Our first airplane trip since Mexico in 2019 took us to Palm Springs for Spring Break for the week. We rented an Airbnb with a pool and mostly stayed at the house by the pool, ate dinners outside and did very little else. It was a nice to have a change of scenery and warmer weather.
I was concerned about taking flights during Covid but they were short flights and everyone at the airports and on the planes were very safe, wore masks and everything was contactless.
Before we went to Palm Springs, Seattle was still chilly and I was wearing sweaters. While we were away, Seattle changed to warm weather and it feels like Springtime.
We rented a house on Lake Pend Oreille (“Ponderay”) for four five days to have some time with Gay’s dad and aunts, but the aunts couldn’t make it. We stopped in Spokane to pick up Gay’s dad — she drove his truck to the house near Sandpoint, ID — and we arrived at the house at 6:30pm, early enough for the kids to play in the water. Hudson brought his fishing pole and immediately went to the end of the dock to fish, and got up early Sunday morning to start fishing.
On Sunday, Gay’s mom and stepdad, Jim, brother and wife, Trina and his kids, Danica and Dalton, came over from Spokane for the day, which included lunch and dinner and playing in the water.
When Gay was little, she and her dad boated on this lake often. So we rented a boat for a couple days too. It was supposed to be delivered Monday (Labor Day) but a significant windstorm with 60mph winds hit Idaho and knocked out power to thousands, including us, and the water was so rough that it made it impossible to deliver the boat. But the boat, a 23-foot Monterey 238SS, was delivered on Tuesday conveniently to the dock at the house.
I couldn’t get Bob to drive the boat, but all the kids wanted to drive it. Havana and Hudson took us all the way from Sandpoint to Hope. And they loved learning how the techniques to “make fast” a line to a cleat so they were quick to attach the fenders and then jump off the boat to help me dock by tying it to cleats on the dock.
The boat made it possible to get out farther so Hudson could fish. Eva then learned to fish and I took them both out in the evening and early morning, before online school, to go fishing. Hudson caught one fish and got it on the boat for a photo but it was too heavy for the line and it escaped back into the water.
After their morning online school each day, we took the boat out for the afternoon for tubing and swimming around the bays near the house and could not tire the kids out. After dinners, Hudson and I watched the Tour de France on my iPad until bedtime. We originally planned to leave Thursday but we were having so much fun and the house was available for an extra day so we extended the trip for one more day, with the boat too.
Barley really loved the boat, he wanted to get on it and didn’t want to get off. That surprised me. He normally hates not having all four feet firmly on the ground but didn’t seem to mind the rocking of the boat at all, he could even fall asleep while we were cruising at 30mph.
Laughing Dog Brewing is just minutes from the house in Ponderay. Gay and I used to drink their then-flagship IPA because it had a picture of a dog on the label that looked exactly like Illy and we’d never been to the brewery so we couldn’t resist stopping in.
We got home to a very smoky Seattle thanks to the forest fires in California, Oregon and Washington. Air Quality Index is over 200, “Very Unhealthy”, and is expected to be that high until at least Monday. We should have stayed in Idaho through the weekend!
Sep 13 Update: eastern Washington and Sandpoint, Idaho had twice as high AQI numbers since we returned. It’s good we left when we did!
Being ground zero for Covid-19, the CHOP debacle and now this, 2020 has not been very good to Seattle.
Gay was talking to Edie, Fiona’s mom, in early November, about going to Mexico after Christmas during the kids’ break from school. They go almost every year since getting engaged in Sayulita in the 2000s. A couple weeks later we had a plan to get an Airbnb in Punta Mita together. Eli and Hudson are close in age and Eva and Fiona have long been great friends, but Havana had no one so we invited her friend Hannah to come with us.
Hannah’s dad, Dan, brought Hannah over at 7:30am Friday and gave us all a ride to the airport to fly to Puerto Vallarta. Edie & Zach + Eli and Fiona had flown in the day before, stayed a night in Puerto Vallarta and met us at the house in Punta Mita on Saturday.
We watched the Steelers lose to the Ravens and fall out of the playoffs, then we went to the beach and pool at the W Hotel and then we watched the Seahawks lose to the 49ers and drop to the 5-seed in the playoffs.
Beach and pool at the W Hotel for boogie-boarding on the boards that Edie & Zach brought from their previous trip here. Havana and Hannah baby-sat the kids and the adults went to the town of Punta Mita to Hector’s Kitchen, a modern Mexican restaurant which was very good.
