Monday, March 6, 2023

It was worth the drive

Our Designer Cat, Larisa, was 17 years old when she "crossed the rainbow bridge" on December 1. We called her a Designer Cat because my husband Art is allergic to cats, and she was hypoallergenic. 

When Art and I  first got together in 1992 my previous cat Muffin had been in my household for five years. One day Art said he was sorry, but if the cat was going to sleep in our bed he would have to sleep in the guest room, because he was allergic to her. So after that we closed the bedroom door and Muffin slept somewhere else.

After Muffin was gone we were catless for five years. Then I heard about Siberian Forest cats. The breed began to be imported from Russia in the 80s, but I hadn't heard about them until I started researching hypoallergenic cat possibilities. Some, but not all, Siberians lack the protein in their saliva that causes allergies. 

In 2008 we drove to Stayton, Oregon, to do an allergy test with Larisa, one of the Lundberg Siberian queens. Art buried his face in her fur, and he didn't get all watery eyed and sneezy. He wasn't allergic to her! So we put our names on the Lundberg kitten list, hoping for one of Larisa's kittens. Six months later, we were looking at the Lundberg Siberian webpage and discovered that Larisa was being retired as a breeding queen and was available for a family. We applied to purchase her and we were accepted. We drove again to Oregon. We let Larisa out of her crate in the car on the four-hour drive home, and she did her exploring. But once we got her home, she hid, as cats usually do in a new and unfamiliar place. Larisa knew where the litter box was, and she found the food and the water. But she lived mostly under the bed, and we'd had her for 62 days before she'd let us touch her.

Larisa took her time to become a regular house cat. She was always a bit shy, not much of a cuddler. But she loved to be brushed, and she spent time near us in the evenings, usually on the back of a sofa where she could see what was going on. When we started dividing our time between Brier, a Seattle suburb, and Tucson, she traveled with us in her soft-sided Sherpa crate, under the seat in front of me on the plane. Both places were home to her as they are to us.

After Larisa died, I did a national search for another retiring Siberian queen. I found five - in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Arizona.  I'd developed a short list by Christmas, and asked Art what he thought. He said, "I know you want another cat, but I think it's too soon." He rarely expresses an opinion, so when he does I listen.

We decided on a cat living in Kingman, Arizona. Her registered name is Pumaridge Killjoy Dutch, but she is called Dutchy. She is a red mackerel tabby. She was due to be bred one more time, and her owner said she'd probably be ready to pick up in June. That was fine with me. We'd be traveling home to Washington in late April. I intended to have my knee replaced in early June. I figured by July I'd be ready for a new cat. We would fly to Las Vegas to pick up Dutchy, with the cattery owner driving from Kingman to meet us.

In late January I heard from Tina, the owner of the Pumaridge cattery in Kingman. She said they'd decided not to breed Dutchy again, so she would be spayed and available to us in late February. I wanted to be sure Art wouldn't be allergic to her, so we decided to meet Dutchy first. As it happened, we were meeting several of our grown children in Sedona for four days in early February. When our family time ended, we made the three-hour drive from Sedona to Kingman to meet the cat. Again, Art buried his face in her fur, and again he did not sneeze or get watery eyed. 

So last weekend we drove from Tucson to Kingman - a five-hour drive - to pick up Dutchy. We spent the night in a Kingman motel. We arrived at the Pumaridge cattery at 10 a.m., and by 11 we were on our way back to Tucson, with the cat in a crate in the back seat of our Accord. Dutchy did a lot of talking on the way home, but she was a pretty good car traveler.

Road trips used to be more fun than they are now. Art and I are older and way less agile than we used to be. Every time we got out of the car for a meal or for gas, it took a few feet of walking for us to get our legs working properly, and Art used his cane most of the time. Plus, I did most of the driving, because Art is a very assertive driver and when he is behind the wheel I am scared. So this trip to Kingman was a must-do thing, but I wouldn't say it was fun. 

For the first 24 hours at our house, Dutchy talked a lot. I'm thinking she was asking questions: "Where am I?" and "Who are you?"

Dutchy has been with us for a week now. She knows where the litter box is, and she's eating and drinking. She's found her favorite hiding spots. But she's already let us touch her - no 62-day wait for this one! She loves to be brushed under her chin. We heard her purring yesterday. She's starting to hang out with us, though she dashes away at sudden sounds or movements. We put treats where we want her to explore, and she finds them all. Including the ones on our bed. I suspect she'll be a snuggler when she feels at home.

