Category Archives: Travel

Old Lovers

I spent a few weeks last summer on a river boat cruise. It was the romantic Danube tour but I was with my husband’s sister and six of her closest friends. There was nothing in their way to prevent turning the cruise into an episode of The Loveboat, but being the only non-single one of the bunch, that was not an option.

The night we were docked in Vienna the seven friends chose to go to a classical concert in town, but I was tired after having gone on a morning tour of Vienna in the pouring rain, then a raft trip after lunch. I was also coming down with a cold, although I was convinced it was allergies at the time so I opted out of the music and sat in the lingboat’s lounge drinking a cocktail and reading on my Kindle.

When I looked up from my book I noticed a tiny woman with snow-white hair sitting across from me, drinking her own cocktail. I smiled and she smiled and before long I knew everything there was to know about Katherine Ashe aka Katherine Ann Wynne. She worked for a company that closed down or something so decided to write. She published books on an obscure Englishman called Simon de Montfort who apparently founded Parliament.

She must have sensed that I was not going to read the books about the founder of Parliament so she said she self-published a book about Fairies. This might or might not have been after I mentioned my daughter was a big believer in the wee folk.

After an hour or so her husband, Peter, joined us. When he learned that my husband worked for NIH he said that my husband probably knew someone he went to school with. Sure enough, Dean knew Peter’s classmate, Tony Fauchi.

I had such a delightful time speaking with this fascinating couple that I asked them if they would mind posing with Rupert. They said they’d be delighted to and anyone who would not want to pose with Rupert was not worth knowing.

Katherine and Peter holding Rupert in the lounge of a cruise ship.
Katherine, Peter and Rupert

Their love for each other was apparent in the way they spoke to each other, the way they looked at each other, the way they spoke of their past life in New York City and their current life in rural Pennsylvania. Throughout the rest of the tour I saw them quite often and while we didn’t have any more long talks, I could still see their love for each other, even at a distance.

They seemed like such a happy, intelligent couple that I think about them often. I still need to read The Fairy Garden though.

Best Exotic Premier Vacation House Ever

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Original draft November 2015. Added photo.

Every November since Clare moved to Olympia, I have accompanied my husband to Seattle when he has his annual meeting at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Each year we’ve stayed a few days post meeting and done some traveling with Clare. The first year we mostly stuck around the area and stayed in a lovely Bed and Breakfast not too far away from Olympia. The second year we stayed there again, but also spent a few days on the Olympic Peninsula at Kalaloch Lodge. This year Clare wished to visit the San Juan Islands, so we did…

Andrew was with us this time (yay!) and after looking at lots of rental possibilities I settled on what was advertised on vacation rental sites as “Most Premier Whale Watching Vacation Home on San Juan Island.” I could not figure out the name of the actual house and assumed the owners were making a play on “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” movies. It turns out the house is actually called the San Juan Waterhouse.

You could say I obsessed a bit the in the weeks before the trip. So much so that I pretty much knew the drive from the ferry to the house by heart. We got there after dark so the drive was a little scary — no lights on the roads after you are out of the town of Friday Harbor. We picked up a pizza and salad at Van Go’s Pizza so we could eat when we got to the house.

The house has everything you could possibly need. We watched a little television after the pizza meal. Andrew found a video called “Terminal Velocity” and placed it in the DVD player just when I was chatting with the owner about our arrival. Andrew heard me mention the names of the owners of the house (Ken and Suzanne) and called to me, “Mom! We are watching them on TV!” It turned out that the owners were subjects of a couple videos (one National Geographic and one Disney) about peregrine falcons.

The house is amazing. We were impressed with it at night, but even moreso when we awoke in the morning. One thing I noted on Facebook that night was that I could see the lights of Canadians over the Haro Straight from my bed.

Hotel towel reuse policies

Red towel hanging on towel rack in front of a yellow wall
Photo by Mason Bryant under CC BY-SA 2.0

For several years I have noticed that hotels have signs instructing guests that if they want to reuse their towels to hang them up but if they want them washed to leave them on the floor. This is in the name of environmentalism and being a tree-hugger, of course I want to save the world. I mean, I don’t wash my towels after each use at home, so not having my towels washed daily at a hotel is perfectly fine with me. I always dutifully hang my towels up on a hook or a rack and never leave them on the floor (I mean, who would do that?)

The trouble is, not once in the years since I have seen that sign have hotels not given me fresh towels every day unless I keep the do not disturb sign up all day (like the days I stay at hotels and work in the room while my husband is at conferences or meetings).

We stay at a variety of hotels over the course of a year and it is the same with each one, from Best Western to Hilton to Sheraton. None honor the towel reuse policy.

Have you found this to be the case? What should I do about it?