New Year’s Eve! We all went to Sayulita. This was our 3rd time in Sayulita. The first was in 2008, then 2012 and now in 2019. Great beach surf town, ever more touristed but still very small. Edie & Zach got engaged in Sayulita and have been there almost every other year since. We all had dinner at Sayulita Cafe.
We met Edie & Zach’s friend, Georgia, who moved there in 2009 and runs a local ex-pat baby-sitting empire. Dinner at Sayulita Cafe. [Show photo of Havana’s re-enactment]. Got champagne and groceries and went home to play Exit game and wait until midnight to see fireworks in the bay.
Rain all day. Stayed home. Reading. Zach & I watched Oregon v Wisconsin. Adult dinner at Los Agaves in Punta Mita (where we ran into more friends of Edie & Zach).
We spent the morning and early afternoon at the beach, including lunch at the W’s Wet Deck beach restaurant again. Edie & Zach and the kids left soon after to catch their flight home. We stayed a while longer at the beach before going home to get ready and then go out for our last dinner at Venazú, another of the W’s restaurants, which was very good – Gay, Hudson and Hannah we adventurous enough to eat crickets! All the kids got to try their hand at driving the golf cart to and from the W and our house.
We got a driver to take us to Puerto Vallarta (and hold our luggage) before our flight. Due to an accident on the highway, it took an hour-and-a-half to get there. We had a good lunch at The River Cafe, walked around the old town and on the Mercado a little before taking the car to the airport for our flight home.
This was our 7th visit to Mexico including our 3rd to the Puerto Vallarta area: Cancun (for a day our two on our way back from Cuba) in 1998, Zihuatanejo in 1999 and again in 2000 for Eric & Steve’s wedding, Cabo San Lucas in 2009, Puerto Vallarta in 2008, 2012 and 2019. Mexico is my most-traveled-to country by a long margin.
Last day in New Orleans. We started with a brunch at Josephine Estelle and a walk around the CBD/Downtown District, the Warehouse District, down Canal Street, through the French Quarter again and then to Herbsaint for an early dinner before we left for the airport.
The highlight of this meal was one with Fideo noodles, a toasted pasta dish with creamy mustard sauce with tomatoes. We’ve never had it before. Sounds like it wouldn’t be good but it was.
After the 5-hour flight, we got home in Seattle at 10:30pm. The kids were asleep, we let Megan go home and we went right to bed.
It was a great 72 hours. I was impressed with New Orleans when I was in my mid-20s and even moreso this time. It’s fun just walking around the city and experiencing how unique the place is and how friendly the people are. The food, which is wonderful everywhere, the culture and the history make it so special. It was hard to leave, I could have stayed another night. We can’t wait come back with the kids, but maybe we should wait until they’re 21+.
Everyone else went out again for brunch at Atchafalaya, which I’m told was amazing and had a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Yum.
But I’m not in New Orleans during football season on a Sunday often, so I wanted to watch a Saints game at a sports bar with locals. If I was smart and had planned ahead, I would have gone to Manning’s Sports Bar & Grill, named for famous Saints QB, Archie Manning, and father of Peyton and Eli, but there were 42+ people waiting ahead of me to get in. So I went alone to The American Sports Saloon. The place was full but a big family of Saints fans let me sit at their table. As a thanks, I bought them a “bucket of beer” (cans of Miller Lite in a bucket of ice, sadly) and nachos. The Saints beat the Buccaneers. After the game, I got a coffee and spent 3 hours walking around the French Quarter by myself enjoying the unique character of the city. Bourbon Street seemed to be cleaned up since my first visit but too touristy and still a little seedy.
Gay met up with me later and we walked home. We had made a reservation at Maison de la Luz for the night, so we packed up and left to check-in there. We had drinks in the hotel bar and then had a late 9:30pm and another great dinner by ourselves at Peche. The group of friends was a lot of fun, but I don’t get many opportunities to have dinner alone with my wife so I needed that.
11pm was too early, so we then met up with everyone else at The Elysian Bar again!
We slept in until 11am. Well, I did, Gay got up and went running. Most of everyone else went to brunch at Cane & Table (like Cain & Abel, get it?). Gay and I got ready, drank coffee and finally left by 1pm to go to the same place, who had just left, and had our own delicious brunch.
The weather was clear but chilly, similar to Seattle’s, about 50°F, thanks to a cold snap that hit the Midwest this week. Apparently, it’s normally 20°F warmer.
