Critters of Kauai

This is a Roda inspired post, to be sure! I was trying to keep up with her, but who can? She is so disciplined and takes such great shots of everything! We have been in Kauai for 5 days and here are a few of the local “cuties” we have come across.

Anyone who has been to one of the Hawaiian Islands knows about the chickens! They are everywhere. Parking lots, the sides of the road, squashed in the road….you get the idea. This was one the scenes at the rental car lot near the airport. There were actually around 30 chickens roaming around.

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And then we ran into them again at the parking lot near one of our hikes. They come in packs begging for food. Of course we didn’t have anything that we thought they would want to eat but my husband threw down a small piece of banana just to see what would happen. They were all over it!

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There are baby chicks everywhere as well since there are plenty of roosters to make sure the hens are occupied!

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We stayed at the Sheraton Resort which, like most Hawaiian resorts, has plenty of ponds filled with fish. Some of these get quite large and attract cranes. This is a shot from our balcony which was on the fourth floor, so it is a bit blurry, sorry!

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Here is the crane from a closer distance.

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Tourists can’t help but feed the fish and this very smart crane stakes out the area. While the fish are in a feeding frenzy, and not paying attention, it swoops in and has a sushi lunch!

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Other honorable mentions that are ubiquitous in the Islands are… the cute lizards all over the property.

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And, the small birds hoping around when anyone is eating in the area. This little fellow is  waiting for my hubby to drop his raspberry scone.

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We did see dolphins on our sunset dinner cruise but I never got a clean photo of one of those, too fast for me!

That’s all the fauna we saw, of course there was significantly more on the flora count, and I hope to incorporate those shots in future posts. Aloha for now!

Half Marathon Training, September Update

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It’s October! We are running the TMC Get Moving Tucson Half Marathon in about 4 Weeks! We chose this run because we just bought a second home in Tucson and thought it made sense to run in our new community, and it would be a new challenge to run in the desert environment. It does make sense, but we really underestimated how much of a challenge it would be to run in the heat, at elevation (Tucson in 2200 ft) and the hills! Oh my, the hills! But I am getting ahead of myself, let’s take the month in order!

This was the plan for September.

September 2017
Monday Tuesday Wed Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 2 3
Run 8
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Run 5 Run 4 Run 9
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Run 5 Run 4 Run 9 10k fun run
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Run 6 Run5 Run10
25 26 27 28 29 30
Run 6 Run5 Run10

The first part of September went as scheduled, we ran our 8, 5, 4 and 9 miles here in Washington and they went quite well.

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The weather was mild and the temperatures were perfect in Seattle.

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After this 9 mile run we flew to Tucson to start setting up the house and train in the new environment. What a culture shock! 98F, hills, less oxygen at elevation and this:

 

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Running was hard. We had to start right at sunrise to avoid the high temps, which was gorgeous, and still 70F!

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We signed up for a local 10K to get a feel for what it would be like to run a race in Tucson. Bottom line: It was tough! 80F at the 7am start, and 400 feet of elevation gain! I was happy just to survive! Here is my Instagram post that day.

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I ran another 6 and 5 miles and my hubby did what he could, as he was working remotely during the whole trip in Tucson, and then we flew back to Washington for the 10 mile runs on 9/23 and 9/30. This gave me a total of 89.33 miles for the month.

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Now we are heading into the home stretch and our schedule for October.

October 2017

 

Monday Tuesday Wed Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Run 4 Run 5 Run 11
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Run 5 Run 4 Run 12
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Run5 Run4 Run6
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
Run 4-5 Run 4-5 Carb load 13.1
30 31

The tricky part here will be running while we are in Kauai from 10/6 to 10/11. We are not sure how many times or how far we will be able to run while away, but we will try to be ready for the half marathon on the 29th. Again, the goal will be to survive! No PR or crazy goals with this one!

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Paris! Need I Say More?

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The final stop on our European vacation was Le Havre, in the Normandy region of France. Our ship docked in this port which is situated along an estuary to the river Seine. The Port of Le Havre is a fair distance from a number of beautiful and important places with great historical value. So, once again, choices had to be made as to where we wanted to spend those precious few hours for sightseeing. For me, there was no deliberation, I wanted to spend my time in Paris. Our family had the great fortune to spend a week in France back in 2009. We rented an apartment on the left bank and took our leisurely time exploring the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, L’Arc de Triomphe and Versailles, to name a few. I felt no pressure to revisit any of these amazing sights, instead I could have a leisurely stroll around this amazing city, have lunch and revisit some of our favorite spots from eight years ago. The rest of my family wanted a new experience and chose to visit the Beaches of Normandy, which was another wonderful choice!