Our new girl was worth the drive!

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Good things during our time away

When Art and I got together in 1992, his six children ranged in age from 5 to 19. Most of them visited us on Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other weekend. Some of them lived with us for a time until they graduated from high school or went on to college or graduated from college. I know them all pretty well, and they know me. We joke that I am their Wicked Stepmother.

We have a timeshare in Sedona, Arizona that we've owned for about 20 years. Before Art and I retired, we spent two weeks in Sedona every other year. After that, we usually spent a week there in February. Sometimes it was just us, other times another couple, and a number of times two to five of our children. Seven of the eight children in our blended family have spent time with us in Sedona at least once. 

This year we reserved two units for February 3 to February 7. Art's grown children Melissa, Jason, Pete and Greg flew from Seattle, along with Jason's son Kaleb (14) and Pete's girlfriend Danielle. Art's daughter Laura flew in from Philadelphia. My sons Russ and James had planned to come, but they both had to work. So there were nine of us.

Our custom for these times together is that people do their own activities during the day and then everyone gathers for dinner. On Friday night, after a long travel day, we went to a Mexican restaurant. 

On Saturday, all seven of them took a long Sedona hike. For dinner, Greg (the chef) rummaged through our refrigerator and found pork chops, potatoes and broccoli. He served a delicious meal to six of us at the main table and the other three at the patio table dragged in from outside. 

On Sunday, two of the women took another hike and the other five rented mountain bikes. In the evening Greg prepared a chicken pesto spaghetti, artisanal green salad and crusty bread. 

On Monday they all took another long hike, and Melissa made her signature enchiladas for dinner.

The seven hikers and bikers talked on the trail, kidding around but also encouraging each other, and commenting how good it was that they could be together as grown siblings and enjoy each other's company.

Art and I took many hikes like that years ago when we were younger. This year we stayed in our unit and read or napped. I was glad to read five back issues of "The Sun", the only magazine I currently subscribe to.

I'd been feeling sad that the young people were doing things I used to do but no longer can (bad knee and elderly). One of the stories I read in "The Sun" talked about not looking back wishing I could still do those things, and trying to still do them, but, instead, being glad I had done them and looking forward to what I still have ahead of me. That is helpful.

Everyone but us left on the early morning of the 7th to catch flights out of Phoenix. We had an appointment in Kingman, Arizona, about a three-hour drive from Sedona. Here's that story: 

Art is allergic to cats, but there is a breed that's often hypoallergenic. Siberian Forest cats began to be imported to the US from Russia in the 1980s. Some of those cats lack the protein in their saliva that causes allergic reactions. There are tests available that will identify that protein level, but the tests are expensive. Another reliable test is for the allergic person to bury their face in a cat's fur to see if there is an allergic reaction. Back in 2008 Art buried his face in a cat's fur at the Lundberg cattery in Stayton, Oregon. Larisa (Windrifter Larisa of Lundberg) was four years old at the time. He had no reaction, so we added our name to the Lundbergs' kitten list. Several months later I looked at their webpage and saw that Larisa was being retired from her breeding career. She was available for sale. We put in our appication, then drove from Seattle to Oregon and bought her. Larisa lived with us from that time until she "crossed the rainbow bridge" on December 1 of last year. 

I did a nationwide search for a retiring Siberian queen. I found two in Boston, one in New Hampshire, several in Oregon, and one in Kingman, Arizona. Our timeline was for a spring pickup, after a period of mourning for our beautiful Larisa.

As luck - or fate - would have it, Pumaridge Siberians in Kingman had a queen available. They planned to breed Dutchy (Pumaridge Killjoy Dutch) one more time, with a male whose line they wanted to establish. She'd be available for us to pick up in early summer. That sounded good to us. Then, two weeks ago, I got a call that they'd decided not to breed Dutch again and were having her spayed. So she'd be ready to go to a new home in late February. Since we'd be in northern Arizona anyway, it seemed reasonable to drive to Kingman at the end of our Sedona trip to meet Dutch and see if Art was allergic to her. We could then return a couple of weeks later and make the drive with her from Kingman to Tucson, where we live in the winter.

All went well in Kingman! We met Dutchy and spent about an hour with her. I was grateful to observe that she looked and acted nothing like Larisa. Different color, different eyes, different face shape, friendlier. It seemed the only thing the two cats had in common was their breed - Siberian Forest - and their hypoallergetic status.