We walked around the French Quarter and then to Louis Armstrong Park, where a Gumbo festival was going on with a jazz concert, of course. We stayed there for a while and then walked across town to The Elysian Bar, a very stately bar for cocktails.
After a brief rest at our houses, we all went to Cochon and had a fantastic dinner.
We went back to the French Quarter and hung out on Frenchmen Street in Jazz clubs, got one of every hot dog (except the vegan one) from Dat Dog and we all ate them on the street outside the jazz clubs. Another 4am night for almost everyone.
No one is quite sure how it happened that Matt cut his eye right on his eyebrow. Gay always thinks stitches are necessary and convinced him to go to the emergency room. At 1:30am. Gay, Cathy and I got an Uber and we were off to the hospital. I had the brilliant idea to bring some beers along knowing we’d be waiting a while in a boring hospital.
I didn’t get through the metal detector because of the beer cans, the security guard opened my bag and told me that beer cans have to go around the metal detector. Duh! I walked through and the guard put the beer back in my bag. Southern hospitality! New Orleans’ casualness with public alcohol would soon be apparent to us all.
While in the operating room with Matt waiting for the doctor I passed out beers to the others but thought better of having my own until just before the doctor came in 30 minutes later. He kicked us out and outside the room I dropped my just-opened can and beer spilled all over the floor. Now what do I do?! Immediately someone yelled down the hall “Don’t worry, I’ll call it urine and have it cleaned up!” More southern hospitality!
New Orleans people are so friendly. The doctor knew we were out-of-towners and asked where we were from. I asked him how he got to New Orleans and he matter-of-factly explained “I met a girl online from New Orleans so I moved here, she turned out to be a man, then I met a real girl, got her pregnant and now I’m stuck.” It was an interesting night. We got home at 4:30am and everyone was asleep.
Gay and I left the kids at home and left for New Orleans this morning. Gay’s friends from college organized the trip and I’m tagging along. Jon & Megan are watching the house and Barley. Hudson is spending the night at Bowie’s for his birthday party, which worked out well, Eva is spending tonight at Fiona’s and Havana is staying home. We’ll see how Jon & Megan handle 4 kids!
I was in New Orleans only once before in 1994 or 1995, can’t remember, on a business trip and really liked the place. But I’m wondering if it surpassed my low expectations or if I really do like it and I’m about to find out.
We landed in New Orleans at 5pm. Nice new airport. Cathy, Deina and Jeff, who I met for the first time, were on our flight and we Uber’d to our Airbnb house in the 7th Ward. Everyone else from New York (Eric & Sandi and Cindy), Jasper from Saratoga, and Matt from Arizona, who I also met for the first time, were already there having snacks and drinks.
Eric, Sandi, Matt, Cindy and I went out looking for groceries, got some jerk chicken from a street vendor, found a market where we ran into everyone from the other house: Jason & Nancy (I haven’t seen them since … 2002?!), Peter and Justin. We took our groceries back to our house.
For an end of summer trip, we booked a couple nights at Snug Harbor Resort. That means we had to drive to Anacortes to get on a 1-hour ferry. Ferries are much more enjoyable when they’re rare compared to our life on Vashon Island when ferries were a hardship.
We got to San Juan Island and had lunch at San Juan Island Brewing, walked around Friday Harbor and then drove to the other side of the island to Mitchell Bay.
Out on the dock looking at Henry Island and Vancouver Island, Canada:
We had dinner and picked up some groceries in Roche Harbor.
We took the boat from Forio on Ischia to Naples saying goodbye to our captain Flavio and our boat, Liberty. The first mate, Pasquale, left abruptly yesterday after getting a phone call to join a cargo ship on a 5-6 month trip through the Panama Canal, Mexico and Los Angeles and back – the start of his career.
We took a car from the port for fantastic pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michelle. There was a crowd of people waiting to get in for a 1-hour wait so we got takeout instead. The place was a pizza factory that made only 2 pizzas: Margherita and Marinara. We got 2 of each. While I waited in line to get our pizzas I watched one guy flatten the dough, another put the sauce and toppings on, another guy took the pizza to the wood-fired oven and another guy plated or boxed and cut the pizzas. Over and over.
We sat across the street at a cafe that seemed to exist solely as overflow seating for the pizzeria, despite 4 other much less busy pizzerias in the same 2 blocks.
Both were great but I preferred the marinara, surprising to me, because of the garlic.
The driver gave us a short tour of Naples before dropping us at the train station. The train left right on time at 5pm.