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Dubrovnik and a Bit of Bosnia

Mostar, across the Neretva River Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' ...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hug-a-Sheep Day

Hug a Sheep!
I missed Spinzilla this year and was sad. I took heart when I read that Robin was celebrating Hug-a-Sheep Day at Meridian Ranch. Woooo hoooo! I was all set to go, but felt a tad run down. Then it dawned on me... what if I only brought me, to Hug-a-Sheep Day, leaving my spinning wheel and such at home? Yes! I was off to Vacaville with bells on my toes (see photo on right).

The day began looking like a storm, was nigh, but at noon, the sky was blue and the spinners, knitters, felters and 'sitter-outers' such as me, were all were sunny.

All the spinners were there with their facinating wheels, working on various cool yarns - cottons, silks, alpaca, Merino and Jacobs' wools. It. Was. Awesome.

pointy bobbin of fairy tale sort
One of the ladies had the coolest mini 'Great Wheel' - see below. Said she won it at a sheep festival. The mini-Great Wheel is plastic and its base is PVC pipes. It spins very fine (thin diameter) yarn, so she is currently using it to spin up some cashmere yarn. She turned the wheel using a little crank handle at it's spoke. This wheel's bobbin is the same as that of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. It's near sharp enough to prick one's finger, then take a long nap while waiting for your prince's smooch.

The coolest spinning wheel there today was this tiny wonder
Something else that caught my eye was spinnner Alison's wool vest. She knit it of Jacob Sheep wool. Jacobs are white with spots so yield black, white, and all shades of grey wool. Wish I'd taken a close up photo of her lovely vest. By the by, this is one of the two ladies who gave my chickens new homes a few years ago.

Allison in her cool vest, at her rad spinning wheel 
I took time to meander over to the barn to visit with the huggable Jacob ewes. Stephany, not a ewe, but one of Robin's Farm Club members was on hand to answer questions. Up front, we all know what a Miss Know-it-all I can be - don't you just want to slap me? I thought 'not much anyone can tell me about Jacobs'. Right... inside of 5 minutes Stephanie had given me loads of new information on Jacob sheep. I knew Jacobs are an old breed, but hadn't realized as an 'un-improved' breed, Jacobs being close to their primitive origins means their useful behaviors were never bred out of them. For example, they are still fantastic mothers. In contrast, a highly messed-with-breed, the Merino sheep - are notoriously bad Mothers. A Merino ewe might birth her newborn lamb, then wander off to see how the clover tastes on the other side of the pasture (Lamb? What lamb?).  But a Jacob ewe will birth offspring, but stay put, licking, fussing over and protecting her lamb. She might even be licking her twins or triplets as Jacobs may have more than one lamb. That reminds me, oh, I can't wait for spring and the new lambs!
One, two, three... HUG A SHEEP! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Anyone Up for Wandering about in Sacramento's Bowels?

Old Sac's history museum on a sunny day
 For decades I've wanted to take a Sacramento Underground tour. Perhaps I should explain. Back when Sacramento was HQ for the 1849 Gold Rush, the city was raucous, lively and prone to massive flooding. In response, the city fathers (and some Moms) opted to 'raise' the level of the city streets to a level above, rather than below the river levees. The 'raising' took a whopping 16 years to complete. The end result was many buildings had their first floors became basements, and many second floors became first floors. 

Flash forward to 2016. The streets of Old Sacramento, along the Sacramento River, a bustling tourist trap (uh... I meant, place of immense curiosity and shopping opportunity) and much of it remains underground. Annually, in Autumn, various tours of the underground bits of Old Sac are offered to the general public. This was my time to take the tour with friends. 

Pre-tour pic of Jeri & Rick at museum
The original plan was for my friends Jeri, Rick and Nancy to take the night-time underground tour. Unfortunately Nancy had a health issue so had to forgo the treat. The rest of us sashayed down to the waterfront at the History Museum, arriving early and waiting about with a dozen or so other tour participants. As I said, this was a night tour, on a v. rare, ergo rainy night on which I used my sad old iPhone 5 for photos, so many photos are not up to even my normal crap standards, as per picture to left. 

