around Balboa Park and saw some of the baby ducklings in the pond before the botanical gardens.

corridor in Balboa Park

Old Globe theater in Balboa Park

Today, we drove up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. My great, great grandfather, Christopher McAleer was the assistant light house keeper around 1865. The lighthouse is on the end of the Point Loma peninsula. In 1865 when he was working there, it was about a five mile ride over empty land to Old Town, San Diego. It must have been worth the ride because he went to a party in Old Town and met my great , great grandmother. After being the assistant light house keeper for only 8 months he married the pretty ,young senorita and the rest is history, as they say. Thank God for this meeting as I would not been here today.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Casa de Estudillo in Old Town , San Diego where they married

Needless to say, San Diego is an important part of my family heritage. So staying here is always a pleasure.

Pet and house sitting in the United States

When we are home from Europe during the winter we sometimes pet and house sit domestically. ( If you want to know more about how to pet and house sit please look at this blog post;
https://seniorgapyear.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/house-and-pet-sitting-on-the-road/ ).

This last January we pet sat in Santa Cruz for a wonderful cat named, Baxter.  He warmed up right away and spent a lot of time sitting next to us purring when he did not command a good spot on our bed, grin.  We also met his humans, Susan and Rick and enjoyed having dinner and getting to know them.

sunset santa cruz pier net
redwoods
deer_edited-1

Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach town in Northern California and we had a great time there.  Here is a photo of the sunset from the pier where we are dinner. There are many redwood forests in the mountains that are very close so we took 3 drives up to see them.Here is a deer that we saw from the road out of the Big Basin Redwood national park. The highlight for me was the trip down to Monterey to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Taking photographs there was thrilling.

moon jellyfish 5 net
moon jellyfish dancing
moon jelly one net
sea anemone yellow net
shark eating larger net
Shark being hand fed by diver
windsurfer net
windsurfer air 2

One of the most spectacular sites was at the beach watching the kite surfers.  It is amazing how high they fly above the ocean.It was a wonderful pet sit and it was good to be able to go somewhere different in our home state of California.

We tacked on a visit to relatives in Sacramento on our way home.  I love pet sitting.

Zurich, Switzerland is beautiful, clean, and expensive

We pet- and house-sat in Zurich, Switzerland as our last sit this summer.  We took care of a very sweet dog named Lilly.  Lilly loved to chase balls in the backyard.Switzerland lilly the dog netWe were about 12 miles outside of Zurich, out in the countryside.  We would take Lilly for walks through beautiful green farm lands. There were lakes and rivers everywhere in the country.  This is Lake Zurich.Lake Zurich trees net

There were parks and small houses built on the shores of this large lake.Lake zurich house netLake Zurich bench netAnd there were still flowers in October.orange spike flower closer netsweet pea pastel netThe public transportation was good and easy but really expensive.  To go into Zurich on the train, (12 miles) and return was $22.00 each.  This was like 3 times more expensive than in the other places we have visited.   The expensiveness of everything was kind of off putting.  A coke at a cafe was $6, a hamburger was $13, a box of cereal was $7 and gas was $8 a gallon.  We purchased two small pieces of chocolate and it came to $4.50.Switzerland handmade chocolates net

Even postcards were $2.50.  Needless to say, we ate at home and did not buy much.

But the city of Zurich was beautiful.  It is cut in half by the Limmet River, and there are many bridges to cross from one side to the other.Zurich Limmet river netThere are fountains everywhere and they all run cold, clean water all the time.  You can always fill your water bottles for free.Zurich fish fountain net 

I came across done fountain that someone had filled with fresh roses.Zurich rose fountain 2 netIt was a lovely city to visit for a week.

Milan a city of faith and death

We spent several days in Milan.  The city is a mixture of celebration of the Roman Catholic faith and honoring the dead.  The Milan Cathedral is a magnificent example of  Italian Gothic architecture.  In 1386 the church was started and was not finished until 1965. It is the largest church in Italy.Milan cathedral netThe main doors outside the cathedral have wonderful bronze  sculptures that illustrate the bible stories designed by Italian sculptor Ludovico Pogliaghi .

Milan Cathedral door images net

Joseph and Mary marry

 

So many exquisite works of art inside the cathedral like these marble saints.Milan Cathedral saints net

And the body of St. Carlo Borromeo who was the archbishop of Milan in 1564 to 1684.  It is in a crystal coffin in the crypt of the church.  It is the site of pilgrims who come to pray for the saint’s help.

