Lobsters, Lighthouses and Lupines: A Love of Lists for Maine Travel

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Marshall Point Lighthouse

Early on my month-long trip to Maine, you might have caught a glimpse of me coming out of Sherman’s Books in Boothbay Harbor, my arms loaded down with books on Birds of Maine Field Guide,  The Lighthouse Handbook New England, and Forest Trees of Maine.  I love nature; and walking, hiking and photography takes me into the beautiful outdoors quite often, so when I travel, I like to keep track of the flora and fauna I see. And in Maine, I also keep track  of Lobster Shacks and Lighthouses that I have visited.  How do I do this? By keeping travel lists!

I’m pretty sure this all stems from my collector personality. I’ve been collecting various things since childhood; I started with seashells and rocks and then stamps for awhile, and as an adult vintage and antique dolls. As a traveler, I suppose my photography gives me an automatic collection of photos of the places I’ve been (I’ve never been one for physical souvenirs).

Seagulls in Wicasset

Seagulls in Wicasset

Keeping lists as I travel might be seen as another sort of collection. I can’t physically bring home birds I’ve seen and lighthouses I’ve visited, but there is definitely a thrill every time I can add another one to my list. For me, it’s similar to the thrill of the hunt every time you add an item to a collection. Also, I learn quite a bit in the process of identifying the birds or trees I see or finding new lighthouses and lobster shacks to visit. And, if you want to get into the list game for yourself while traveling, it is free fun (yes, I tend to buy books, but information, identification help and lists can be found for free online on most topics). Books, however, take it to the next level both for identification help and then facts about everything you add to your list.

Maine is tailor-made for travel lists! My favorite ones right now are my Maine Birds and Maine Lighthouse Lists, but here are all the travel lists I’m currently keeping and what I’m using to keep them:

Maine Birds: I’m not an official bird watcher, but I adore birds and like to keep track of the ones I see. I am using Birds of Maine Field Guide, Field Guide to identify the birds; besides checking off the birds in that book I’m using the online app Lifebirds Journal to keep a list (cost of app was $3.99). Lifebirds Journal is not Maine specific and is more for a life-long bird list.  I also take along a pair of Nikon 10×42 Binoculars when I’m looking for birds; they are indispensible (and Nikon Binoculars come in many price points if you are looking for field binoculars).

Maine Lighthouses: You can get a free list of all the lighthouses in Maine at the Chamber of Commerce//Lighthouse Continue reading

My Maine Food Travel Adventure Continues: Lobster Rolls at Red’s and a Local Coffee House

Red's Eats, home of the world's best lobster roll

Red’s Eat’s Wicasset

One of the things I have to do at least once every time I’m in Maine is eat a lobster roll. Well, if you are going to have a lobster roll, you should get a good one. A little research showed that Red’s Eat’s in Wicasset has very highly thought of lobster rolls (some say the best in all of Maine!). So, after a wonderful visit on Saturday to the Maine Coastal Botanical Garden, we went down Highway 1 and stoped at Red’s.

We had heard that the wait in summer can be over an hour; we thought that we could avoid any long lines by going to lunch a little late (1:45). Not so, the wait to order the lobster rolls was 40 minutes! This could have been a drag on our day (we were well on the way to hangry) but the weather was beautifully

Lobster Rolls at Red's Eats

Lobster Rolls at Red’s Eats

sunny, the people on line were fun to talk to, and Red’s kept it fun by giving out a free lobster roll to the first person

from New Hampshire in line and we also got some free iced teas for the long wait. Also hanging out in Wicasset isn’t too bad; it call’s itself the “prettiest town in Maine.” Half way through the wait I decided to save my group a picnic table down by the river; I had my camera with me and got some great sea gull photos.

Once obtained, the lobster rolls were truly perfect. Tasty bread and warm butter on the side. I’d love to report back on the mayonnaise used but my Continue reading

One Week in Jerusalem: Seeing Jerusalem with Wondrous Eyes

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Crowd Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Crowd Entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

I just returned from my one-week trip to Jerusalem, and I was sitting jet-lagged in church on Sunday when the priest at my Episcopal church was talking about how we choose to see the world. In the sermon, he talked about seeing the world with “wondrous eyes.” This phrase has stuck with me, since it is with wondrous eyes that I see all of the places I travel to, but especially how I saw Jerusalem and Israel.