A museum docent let us into the museum briefly prior to the tour so we could be outfitted with receivers and earphones (so we could all clear hear our guide). There was time for a few peeks at the museum's goodies. 
A little Dias de los Muertos - Day of the Dead - display
California Indian artifacts
Once outfitted we went back outside where we met up with our muleskinner/tour guide. He told us the night tours were earmarked for adults who wanted to hear 'adult' tales of the raucous Gold Rush era. I had thought the night tales were for ghost stories. Alas! That, it seems, is another tour for another time. After introductions, instructions and motley deductions we were off to our first stop: Eagle Theater. The theater was the first ever in California. It was built with lumber and canvas sails from boats abandoned by sailors turned gold prospectors.  Yes, it was raining heavily, & yep, this is drought stricken California.
The welcoming lady at the door is the museum docent that greeted us.
We tripped though the theater's bar to the wooden benches in the auditorium. There our boisterous guide told us the tale of the first hanging in Sacramento. Nice story for a dark and dreary evening. As the story progressed he picked tour members to play various roles in his tale. Note the prone guy in the photo below. No one asked him to act out murder of his character, but nonetheless he put on a grand performance, interspersed with his 'deceased' character shouting out comments at humorously opportune moments. 
Prone corpse, not as dead as one might imagine...
To the delight of Jeri and meself , Rick was called up on stage to play a part. He put in a great performance.
Rick, in his staring role as Sacramento townsmen
After the telling of the hanging tale, we returned to the bar in the back where the docent treated us to tiny tumblers of some good old fashioned sarsaparilla - I helped my greedy self to two. 

Our guide now took us to an underground system of tunnels and pillars. I loved how the air was heavy with the scent of soil. Guess this must be what it would feel like to be a mole or a gopher. Oh, except those varmints don't have nice wooden boardwalks to trod on.
Imagine soil scented air and wooden planks beneath one's feet
Entering a gambling den to learn to Gold Rush gambling ways, first hand
A 'Shut the Box' game set just like the ones we got to try out
Now came a fun bit - our guide led us to a room - which as pointed out earlier, was once the first floor of a brick building. There he told us how gamblers would - at prices exorbitant at either yesterday's or today's value - rent spots in saloons where they would entice pigeons - that is 'suckers' - to gamble. The game was 'Shut the Box'. The mark would throw die, then would lower numbered wood tiles to that same total (i.e., if you threw the die and got a 5, you could then flip over a 'five'. Perhaps turning down a
'5', or the '4 and a 1' or just the '2 and the 3'. You continued to throw the dice & lower tiles ALL of the tiles are lowered. Get all the tiles down and you win. That task is far more difficult than you may think. I couldn't stop snickering to myself over the similarity of 'Shut the Box' to 'Shut the Front Door'. Heck, I'm snickering as I type. Oh, and if they'd had the game on sale, the safest bet would be that I'd have bought one! I'm so very happy there were none to buy.

Next, we marched out of those tunnels and over to a different building. 

This underground area was strewn with items that were found in the underground soil were on display, or items from the 1860s were displayed. Other items were put on display to give the 'flavor' of the late 1800s.

Used to be restaurants, barber shops & such when this was street level
A few women started businesses that did quite well. One was an African American lady who not only owned her own building and ran her own business, and invested in insuring her holdings. So when a fire hit and burning her holdings to the ground, her building - unlike many others whose sites were charred - was quickly re-built. Uninsured sites has a much longer wait.
Site of where a women ran her own business - yes, where 'soiled doves' plied their goods

Rick and Jeri examining some choice remnants, goblets,  

bottles, pipes and plates from the gold rush era.

After the tour members enjoyed wandering around the deep diggings, our guide regaled us with several tales - some romantic - others of wealth gained &/or lost.

A view across the 'diggings'
Shoe shine stand
underground archaeological dig set up with grids 

Our tour group was walked down to second street. There, at tour's end, all participants were given a souvenir shot glass. Hum... 'Finest Soiled Doves in Sacramento City'.

How sweet! They prized dirty birdies in old Sacramento.  *wink*

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dubrovnik and a Bit of Bosnia

Mostar, across the Neretva River
Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' because unbelievably, that's what was playing on the dining room's giant flat screen TV - un-subtitled at that.

Post breakfast, and my short exploration of the neighborhood, we were off driving south of Togir on our way to Dubrovnik. As we drove along, a map was scrutinized and Jo said she'd been told by a local that we'd be crazy to not visit Mostar, which required entering yet another country. Mostar was only a song and a dance up the road from the freeway we were on. No arguments to the contrary from me. Soon we faced the international border to Bosnia Herzegovina.

When we reached the window, we obediently handed over our passports to the crossing guard. He eyed them idly, then attempted to hand them back.

"NO! STAMP THEM! STAMP THEM!" shrieked to eager traveling women.

He obliged.