So we all got up early and headed out to our respective buses for the 2.5 hour ride to Normandy, or the 3 hour ride to Paris! Along the way our tour guide narrated what we could expect from the 3 1/2 hours that we would have to explore the city on our own. Right away there were many tourist who were unhappy to learn that they could not see even a small fraction of the sights available to them. I guess they really believed that they could go up the Eiffel Tower, tour the Louvre, shop along the Champs d’Elysees, hit Notre Dame, have lunch in a French Bistro and make it back to the coach for the 3 hour ride back to the ship. I felt bad for some of them as this was their first time in Paris, but I am sure they figured it out!

The bus dropped us off near the Boulevard du Paris  Boulevard du Palais near the  Île de la Cité. Right away, I knew where I was!

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As you can see it was a gorgeous day in Paris! Actually a little too hot, but I stuck to my plan. I would set out on foot and follow the Seine until I reached Notre Dame. This impressive church is free to the public and is as stunning on the outside as it is inside. Which meant that if the line was too long, I would still get to see some amazing sights! As I started walking and I came across the Point Alexander III bridge. This is something to behold!

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My favorite bridge in all of Paris.

As I continued the long walk, there were incredible visions everywhere I looked.

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I spotted the Batobus de Paris several times. This is a great way to take in the sights, particularly on a sunny day like this one. One can hop on or off at various points of interest. Our guide recommended this for our group today as a means of taking a lot of pictures from the outside of the various attractions.

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A gorgeous government building here, that I don’t remember the name!

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After several miles, I saw the cathedral, it was just as grande as I remembered! IMG_3312

As I suspected, there was a tremendous line to get in so I toured the surrounding property and gardens.

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By now, I was tired, hungry and my neck hurt from looking up! I knew there was a little bistro nearby that served wonderful crepes. My daughter and I ate there often eight years ago and I wanted to find the same place for lunch.

It took a few trips around the block, but finally I found it!

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They also served the best gelato here, which we had many, many times!

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While I waited for my lunch I had water, which was served in a wine glass of course! So French!

I ordered caramelized apples with vanilla crepes (minus the whipped cream) and a cappuccino. Scrumptious! But a cardboard cut out would taste fabulous along the Seine!

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After feasting, and checking the clock (can’t miss my bus!) I decided to start back toward the Champs d’Elysees. But, when I turned the corner there was no line for entrance to Notre Dame. I had to capitalize on this good fortune and went in.

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There was a service in session so I wanted to be respectful.

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These stone carvings always amaze me-how did they do this so long ago?

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The precision and detail is astounding.

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I am not a religious person but always find it humbling to visit this special, ancient cathedral. And, I can’t help but think of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

Now I really did need to head back to the area near our coach. I took a few more shots along the way.

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Do you recognize this bridge? It’s the famous one for lovers to place padlocks along the railing. Recently, the city asked for this practice to stop due to the sheer weight of the locks on the structure. Doesn’t look like anyone is listening!

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I guess I am a faster walker than I realized because I did have time to head over to the Champs d’Elysees after all. I was not interested in shopping but wanted to look at some bakeries. This is Paris!

I found this really cute bakery/bistro on the corner. There was a monstrous line inside so my shots are taken around the tourists.

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It all looked so tempting, but no, I didn’t get anything from this store. I did find a much less crowded “mini Bistro” that had take away food (as they call it). I bought a toasted Croque Monsieur for the bus ride back to the ship. The french baguette was worth the price alone! Amazing!

It was a very long day (I walked 7+ miles in some high temps) but I was so happy with my time there that it might have been my favorite stop of the whole trip. I rode away knowing that I did not need to return to see all that I missed. Well, except for L’Arc de Triomphe. It was at the other end of the Champs d’Elysees so I only got a glimpse-I will leave you with that.

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If you are interested in the previous ports of call, you can check out what we saw in:

Southampton, England

Cobh, Ireland

Dublin and Belfast, Ireland

Greenock, Invergordon and Queensferry Scotland

Next up: Kauai, Hawaii!

 

 

 

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Whisky VS. Whiskey, How it is done in Scotland!