Milan Saint Carlo Borromeo net

His face is made of silver

The monumental cemetery in Milan is one of europe’s best.  The sculptures and grave stones are artistic and creative.  This is one of my favorites; a woman expressing profound grief.milan monumental cemetery grief netI will say that the majority of the statues are women expressing grief at the passing of their husbands.  Though there were some honoring women and children who have passed.milan monumental cemetery woman netThere is also a sense of deeply felt faith even in sorrow.milan monumental cemetery grief woman net

 

milan monumental cemetery girl net

 

And this grave stone which is an abstract.milan monumental cemetery abstract netThe city is a combination of faith and death.

Lake Como a wonderful place to visit

I am two weeks out from losing my dear dog, Mac.  I am still sad but I am doing better.  So I thought I would start to catch up with the adventures in our trip.

We spent two days in Lake Como.  lake como hill netIt was really lovely and because it is the end of the season there were less people to contend with.  We used the all day ferry pass to visit small towns on both sides of the lake.Lake Como ferry netThe second day we took the hydrofoil ( fast boat) to the city of Como because if you do not it takes two and a half hours by regular ferry.  Como is a lovely small town with a cathedral.como cathedral altar netThe late afternoon brings a light fog over the lake.Lake Como hills netThe last sunset over the lake was stunning.Como sun clouds net

I will be putting up more blogs as we are going home on the Celebrity Reflections across the Atlantic.Lake Como dark sunset net

Price shock in Switzerland … and a tale of two ATMs

You may remember our amazement at the prices of nearly everything in Copenhagen … the Burger King lunch for two for $21 stands out in my mind. We knew Switzerland would be expensive, and that’s why a week’s pet-sit was such a good opportunity.

The 3-km cab ride from the station to Sixt car rental was a quick introduction, as it cost $37 — $8 to start, $5/km, $1.33/minute, and $5 extra to bring our 3 suitcases, even though the driver was older than me and I had to load them into his cab myself.

Food in the grocery store is about 2 – 3 times US prices for most things.  Cereal is $7 a box, ground beef is $10 a pound, a croissant that might be €1 in Paris or Rome is 1.70 here. A lemon was $0.70. Frozen vegetables are all about $6.50 for 800g, about 28 ounces. Although a liter of milk is 1.60, if you add chocolate and sugar and air and make a liter of ice cream that weighs 500g, it’s 10.60 (on sale last week for only 7.40!). This is Carte d’Or, who make a dark chocolate that is Linda’s favorite. But still! Gas is 1.70 a liter ($6.43 a gallon), not quite the highest we’ve seen in Europe. The shocking thing was transportation — we’re 19km from Zurich and a 1-way tram ride is 10.60; an all-day ticket twice that at 21.80. Even in London, where we stayed about the same distance from the center, transit was capped at £8.00 — about $10.40 per day, so about half the Zurich rate.

The Swiss Franc is just about on par with the dollar now, costing about $1.01 from an ATM. Everyone seems OK with these prices, so I looked up Swiss salaries and discovered that the median is about $72,000. There’s less range … a lot of professional types (IT, etc) make around $110,000, but even grocery clerks clear $50,000. There isn’t a formal minimum wage, but effectively it’s about $25/hour, and everyone gets healthcare.

All this would make sense to me if a Swiss Franc cost US $0.50, but as it is, it makes Switzerland and Swiss products really expensive, and must make traveling worldwide a great deal for the Swiss! The roads are great, the trains are spotless, and the cows look happy. They actually wear those bells you see in drawings.

Anyway, yesterday we were in Zurich, and as those francs had been flying out of my wallet, I went to get some more.  At the Paradeplatz, the center of shopping Zurich, there’s an immense Credit Suisse bank.  In front, there are two ATMs, and as someone was using the one on the left, I approached the one on the right.  It informed me it only dispensed 100- and 500-franc notes, and if I wanted smaller, I should use the other ATM. Well, harumph! The money is really pretty, though:

Image result for swiss banknotes

and the 5-franc coin is huge, as it should be.

Saturday, we’ll return the Mercedes A180 that Sixt gave us “because we’re out of everything else,”  and take trains back to Milan and then to Civitavecchia, and our rendezvous with Celebrity Reflection on Monday.  We’re feeling a little better.