The International Border to Bosnia Herzegovina
As we entered the new country - new to us - we both remembered there had been a vicious war there not too long ago really - in the mid 1990s. It was the nastiest of wars too, an genocidal war. Crazy to see beautiful scenery and imagine that any ugliness could dwell there.

The 14th century castle of Pońćitelj aka 'the Citadel'
Cute countryside church
 Mostar was only about an hour from the international border, and soon we were looking over the city sights as we searched for the 'market place' Jo had heard about.

Bombed out or just wrecked?
A little public square protesting
Finding the market place, we discovered the nightmare of parking there. We were busily ordered into a teeny parking area off a teenier street which once upon a time probably only hosted donkey carts. Once parked we were told a parking fee was due. I offered Euros, and was told, 'No Euros! Marks!' Really... are there any European Union countries that actually use the Euros? I know, but still. After promising we'd return with the parking fee, walked a quarter mile or so back up the narrow road to an ATM. We each got 'markas', then headed back, there paying off the parking fee.

Must admit, the walk was pretty.

Uptown Mostar
The atmosphere was pleasant
Lots of 'Mostar' silk was for sale

The cobblestones were quite a challenge to walk on

The Gelato was as tasty as it was pretty
We were all walked out by the time we toddled back to the car and drove for the border. It was time for even more pretty scenery. Honestly, at one point we were on a mountain road, and looking down from it, we might have been overlooking California's central valley farmlands.

Irrigated farmlands stretched out as far as we could see
Along the mountain drive there were several small wooden, open air shops that also overlooked the valley below. There, honey, lavender oils, dried fruits, and other local products were for sale.

Lots of fresh and dried fruits
Honeys of all sorts, pomegranates, dried figs, nuts and fresh grapes and lemons
Samples of candied fruits & nuts - I hate candied citrus peel but their's was so good I bought a bag
Oils, suffused with rosemary and other herbs
Headed south to Dubrovnik

Our darling Villa Host playing with Jo
We finally made our way down the coast and into Dubrovnik. As we drove there were tantalizing glimpses of a super modern bridge, and even peek at the older part of the city where they film some portions of Game of Thrones.

It took a bit of GPSing to make our way to the Villa Odak where we are booked. The villa is high up on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic sea.  Parking seemed dicey so Jo fetched out host, a tall gentlemen with a sunny smile. He unlocked a huge bow shaped metal bar that blocked anyone parking without permission. Then, he carried our luggage to our room, or rather, our suite. We were both grateful he did the lugging as there lots of stone stairs down, then steps up to the villa. Yay! I do not enjoy hauling luggage up and down stairs.

The dining room in the Villa, facing the patio overlooking the sea
This is the other view from the dining room, pointing to the entrance and the stairs up to our suite

 We had thought we'd be sharing a room but what we got was two beautiful and separate rooms. We each had  own large bed, desk area and flat-screen TV. We shared a bathroom with shower and a little kitchenette. We are so happy with our suite it is amazing.

Half of my enormous, vault ceiling room
Jo trying to look tiny in her not-as-large but still awesome room
We got ourselves settled into our rooms. I lucked out and got the biggest room with a vaulted ceiling.

Our Suite's cute Kitchenette

From my room I could hear persistan chirping. Outside were hundreds of swifts gliding and calling as they had their last hunt for insects before nightfall. It wasn't only the swifts that were in want of a meal. Jo and I got the scoop from our host on where to eat and we headed out and downhill on foot.

On our left the Adriatic, on our right, the stone wall and walkway downhill (or up!)
The march downhill was about a mile, which I as horrified to realize I was in for an uphill march later. No worries though, the hill was a long, long, gentle slope so I knew I could do it. It was a beautiful walk. High stone walls to the north along a long downhill road. On the south we could peer over low stone walls to see the ocean below or look at the various little hotels and family dwellings along the route. At the bottom of the hill we saw the restaurant we think our host told us about. It was only a few thousand feet more to the old city of Dubrovnik but that's for another day.
Down the hill is a view of the old Dubrovnik - can you see the Khaleesi on the parapet?

At the little restaurant we ate on the patio. We were daring in our choice of meals. I had a special wedding beef served with gnocchi. Looked dreadful, tasted wonderful. Jo had a meat 'sampler' plate of different types of sausages and meat cuts served with French fries, and she said it was pretty good too.

This is what the beautiful walk downhill looked like on the way back up
So it was a nice and fairly energetic ending to a long, long day. Tomorrow our southern Croatia adventures really begin!
View of Lokrum Island from the Villa back patio