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I am taking a break from rustling scorpions and tarantulas in our new home in Tucson to continue my travel blogging posts. If you follow my Instagram then you know what I am talking about, and if you don’t then click on over for some really interesting photos!

Our next stop after Belfast were three ports in Scotland. The first stop was Greenock, a place I had never heard of before. But the first oder of business was a quick morning training run. Have to train while on vacation!

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We got back to the ship and cleaned up for the second half of the day. There were several options for sightseeing and we finally decided to tour Glengoyne whisky distillery. We boarded our coach that took us about 45 minutes out into the countryside.

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A beautiful church along the way

At first the distillery looked like a cattle barn to me.

 

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Once we got out and started to look around I began to notice the amazing landscape.

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It actually reminded me of the wineries we see back home in Woodinville, Washington. There were flowers all around and birds zipping through the open field.

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Then our guide came out to meet us and that’s when I knew we were someplace else!

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The kilts and the accent that I could barely understand were a definite tip off that we were in Scotland! 

To say these guys are passionate about whisky is a gross understatement! One has the impression that whisky is all they live for here. Our guides impressed a few things upon us about the production of true Scotch whisky. For off, Glengoyne is unique in that they are the only distillery to use water from the Highlands and age the whisky in cask barrels in the Low lands. The waterfall in the back of the property is stunning, and my pictures do not do it justice, but I tried to capture the irrigations system as it flows onto the property and is naturally filtered by the rocks and stones before it enters the production facility.

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They next spent an inordinate amount of time talking about how they smoke their barley-all I remember is that they don’t use peat. I am guessing that is important!

We were then treated to some free samples. This was a very popular part of the tour, for everyone except me, not a fan! They passed around the whisky, which always looks like urine to me and tastes like gasoline. Everyone loved it! The tour continued, after a short video on the history of the distillery which has been operating non stop since 1833. Our guide explained that Scotch whisky is the only “true” whisky and the only one allowed to be spelled without the “e”. So if you see “whiskey” it was not produced in Scotland and is therefore, by his definition, inferior! He was quite sure on that point!

We moved onto the storage facility.

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This beautiful display demonstrated how the whisky changes over time in sherry casks. There were several other such displays for aged whisky in other types of wooden casks barrels. 

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I loved the colorful barrels in the storage room

The tour ended with a stop in the gift shop (of course, what tour does not stop in the gift shop!) where another sample was distributed to the crowd. I took a pass as the subtle difference between unleaded and diesel are lost on me!

We hopped back on the tour bus and went onto Loch Lomond for a quick stop.

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This is the largest waterway within the British Isles, but we only spent a few minutes here. Just enough time to grab a coffee or ice cream and have a look around.

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On the bus ride back to the ship we saw this little outpost nestled in this island. It had an impressive backstory relating to strategic placement during war time, I just liked the look of it!

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That ended the day in Greenock. We next arrived at Invergordon. Again, I had never heard of this town but it was (sort of ) near Edinburgh, if you don’t mind a long bus ride. There were many sights to see and places to visit, but they were quite a ways off and we did not schedule any excursions. So, my pictures are mainly from the ship and from a run we decided to take through the small town.IMG_3199

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Looking at my run map above it appears I am running on the water. This pier is where that portion of the run took place.

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The town was quaint and quite small. Our 8 mile run pretty much covered the whole area! We should have visited a castle or gone to the Royal tattoo which is a huge festival in August, but we didn’t do our homework and missed out on that.

We set sail for South Queensferry, home of the very impressive Forth Bridge.

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The Forth Bridge was built in 1890 and was the first steel structure built in the world and is still the world’s longest cantilever bridge. It serves as a passenger railway and I was shocked that only 57 men lost their lives during construction. That is low when you consider that 4,000 men were employed and safety concerns were not what they are today. The bridge (and the other two which have been erected since) basically support the growth of the town. It is a quaint, but busy city with shops, tourism and great restaurants.

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A typical European taxi

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I love a country that has its priorities in place!

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This was as close to Nessie as I was going to get this trip!

 

These shops and buildings just screamed Scotland to me!

 

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All of a sudden it began to pour, buckets! We are told that happens in the British Isles, so it was time for lunch! We ducked into the first place we could find.

 

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Just as fast as the rain started, it stopped again and the sun came out! We went over to the The Hawes Inn which was built to house and feed the Forth Bridge workers back in 1850.