First of all, one week is hardly enough to see Jerusalem, Israel, and the Holy Land, but it IS enough if that is all the time you have. I went to Israel for a conference (the TBEX Jerusalem conference for travel bloggers), and so my time was particularly short. Not only did I have just one week, but I had a 2-day conference smack in the middle of my week. Nevertheless, I managed to see the Old City of Jerusalem (including the Church of the Holy Seplecure, the Wailing Wall and the Via Dolorosa), the City of David, the Israeli Museum, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum and memorial), the Mahane Yehuda marketplace, Bethlehem, Jericho and Masada.

View of the Jerusalem Hills from the City of David

View of the Hills of Jerusalem

For anyone from the three major Abrahamic faiths, Jerusalem and Israel is a place of wonder and amazement. For me, as a life-long Christian, I could hardly believe that I was standing at and seeing the actual places from the Old and New Testament in the Bible. My emotions overwhelmed me several times; at the Wailing Wall while praying, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the early morning during services and at the Unction Stone, at St. Annes while a youth group sang Amazing Grace, and at Bethlehem, both in the cave and when my guide sang Our Father in the language of Jesus. I was very glad to not be with a large tour group for my visit since my husband and I could visit these places at our own pace, pausing were our spiritual needs and desires led us.

Besides the religious places we visited, we were also in awe and filled with wonder at several archeological sites–Masada, the City of David, Jericho and the Israeli Museum with its Dead Sea Scrolls, world’s oldest Bible and much more.

I’ll have separate articles and photos (many already on my Instagram with micro-blogging) on many of the places we visited, some guide services and short tours that we used, and our accommodations. Continue reading

Twisted into a Pretzel at 39,000 Feet, On My Way to Jerusalem!

On the way to SFO

I am 6 hours in on a 13 hour flight in Economy Plus on United Airlines on my way to Jerusalem. My body still hasn’t fully recovered from my trip to Japan, so this should be an interesting trip. I did want to push myself to see if I could do two international trips back to back, and also to see how I can handle a long-haul flight in Economy. I’ve been very lucky the past few years to do nearly all my long-haul flights in Business Class thanks to a combination of upgrades and cheap business class fares (yes, yes, I do see those tiny violins you are playing for me…I’ve just been lucky and the luck has run out). The business class fare for this direct San Francisco to Tel Aviv flight was quite expensive ($8,000) and upgrades were just not happening (even as a 1K; evidently lots of full fare and Global Service and 1Ks flying from Silicon Valley to Silicon Wadi) so here I am.

I’ll have a full review of the flight later, lets just say I’m on a Dreamliner which is a pretty plane, but whoever made the decision to shove 9 seats across on this 787-8 should be tortured throughout eternity for the torture of all the passengers having to sit in these seats for long flights. My goodness, I’m a small person and I fill the seat completely; no wiggle-room in this 17.3″ across seat. And as for sleep, well the seats sort of slide and don’t recline and even with a neck pillow I keep pitching forward. So I’m writing instead.

I’m on my way to Jerusalem. The Holy Land! This is exciting. I’m actually going to a Travel Blogging conference called TBEX, but also spending a couple of days as a tourist with Mr. Travelholic and my niece Claire who is flying in from Continue reading

Watching Kyoto Wake Up

Kyoto Arcade, Early Morning

Just Me and the Pigeons, Kyoto

I’m not a morning person. I mean, I am really not a morning person. With a long history as a thespian starting back in high school, my idea of a great schedule is going to sleep at 2 am and waking up 9 am at the earliest.

That said, I rarely keep such late hours when I’m traveling. I often wake up to catch the morning light for photography. And, when I’m in a city, I like to watch the city wake up.  My husband, who is a morning person, taught me this long ago on a trip to Venice.  Our first trip there was way back in the late 1980s, and, as usual, Venice was overcrowded with tourists. My husband liked to get up early each morning of our stay to walk the deserted streets and watch Venice come to life.  He exorted me to join him one morning to see how it was for myself.  Sick of all the throngs of tourists, I joined him, and it was a wonderful, eye-opening experience.