So, two weeks from today we'll be driving home from Kingman with our new girl. We're taking the cat condo, litter box and other feline accessories out of the shed and setting them up. We're buying the same food and cat litter and food Dutchy is familiar with. We're making an appointment with our Tucson vet to meet her and get her chipped. We're excited.

Good things happened during our time away!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Two days in a row!

I am not a morning person. At all. One of the great benefits of retirement is being able to sleep until I wake up without an alarm clock. Usually.

Yesterday, though, I had an 8 a.m. massage appointment. It was the only one available from my fabulous therapist. About a 25-minute drive for me. So I woke up at 7, jumped in and out of the shower, had a quick cup of coffee and a piece of toast, and drove to my appointment. I arrived right on time. The receptionist welcomed me. I said, "I have an 8 o'clock appointment with Angie." The receptionist said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I tried to call you to let you know that Angie called in sick this morning." I hadn't heard the phone but apparently the call came in ten minutes before I arrived. I said, cheerfully, "Oh, well, sometimes these things happen." I made another appointment for next week and left.

On my way home it occurred to me that the place where I get my pedicures was right on the way. So I stopped in, looking forward to having someone take care of my feet. Parked the car, walked across the sidewalk and read the sign, "Hours 9 to 6". It was 8:20. Too early. I drove home and finished my now-cold coffee.

Then today I actually had another 8 a.m. appointment, this one with my new medical provider. The doctor we've been seeing while we're here in Tucson in the winter is leaving the clinic, and we'll be seeing a PA instead. The appointment was for a "transfer of care" conversation. Again, I woke up at 7, did my morning things, drove for 20 minutes, and got to the clinic at 8. I said to the lady at the front desk, "I have an 8 o'clock appointment with PA Goodman." And the lady said... "Oh, I'm sorry, the PA called out sick today. We called your number and left a message." I stood there for a few seconds, thinking maybe this is Groundhog Day, and then I said, "Well, can you reschedule me?" My appointment is now February 24, nearly six weeks out. 

I had a conversation with my son James earlier this week. He'd gone out to get in his car and it wouldn't start. He said, "I'm cursed!" I said, "James, everyone has problems." Then today, he told me it was a dead battery and all is now well. His was a car, and mine was two canceled appointments.  

Two days in a row! However, there are these positive things:

  • Both receptionists were apologetic and pleasant
  • Early morning traffic was light
  • I got replacement appointments
  • I can afford a massage
  • I have good medical coverage
  • I am not sick
  • I saw the sun rise both days

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Eight hours on the phone

My son James started his own business last year. For the prior 15 years he'd been an employee and gotten medical insurance through his company. He decided to get some medical coverage as a self-employed person for 2023. Actually, I was somewhat of an influencer because he's 43 now and that's about the age things can come up. Besides, I'm his business manager.

When we've got coverage through work we usually don't pay much attention to its costs because we're not paying for it directly. When we're buying it ourselves, we do. So when James and I had the discussion he emphasized he doesn't want to pay a whole lot. 

Because his business is only a year old, his income for 2022 was fairly low. So I checked out the state Exchange to see if he was eligible for a supplement for his insurance cost. He was.

My husband and I are insured with Kaiser Permanente in Washington, so that's where I started. Kaiser has really good coordination of services and we've had excellent care for many years. I went on their webpage to apply for James' coverage using the Exchange. The site said to enter the net taxable income. I subtracted the standard deduction amount from his net income and went to the Exchange site to order the insurance. The price on the Exchange was $300 more a month than on the Kaiser site!

I called Kaiser. They said the Exchange determined the price. I called the Exchange. They said Kaiser determined the price. I was pretty annoyed to be in the middle of two "it's not our problem" statements. I called our lawyer to make an appointment the next day to talk about possible "bait and switch" consumer fraud.

I called Kaiser the next morning and got a different customer service person. I explained my problem. They said if a person gets a W-2, they enter the net taxable income on the form. But if they're self-employed, they enter the net income (without the standard deduction amount). When I entered that amount and went to the Exchange, the numbers matched exactly. I ordered less expensive insurance. Then I called the lawyer and canceled the appointment.

I was in IT before I retired, and I knew the sentence on the Kaiser form was misleading for self-employed applicants. I called customer service and asked to speak to the technical department. They transferred me to sales. The man didn't understand what I was talking about. He said, "Well, you got the insurance, right?" I said yes, but I wanted the tech people to add a phrase to the form about self-employed people applying. He said, "I'll call someone and get back to you."