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After touring around the Inn it was time to head back to the ship. We took the tender for the short ride and I took a few last shots of the surroundings.

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Two of the tenders from our ship

 

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There is our mobile home!

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This tanker ship was getting fuel nearby

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Our departure from Scotland, next stop for me Paris, France!

Dinning and touring in Dublin and Belfast!

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Our next port of call, after Cobh, was Dublin. I had high expectations, maybe too high. I knew I would have to settle for just a few sights and, of course, it was raining. More like pouring really, so we had a lot of wet, soggy ground to cover in just a few hours!

As we pulled into port it was obvious that the skies were not going to clear anytime soon.

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we could make out the new soccer stadium in the gloom

Our shuttle bus dropped us in the downtown area and we set out on foot for Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university founded in 1592. It is also the home of the Book of Kells. Now, I am not a religious person but this collection was penned in 384 AD, and I am a person who greatly values the written word and was hoping to see this exhibit. So we started off toward the college.

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Sights along the way

Trinity College was beautiful. I tried to get a few shots of the campus as we wandered around in the rain.

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The arrow pointing the way to the line to enter The Book of Kells

Unfortunately, the line was long and the rain was steady so the decision was made to move onto sight number two. The next stop on our walking tour was The Dublin Castle and we pointed ourselves in that direction. Along the way there were some beautiful sights lining the path.

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We ducked into a bakery and I snapped a few shots of the local yummies!

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We saw this building titled: Sick & Indicent Roomkeepers Society. What is this about?? Glad I wasn’t alive in 1790 AD!

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As we rounded the corner we saw The Dublin Castle. It was built in the 13th century on a Viking settlement and used primarily by the British until 1922 when the Irish Government took over. What is really cool is that it is a working building that is used for state functions and houses governmental bodies.

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The inside foyer was studded with sculptures.

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Many politicians have posed in front of this area.

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A portion of the tour included this gorgeous hallway.

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One room off the hallway contained these amazing books which have been painstakingly restored. I may not have made it into the Book of Kells but I was thrilled to see this display.

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Another room off that same hallway was this spectacular red room that routinely holds state functions.

 

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By now we were hungry and a little tired from all this walking around. We went out into the street to search for a pub and dry off a bit from the rain.

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We found The Bankers Lounge, which was adorable. In fact I loved the mural on the wall so much that I used it to log our run on Instagram.

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All four of us had the lamb stew with black bread. It was amazing, and I don’t like lamb! Maybe I just needed an Irishman to prepare it for me!

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This was a great way to wrap up our Dublin experience. We next moved onto Belfast, home of the Titanic museum. Our cruise ship sailed for Northern Ireland while we slept and we woke up to this view!

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We boarded another shuttle bus and were, once again, dropped in the middle of the downtown area. This time, no rain! Once again we set out on foot to find the Titanic Museum. We started down the street and I took a few shots along the way.

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There was a McDonlad’s and a KFC everywhere!

 

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I thought this clock tower was gorgeous!

 

The Titanic Museum was pretty easy to spot! The outside of the this massive building is shaped like the bow of a ship, stunning!

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I was looking back toward our cruise ship which was across the water. It was a little eerie spending the better part of the day studying the demise of the Titanic then heading back to our cruise ship!

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I did not take a lot of photos in the museum as it was dark and a very interactive exhibit. There were holograms, an Imax movie, a 3D experience room that took you on a tour of the ship and even a ride in the building! I really do recommend this museum as it was like no other I have ever been to, it was truly unique! There were a couple images that stood out and I did try to capture some of them.

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This was a poster from that era advertising for the ill fated cruise line.

There were several exhibits illustrating the accommodations for the different classes on board. Below is the third class cabin complete with holograms and a recording playing a hypothetical conversation between these two girls. They spoke of how excited they were to be going to New York.

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This map showed the voyage of the Titanic as it sailed from its construction site in Belfast to Southampton where the passengers embarked, then travelled to Queenstown (now know as Cobh, Ireland) to pick up the last of the passengers, her last port of call before the tragedy. It really struck me, when I viewed this map, how closely my trip was mirroring the Titanic’s itinerary.

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These final images of the museum were the slow sinking of the massive ship as Celine Dion sang her famous ballad from the Titanic movie (you knew that had to be in there somewhere).