Ever since, I like to wake up early when traveling and walk the streets of a town or city as it wipes the sleep off and wakes up. I did just that in Kyoto this morning (second morning that I’ve done it this trip; I’m with a small group of lovely people, but walking alone to “get coffee” is my me-time). I enjoyed watching merchants opening their shops, people rushing to work, and bike ladies (and gentlemen) whizzing by with purpose on their bikes. The beginning and end of my walk was the Royal Park Hotel in Central Kyoto, near the Teramachi shopping mall.

Doutor Coffee Shop Kyoto

Doutor Coffee Kyoto

I actually do get coffee on these walks as well. Japanese hotel buffet machine-coffee is just OK, and why settle for just OK coffee when traveling?  My go-to chain coffee shops in Japan are Dotour and Tully’s.  Dotour opens pretty early, and that is where I got a lovely cappucino on my first walk. This morning, I wanted to try the local Ogawa coffee shop that my guide had recommended.  I arrived at 8am, only to find that it wasn’t open until 9am!  Who opens a coffee shop so late? Evidently the Japanese do, since they seem to enjoy tea in the morning and then coffee later in the day.

I can pretty much confirm this hypothesis (about coffee being a later-thing in Japan) since I then went to the Kyoto Starbucks by the Kamo River and the Sanjo Bridge.  If you’ve Continue reading

How Scalping Tickets to Takarazuka Can Be A Fine Cultural Experience

Takarazuka Grand Hotel Program

Takrazuka Grand Hotel Program

Thanks to burning the candle at both ends, plus a heavy dose of prednisone-induced insomnia, I’ve been on my trip to Japan for three days now and a bit behind on the blogging. Blogging while sleepy is a bit like blogging while driving…you can do it but should you do it?…

Well, I’m just going to plunge in, if my heavy eyelids close in the middle, hopefully my forehead will hit the “publish” key as I hit the pillows.

My first day in Tokyo was to be a get-over-jetlag day.  Then my daughter asked me to get her some Takarazuka DVDs  for her thesis research, and then I decided since I was going to the Takarazuka Theater in Tokyo, well why wouldn’t I want to see a show? Only problem was that the show, Grand Hotel, was completely sold out. Of course, that is a problem only if you mind a little cultural adventure. I don’t, and so I consulted with my daughter to see if there was any way I could still see the show.  There was, she said…if I didn’t mind trying to buy scalped ticket with my non-existant Japanese language skills.

For those not familiar, The Takarazuka Revue is a Japanese all-female musical theater troupe.  Women play all roles in lavish, Broadway-style productions of Western-style musicals. Started in 1914, Takarazuka is a sort-of counter to the all-male Kabuki theater. There is generally a play, an intermission, and then a Vegas-style musical review.

Back to my Takarazuka scalping and theater experience. Getting to the Takarazuka theater was quite easy from my hotel…only 2 stops on the subway.  I got to the theater and thought I’d take a lark and ask if there were any tickets at Continue reading

Ruminations Above The Aleutian Islands in Polaris Business Class

How many times on this planet does one find oneself flying over the Aleutian Islands? Not many for most of us, including me, and hence my blog title today. Turns out if you leave from Denver for Japan instead of from San Francisco or Los Angeles, your route takes you over Vancouver, skims Alaska and then goes right over the Aleutian Islands! Just like Sarah Palin I can wave to Russia today.

Denver Airport

Denver airport

I’ve had a very pleasant day flying to Japan so far. At this very moment, I am literally over the Aleutian Islands, with about 5 hours to go on my 12 hour flight. Well, the day has been MOSTLY pleasant except for having to wake up at 3:40am to catch the Courtyard Marriott Natomas airport shuttle to make my 5:25am flight. The shuttle times were 4 or 5am, so I didn’t have much of a choice; I only had about 25 minutes time at the gate before boarding my flight to Denver. And am I the only one who sort-of sleeps with one-eye open before an early morning flight because your subconscious thinks you’ll miss the flight otherwise?

Polaris bedding

Polaris bedding

I’m sure you are wondering why I am flying backwards to Denver to go to Japan. Well, my circuitous route got me an unbelievable deal on a Business Class ticket for the trip (less than 1/2 the usual price). I am lucky to fly business a fair amount of the time thanks to miles, upgrades, and searching out discounted fares. With my Rheumatoid Arthritis, a good flight with my legs up and room to stretch can mean the difference between a painful first few days of a trip or not, so this is a good thing. I couldn’t find a discounted business fare to Jerusalem for the TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange Continue reading