He didn't. Maybe he thought I was an unreasonable old person instead of a customer wanting to prevent other self-employed people from having the same problem.

Eight hours on the phone, on hold for much of it because "We're experiencing a higher than usual call volume." My son James is happy with the insurance I chose for him. But I feel bad for all the other confused self-employed people who thought they were getting good assistance, but ended up with insurance they couldn't afford.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Grateful for 2022

Happy holidays, family and friends!

Art and I are in Tucson for the winter, as usual. We’re quite comfy in our little park model even when it’s cold, as it has been for the last week or so. In April we had to replace our heat pump quite suddenly; the temps were in the 90s some days then, and the a/c was worn out. So now, during the darkest days of the year, we’re toasty.

We’ve had a pretty good year, all things considered. We continued our involvement in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (Olli), which has active chapters in Tucson accessible via Zoom when we’re in Washington. Usually we take two 90-minute classes a week. We’ve taken courses in history and political science, among others. I’d decided I wanted to become a bit proficient in Spanish, so I signed up for the introductory level. I’ve been doing Spanish on Duolingo for eight months as well.

I’ve gotten involved with Braver Angels ( It’s an organization whose mission is to bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide in politics. We welcome opportunities to engage with those with whom we disagree. We treat people who disagree with us with honesty and respect. We look for common ground where it exists, and if possible, find ways to work together. I’ve attended online workshops and debates and engaged in one-on-one conversations with people whose views are quite different from mine. Some of my own views have shifted, and I’m much less likely to stereotype people who have different opinions from me. Braver Angels also aligns well with my mediation work. I became recertified as a mediator in Washington State just last month.

I’ve continued to volunteer at The Inn of Southern Arizona. We provide temporary food, clothing and shelter for documented migrants crossing the southern border to apply for asylum in the US. In April I made 12 trips to the airport to take migrants from the shelter for their onward journey to sponsors all over the US. Now I’m on the Executive Board as we transition from a church-affiliated group to a nonprofit corporation. In years past we had 10 rooms available. Now we’re funded partly by FEMA, the State of Arizona and Pima County, and we use at least 40 rooms. In the month of November we served 1,500 people from multiple countries: Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, Ukraine, Russia and India. Many people are on the move. I’m grateful to be able to serve this population. Art has been an active volunteer in the past, but he was seriously ill with sepsis in late February and had a slow recovery. He wants to wait until he’s stronger.

In June Art and I traveled internationally for the first time since before Covid. We took a Road Scholar small ship cruise from Barcelona to Sudbury, UK, with stops in Tangiers (Morocco), Porto (Portugal), Bilbao (Spain), Medoc (France), San Malo (France, to Mont Saint Michel), and Cherbourg (France, to Omaha Beach, one of the five landing points on D-Day). To make our trip easier we flew business class; it was an expensive but excellent experience.

In October I went on a second cruise with my friend Shelley - a Viking cruise that was too good a deal to pass up -  from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, with a two-day extension to Amsterdam and The Hague. Also a small ship, but with only one field trip away from the Rhine, to the Black Forest (Germany). I met up with my friend Nasar in Koblenz; I met him in 2016 when I was a volunteer at the refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece and he was a refugee there. He is now settled in Germany. 

On both of these cruises I took a cane and trekking poles. My hip has recovered from its summer 2021 replacement, but my knee will need to be replaced next May and I use the devices when I’m walking more than a couple of blocks so I can continue seeing new places. Art and I have learned that wheelchair assist in airports is a wonderful service.

In early December I wasn’t much in the holiday spirit. We’d just lost Larisa, our Designer Cat. She was 17 and developed an aggressive sarcoma in her jaw. It was hard to watch her decline and on December 1 we had a vet come to our home to help her cross the “rainbow bridge”. The next day I went into town to run some errands. I’d left our two small artificial trees in their boxes on the porch, not really motivated to do anything with them. When I got home, my next door neighbor Sharon and my down the street neighbor Diana had set them both up and decorated them! I was touched by their generosity and kindness.  

We’re lucky to have supportive and interesting friends in both Tucson and in Brier. I know that, for older people, social connections are critical for remaining engaged in life. On Friday nights in Tucson we go out to dinner with friends from Washington, Missouri, Colorado and Arkansas. We take turns deciding on the restaurant, make reservations for 4:30 (before the dinner rush) and are almost always home by 7!