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We safely made our way back to our own ship and said good bye to Ireland. There is so much more I would like to see and do here, I will definitely be heading back in the future!

Our next port of call will be Greenock, Scotland and there may be some whisky involved!

Half Marathon Training, August Recap

August 2017 is in the books and it was a crazy time for us to be training as we were traveling a total of 17 or 18 days of the month. I say 17 or 18 because we lost hours going to Europe, then gained hours on the way back, and lost control of all bodily functions to jet lag both directions. Jet lag gets worse the older I get and running with jet lag is not what I recommend to anyone!  Here is a reminder of what we were trying to accomplish this month.

 

August 2017

 

Monday Tuesday Wed Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 2 3 4 5 6
  Run 4   Run 4   Run 6  
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
  Run 5   Run 5   Run 7  
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
  Run 5   Run 5   Run 7  
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
  Run 6   Run 4   Run 8  
28 29 30 31
  Run 6   Run 4      
         
           

The first two weeks went great, right up to the 13th when we left for England. After we got our bearings, and survived driving on the left side of the road, we went out into Southampton for a 5 mile run. We were staying near a harbor and I tried to hug the waterline as best I could.

 

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It was a slow run, and this route resembles my lower intestines, but I got it done. My hubby ran 5 miles as well. Here is a better picture of his run!

 

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We toured the HMS Victory in Portsmouth

The next 5 miles that was scheduled had to be done at sea as we had boarded the Caribbean Princess and set sail for Ireland. Our choices were to run on a treadmill in the fitness center, or around the Promenade deck which was narrow, had two sets of stairs and 2.7 laps=1 mile. I chose the treadmill and my hubby went with the deck.

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Pretty nice view for my run

 

So far we were doing pretty good with keeping true to the plan. Our first longer run was 7 miles in Dublin. Of course, since this was Ireland, it was raining. Hard rain, pouring rain, but the temp was good (low 60s) and, more importantly there was zero wind.

The tough part about this run was that we had to start from the port where the ship was docked which meant navigating a busy, industrial area to make our way toward some sort of city. Once again the traffic was predominantly coming from the left and there were overpasses and onramps to cross. We had a basic plan, which my husband stuck to, but I decided to remain closer to the waterline to (hopefully) avoid getting lost. My strategy barely worked. I ended up running around a water sewage treatment plant which stunk, really really badly! Probably because of the backed up drains due to the heavy rain we were experiencing. And the hope that I would not get lost? Ya, I took two wrong turns and my 7 mile run was really 7.65. Oh well, we got back to the ship, showered and went back into town for lunch at a great pub and enjoyed a hot lamb stew!

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We pulled away from the dock in Ireland and made our way to Greenock, in Scotland. Once again we had to figure out a path from the port and run 6 miles into town. This was much easier and far more straightforward this time. We exited the ship and turned right, ran 3 miles then came back. Of course, I still managed to take a wrong turn somewhere and went 6.60. How is it my mistakes always cost me a half mile more?!

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Now, if you are keeping track, which I doubt you are or want to, we should have a 4 mile run to report next. We looked at the itinerary for our next stop and saw that Invergordon, Scotland was the next port of call. Much like Greenock, this was a spot where we could run right from the dock into town and felt it would be best to go for the 8 mile run and just skip the 4. It was a little tougher to fit in 8, more so than I originally thought it would be, due to the small size of the town.

 

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No, I didn’t run on the water! There was a massive pier that went straight out toward some sort of rigs that dotted the waterway. The guard on duty was kind enough to let me go out and back, which ate up a good 1 1/2 miles from my route. It was a really pretty run out there. My husband wasn’t feeling it that run and decided to cut it to 5 for his day.

Aside from a couple shorter jogs on the ship this was our last real mileage of note for the trip. The picture below sums up our training for this month. I was really happy with my total mileage for August, especially when you account for all the travel time.

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All totaled, we were pretty happy with our ability to keep training while getting in some sightseeing as well. The pictures from our travels are being (slowly) posted on the travel portion of my blog here and here.

As for running in September, here is the plan

September 2017

 

Monday Tuesday Wed Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 2 3
          Run 8  
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  Run 5   Run 4   Run 9  
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
  Run 5   Run 4   Run 9 10k fun run
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
  Run 6   Run5   Run10  
25 26 27 28 29 30
  Run 6   Run5   Run10

So far so good, we are on track as of 9/4 but we are traveling again from 9/9 to 9/23. I will have to update next month with our training efforts in Tucson as we are visiting our new home and trying to get it set up. We also have added a 10K in Tucson for the 17th and will have to rearrange some training runs around that event.

I am grateful for so many wonderful things in my life right now. Running, traveling and our second home. Life is good! Hope all is well with you too 🙂

 

Cobh, Ireland

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Our first stop, after Southampton, England and our visit to Stonehenge, was in the port city of Cobh, Ireland. Cobh is a little town on the south side of Ireland and part of Cork County. It is a quaint, little area with farmlands and homes. It is important to the history of Ireland as it is the biggest harbor for transport of goods and assisted with the mass emigration during the tough times suffered by the Irish. It was also the last port of call for the Titanic, where 123 passengers were picked up for the fatal voyage. It was a beautiful day and we had some pretty views as we approached the port.

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These home almost look like toys, they are so close together on the hillside and so colorful

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Cobh Cathedral was stunning!

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This ivy covered home really stood out on the hillside

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My traveling companions! Hubby and his parents.

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We had a limited amount of time (a common theme for any cruise) so we chose to see the Blarney Castle and Gardens in the town of Cork, which was nearby. Our bus dropped us at the visitor’s center and I was surprised at how large the estate was. We began to walk toward the Castle itself.

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I have no idea why these trees are wrapped like this!

 

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This was our first view of the Castle

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It seems that every monument I saw on this trip had some sort of restoration or repair in progress, of course it was built over 600 years ago!

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Every good Castle needs a moat!

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I love how nature invades these ancient buildings

The Blarney Castle is most famous for its Blarney Stone, which people stand in line to visit. I had no desire to kiss a stone that had seen the lips of thousands of my fellow tourists.  I had doubts that doing so would give me the “gift of gab”, which I have never coveted anyway, but was sure that I would contract the gift of herpes! What I did not know was that the line to kiss the stone, and to gain entry into the Castle, were one in the same. So, unfortunately I had to settle for the outside of the building.

First stop was the dungeon area and the network of tunnels that were below the castle.

 

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Not much of a view from this cell

I took in as much of the perimeter as I could. Love these old walls!

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There were a number of gardens on the property and one of our favorites was the “Poison Garden”.

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There were some truly nasty plantings in here like: Ricin, Opium, Mandrake, and Wolfsbane. There were also some lesser “poison” items that we know today to be not quite as life threatening, like Cannabis and Rosemary (yes, culinary Rosemary was thought to cause miscarriages in the 1800s!)

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I love the cage concept!

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This was a beautiful garden and located just behind the battlements of the castle. See that stone wall above? We had some excellent views from over that wall across the valley.

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The wall itself was home to many plants.

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The wall led up to a turret of sorts which could have been for storage or for imprisonment.

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It was fairly deep and also well covered with plant life.

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We left the Poison Garden and started down one of the many pathways on the grounds, taking in the beauty as we went.

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This tree was huge, I can’t even guess at its age!

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Then we saw Blarney House-WOW! I regret not going inside this home, I am sure it would have been stunning!

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This was from my Instagram feed

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Got my husband in this shot!

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This garden is smaller but no less impressive

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I would have loved to see the view from this little room

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Some stones found along the path leading to the house.

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The Blarney home was definitely a high light for me. We needed to return to the village to meet our tour bus, and grab a quick Irish coffee, so we ambled down another path to circle back to the start.

And we ran into this….

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We are from the Pacific Northwest where ferns and moss were practically invented! But this was a new fern species for us to be sure! It is tall and the leaves are produced at the top of the stalk.

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I was expecting a dinosaur to come strolling along, they look so prehistoric.

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As the path continued it wound down into a gully where this waterfall showed up out of nowhere.

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Our final sights as we left the grounds were the residents of the manor. Both cattle and sheep were taking in the warm sun and grazing nearby.

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The estate was glorious (and the Irish coffee was pretty great too)! If you go, make sure you have your expectation set. There will be a line, it will take the better part of the day to see it all and yes, it is worth it! I am already plotting my return!

Up next on the travel portion of my blog: Dublin and Belfast

Sightseeing at Stonehenge

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The first part of our European adventure started in Southampton, England, mainly because the cruise we are taking leaves from this port city. This is my first trip to England and I was hoping to get to London for obvious reasons! I mean, who goes to England and doesn’t visit London! But, we only  had three days before the ship sets sail so London will have to be the next time around. The great news is that Stonehenge is only an hour from Southampton, and my hubby loves to drive on the wrong side of the road, so that was our first stop. We headed to Salisbury, the closest city to the monument. It was a beautiful day!