We have plans in February to meet up in Sedona with several of our children; it’s a good destination for everyone to hike or shop or have adventures during the day, then gather for a common meal at dinner. 

We’re in our 70s now. We’ve made some good choices, and we’ve been gifted with luck and grace. We’re grateful for 2022.

We’re wishing you the best of the season.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Reflections on the cruise and on traveling with friends

Often when I travel I don't realize what the high points were until I've been talking about the trip after I get home. I've been back for several weeks now, and this is what I've been thinking about.

1. In years past I've been skeptical about cruising. A decade or two ago, I experienced a couple of large-ship cruises and didn't much enjoy the casinos, or the entertainment, or the glitz, or the people everywhere, eating and drinking all the time. Recently I've been on three small ship cruises (to Greenland in 2019, an ocean cruise this summer from Barcelona to Tudbury, UK, and a river cruise last month from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam. I like the small ship cruising now and expect I'll do more of it.

2. I will be having my left knee replaced next spring. I went on the cruise anyway. My knee will hurt whether I'm walking around in a city or walking in my yard. I might as well be out there, learning and experiencing new things. I took a cane and a pair of trekking poles. I used the cane on the ship and the trekking poles on the excursions. People were thoughtful and kind to me as they offered a hand as I got off the bus, or held my poles so I could take a picture. The guides respected my slower pace and offered opportunities for me and the group to rest while they talked about the places we were visiting. 

3. Wheelchair assist is a fabulous and humanitarian option in airports. There's no charge for an airline employee to take me through security to a gate, or from one gate to another in a big airport like Denver or Munich or Amsterdam or Atlanta, or from a gate through customs. We used elevators rather than walkways or escalators. My travel companion walked alongside me. I always offered to tip my attendant; sometimes they said yes and thank you, and sometimes they said no, tipping wasn't allowed. I had some good conversations with these people who made my airport transit so much more doable.

4. I've done lots of independent travel, but now that I'm older and have less stamina I'm quite content to be part of a group - especially a small group - where the tour company takes care of all the details, including the flight arrangements. I sign up, they tell me how I'm going to get there, I make a change if it's necessary (a six-hour layover deserves a change), I show up at the airport. At the end of the tour, I'm taken to the airport to return home, and I'm picked up at my home airport by a family member. 

5. My mother once said, "I like tours where all I have to do is get on the bus and get off the bus." At that time I thought she was a passive traveler, not wanting to get out there and explore. Maybe even a little bit entitled and lazy. Now, though, I'm at the age she was when she said that, I get it. My quote would be, "See #4 above!"

6. I've taken over 90 trips of three days or more since I quit my job in 2010. The vast majority of them were with my husband Art. When a destination looks interesting to me, I always invite him first. For the last few years, though, he's been more of a homebody, so I've traveled with friends. Art is fine with that. 

7. I took three trips with a friend who always insisted on separate rooms. That worked fine for short trips to Toronto and Las Vegas, but when we decided to take a cruise to Greenland, I said, "I can't afford to go unless we share a room." She said, "Okay, but I'm pretty sure this will be the last trip we take together." And she was right! Our habits and idiosyncrasies weren't a good match, and the friendship actually cooled after that.

8. I traveled twice with a friend I'd known for several years. Neither trip was a cruise. We traveled well together to Churchill, Manitoba and to New York City. She is a high energy, curious person like me, and we had good adventures, both spontaneous and planned. Laughter is always a good thing - and we still laugh about the futon that broke when she sat on it in our NYC AirBnb.

9. My most recent trip, another cruise, went well also. My friend and I discussed our habits ahead of time: are you a night or a morning person, when do you take a shower, are you tidy or casual in a small room, are we okay to keep individual schedules and join up when we want to? This friend is easygoing, curious and patient. We had a grand time together.

10. This year was the first time I took two cruises within three months of each other. One had been planned for a year, and the other came up closer to the travel date but was too good a deal to pass up. Both were excellent experiences. I'm ready to stay home now for a year or so. By then I'll have a new knee, and hopefully I'll leave my my trekking poles at home.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

What? Another cruise?