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I was shocked at how close we were allowed to get to the structures.

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I did not know that there are stones along the outer edge of the main monument, each with a different meaning, I think this is the heel stone

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I was also unaware how out in the open this field is, not only was the structure amazing, so was the surrounding landscape. I turned in each direction and saw only fields.

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It appears that we are the only people visiting this day, but there were many other folks around! Again, I was impressed with the feeling that we were alone with this structure!

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Here is another stone along the outside of the ring, it looks like a face to me.

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It could be a smile?!

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This flat stone in the foreground is the slaughter stone, I think I know its purpose!

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A second view of the slaughter stone

We decided to walk back to the visitors center instead of taking the shuttle. We saw these sheep in the field, they were everywhere as where cattle.

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See the white specks? I will get closer in a moment.

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As we walked along we spotted these mounds. This is where ancient people were buried so they would always be able to see Stonehenge during their eternal rest.

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As we walked along I could not help but think of Sherwood Forest.

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Can’t you just see Robin Hood and his men riding down this road!

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I have a couple more pictures of sheep and some huts that were replicas from the time that the workers lived in this area. However, the internet is so spotty that I am just trying to upload now! We head to Ireland next!

 

 

A Ferry Ride, A San Juan Cottage and an Amazing Dinner: Day 1

When people think of the Pacific Northwest they often conjure images of rain, coffee, the Space Needle and salmon flying through the air at Pike Place Market. All thoroughly acceptable iconic images that we deserve here in Seattle. But the true gem of Washington State is our ferry system and the many beautiful islands that we have spread around the Puget Sound. We patiently wait out the constant deluge from the clouds and near constant dark skies from October to May to get to the holy grail of summer. From June to (if we are lucky) the end of September the clouds part, the sun beams down and anyone with a dingy or inflatable tube hits the water.  We PNWs live for the promise of summer and then we take full advantage of the precious time we have until we all are forced back into Starbucks to wait out the winter.

My hubby and I have our wedding anniversary at the end of July and last year we went to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We had such a great time that we did it again this year, and me with my camera in hand this time. We set out early Sunday morning which was quite foggy as we made our way to Anacortes to catch the ferry.

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This ferry was running on a different route nearby. The camera saw more than my eye did!

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Then the fog started to lift about half way through the hour long boat ride.

As expected there were many boats out on the water despite the early hour and foggy conditions. And the views from the our ferry deck were spectacular.

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He is covering the logo on his jacket but it looks like he is saying the pledge of allegiance with the wrong hand!

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Another ferry docked at nearby Lopez Island

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I have  no idea why these boats are single file, looks like a parade

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I wold love one of these homes on the beach!

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The fog has cleared and you can see the mountains in the distance

 

We were approaching Friday Harbor on the big Island, San Juan.

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More beautiful homes along the waterfront

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Approaching the Friday Harbor Marina

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The ferry dock is on the left of the marina in this shot

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These homes and condos are to the left of the ferry dock, on the opposite side of the marina

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We have arrived!

We were too early to go to our cottage and check in so we decided to mill around the waterfront for awhile. We began at the small park near the marina.

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I love this tree

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Really love it!

 

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This is the Pacific Northwest after all, we do lots of totem poles here!

We made our way down onto the dock where the boats are tied up for the day and there are a few places to buy snacks.

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All boats are great, but I have a preference for these older wooden sailboats.

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One can not stop at the marina and not look for the harbor seal at the Seafood store. She has been coming to this exact spot for 30 years and recently brought her young pup by for a snack. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the baby this time.

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It really doesn’t get fresher than this! They sell amazing seafood and prepared meals as well

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This guy was staring me down!

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She showed up right on cue!

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Some kids bought her lunch!

By now, we were getting hungry too but dinner was not for awhile yet.

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There are many great places to get ice cream, but this is our favorite one. By the way, you rock climbers will love this shirt!

We wandered around a few more of our favorite stores, I do love this bookstore! And, marveled at the spectacular views until it was time to check in and get ready for our anniversary dinner.

This is the cottage that we have now stayed at twice. It is small, secluded and adorable. The view can’t be beat!

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I spent some time photographing the cottage and surrounding garden but I will save that for the day 2 post, as this one is long already! We got cleaned up and prepared to head to the other side of the island where the Duck Soup Inn is located.

Our dinner last year was delicious and this year did not disappoint! We had high expectations and were so happy we returned this year.

We started off with cocktails, I don’t remember what these are exactly but isn’t memory loss the sign of a good drink!

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We ordered two appetizers, the cured beef carpaccio with arugula pesto, parmesan, charred onion cream, toasted hazelnuts and berry gastrique

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And Wescott Bay smoked and baked oysters. Both were fantastic and I don’t like oysters! These were not raw, which helped me greatly, and were served with fig aioli, bread crumbs and parmesan.ds3

We both had the corn and spot prawn bisque, and loved it!

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My husband went with the Seared Weathervane Scallops-this was good! The shellfish was flavored by braising in pork belly and served with a summer succotash and red bell pepper sauce-yum!

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And I had the Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi-this was better! Really tasty! How can this be bad when it is served with cherry tomatoes, garlic, summer herbs, browned butter and Midnight Moon aged goat cheese?

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We finished off with more cocktails and a chocolate fudge sundae-yes, more ice cream! The dinner was outstanding and just the right amount of food. Their portions were perfect and we cleaned our plates.

It was a wonderful day and even better evening! Day 2 will have more pictures of the town and the property where we stayed! Thanks for reading this far.

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And the Winner is…..

Tucson, Arizona!

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This is the view from our new backyard!

If you have been following me from the beginning, then you know that I have been searching for the answer to the question “what’s next?” The reason I began this blog was to work through this extremely tough question of transition, as we move from full time parenting into our empty nest phase.  This has been a tumultuous year, to say the least. We have been roaming around, renting houses in a variety of states and environments looking for what feels right. We have spent time in Idaho, Eastern Washington, Oregon, Kansas, Nevada and Arizona. In each place we checked out the running paths, yoga studios, golf courses and climbing gyms. We wanted a place that was not too far from our extended family, all of which are in the Seattle area, and provided the activities that we have been enjoying the past few years. There was one more big requirement: SUN!

We love Seattle, especially in the late spring, summer and early fall when the weather is fabulous and the running and climbing are to be enjoyed outside.

But then, somewhere around mid October, it gets dark and the clouds open up and begin to pour and it does not stop until May! No, I am not exaggerating!

In late February we went to Scottsdale to explore the area. Now, we have been to Sedona and Phoenix before, but this time was different. I wrote a post about some of our time there, a few others as well. But when it came time to leave, it hit me. I knew, somehow, that I could be happy in Arizona. I told my husband and we talked about nothing else the entire drive back to Seattle. By the time we got home, we were making plans to look, really look, at the potential of buying  a second home in AZ.

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We got pre approved, found a realtor and went to Tucson for the first time ever. We liked the views, the mountains, and the potential for all our outdoor activities that we have become  accustomed. We arrived in June, when it was 115°F, not exactly the best time for driving around and house hunting! Our first stop was the local indoor climbing gym. Rocks and Ropes which turned out to be perfect for us. The routes are tougher and longer than our home gym, which will keep us challenged while we are in Tucson.

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We also made our way up Mt. Lemmon, which is great for hiking, climbing and has a ski resort in the winter.

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Can’t wait to be these guys!

Near the end of our trip we managed to get in a short run (it was 80°F at 8am) at a bike/run path that runs the entirety of the downtown area.

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This path runs along a dry river bed which is full during the monsoon season

We fell in love with the place. Did I mention the views?

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This is one of the five mountain ranges around us

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Tucson is one of the premier star gazing areas in the country. There are city ordinances governing the lighting in downtown to preserve the star quality. This is another view from Mt. Lemmon

Our home was the third property we viewed on the first day of house hunting. We both knew, as soon as we set foot inside the door, that this was the place for us. It will take several months or so to know for sure if this snowbird lifestyle is right for us. In the meantime I am excited about moving in (we close in August) setting up the house and making it a home! I waited to post about the new place to make sure it would go through (you know, inspections and paperwork). I am sure there will be more posts and pictures to come once we take possession of the house.

Since today is our 27th Wedding Anniversary I decided that this would be the perfect time to talk about our new phase and life direction. Thank you for reading this far and sharing this special moment with me!