 Back in April, my friend Shelley got an email from Viking advertising a sale to celebrate their 25th anniversary. She texted a few of us: "A weeklong river cruise on the Rhine, from Basel to Amsterdam, for $2200 INCLUDING AIRFARE." But we had three days to decide. One friend was having back surgery, so she was a no. Another said she needed more time to think about it. But I said yes. It was really too good a deal to pass up. So Shelley and I decided to go together. We added a few things, of course - travel insurance and a two-day post-trip extension to Amsterdam and the Hague.

I knew I wouldn't be as mobile as I wanted to be. My new hip from last year was fine, but my left knee needed to be replaced. Still, I thought I'd be okay to go. If a day's tour looked too active for me, I could stay on the boat. I'd pack a cane and a pair of trekking poles.

On October 21, my husband Art and I flew from Seattle to Tucson to our winter place. The next day, Shelley and I flew to Basel, Switzerland via Denver and Munich.

We boarded a very cool longship, the Viking Hlin.

Here's what we saw:

Breisach is in the Black Forest. This mountain range was named by the Romans because the densely packed conifer trees found in the area are very dark green. A beautiful drive that day, with a stop at Furtwangen to look at cuckoo clocks and glassblowers. When I got home, I ordered a wall clock from their online store. I'd wanted to first check with my son James, who has a great eye, to make sure the clock would be a good addition to our Washington apartment, and with my husband Art, just because!


is a city in Alsace, in northeastern France. Historically, Alsace has alternated between German and French control for centuries, and reflects a mixture of those cultures. We had an excellent guide for our tour, but I had forgotten to charge my radio-guided device, so I couldn't hear her. I stayed as close to her as I could, but I know I missed a lot.

Speyer is a city of 50,000 people, one of the oldest German cities. Our guide was born and raised there and loves his city. The cathedral is a Unesco World Heritage Centre; the foundation stone was laid in 1030. 

We made a quick stop in Rudesheim, Germany during the afternoon. Shelley and I ventured out to a shopping area and bought identical "made-in-Italy" blouses for a great price.  Then on to Koblenz, where I met up with my friend Nasar; we met when I was a volunteer at the refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece, where he and his family lived for over a year. They are in Germany now.

Cologne gave me the opportunity to walk two miles with a guide. It's the biggest city we'd visited so far. Our walk took us to the Old Town, where the Christmas Market has been held in some form for centuries. On the way to the cathedral we stopped at the metal statues of Tunnes and Schal, fictional characters invented by Johann Christophe Winter, the owner of a puppet theatre in the 19th century. The good natured but dim Tunnes is constantly being taken for a ride by the cunning and crafty Schal. It's a good place for a photo; if you touch the hand of Schal, you may have good luck.

Kinderdijk is a World Heritage site; the old windmills have since been replaced by electric pumps to remove the water from fields below sea level. Rather than a long walk, we boarded a vintage barge to the old windmills, where the millers and their families lived.

And, in a two-day extension after we disembarked:

Amsterdam is a low-lying city of about 90 islands and 1500 bridges. It's got a population of about 880,000 people. After a canal tour - including passing the Anne Frank house -  our small tour group of six left from Rijksmuseum (the national museum of the Netherlands) to explore. 

The other four wanted to shop; Shelley and I decided to go to the Holocaust Memorial. We looked at a map and started walking.

It took a while because (1) I had to stop and rest my knee every few blocks and (2) we had to keep a very close eye on the hundreds of bicyclists and (3) Shelley needed to use a restroom, and the only way we could do that was to order a coffee or snack at a sidewalk cafe. 

The Memorial is only two years old and contains the names of all Dutch Jews who died in the Holocaust. Each of the 102,000 bricks displays the first and last name, date of birth and age at death of a victim. 

We found the taxi stand after some hunting around and rejoined our group at the museum. We were then driven to The Hague (Den Haag), about an hour away.

The Hague is a smaller city, with a population of 700,000. It's the seat of government for the Netherlands and the permanent home of the UN International Court of Justice. 

We covered a lot of steps here too. Our group walking tour in the morning was especially pretty; sometimes we were shuffling through fallen autumn leaves.

In the afternoon we took the public tram to the sea, where Shelley looked for a restroom and we ate lunch.

The last two days of the trip were the only ones where we explored on our own. It helped to have our guide make suggestions. It was fun to "figure it out" rather than following someone holding a paddle saying "Viking".

We were ready to go home after nine days in Europe. We loved the experience and were impressed by the attitude of Europeans toward their homelands. Still, we were glad when our final flight touched down in Tucson and our husbands were waiting just outside for us.