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Day 75, Vacation, Yosemite

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 29, 2011

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Not much by way of travelogue to report today. We visited Yosemite, but got a bit of a late start, which turned out to be okay, because we got to look down the valley from Glacier Point at sunset, which was spectacular.

There is a caveat to visiting Yosemite, though: everything is Very Far Away. There are few roads into Yosemite, and the drives are long, even if you don’t get stuck behind an RV for several miles. From Mariposa where we were staying, it’s an hour to get into the Yosemite Valley and an hour to get to the Mariposa Grove. From either of these places, it’s an additional hour to get to Glacier Point. So, looking at the beauties of Yosemite from Glacier Point at sunset (a real plus) means a 2 hour drive back to the hotel, after dark, on hairpin curves (one of the low points of the vacation so far).



Day 73, Vacation, San Francisco & Muir Woods

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 27, 2011

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[27 July 2011] BTW, for anybody planning to go to San Francisco and is unfamiliar with the city: it is cold. And foggy in the morning and in the evening, which means “cold and clammy.” Rather like English beds, now that I think about it…

Today we took a bus downtown and caught one of the cable cars, because you have to ride a cable car while you’re in San Francisco. We later saw the Cable Car Museum, which actually has the big engines that move all the cables for all the cable cars in the city, all of them, right there for you to see; so the museum was better than we expected it to be. Worth a few minutes of your time if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

We got off the car near Nob Hill, visited Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral, because it’s big and beautiful, and I had seen it years ago when I was in San Francisco for an AAA/SBL (American Academy of Religion/Society for Biblical Literature) conference.

We wanted to eat Chinese food in San Francisco, so we walked downhill to Chinatown, called up the appropriate app on my Droid phone to find local restaurants and discovered we were right across the street from Sam Wo’s. We didn’t even know it was a restaurant, given the outside appearance, but the on-line reviews raved about it, so in we went: through the greasy kitchen and up rickety narrow stairs to the tiny second floor dining room. Apparently Sam Wo’s is a Chinatown legend, with extremely surly waitresses, service slow as molasses, and cheap, plentiful, outstanding food. Also, it was a famous hangout of the Beat poets back in the day, so Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg once sat at these very same tables (Lord knows they were old enough for the poets to have sat at them). The service was not so slow or surly, but the food was indeed divine and cheap. Jeremy noted that it was the first time he had eaten Chinese food and not been hungry half an hour later.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel and got the Jeep and went to Alamo Square, to look at  a few of the beautiful old Victorian houses, locally called “the painted ladies.”

We then went to the neighborhood around Haight-Ashbury. This was my idea. (Verily, it’s true.) Chris proclaimed the place “half-past cool,” which, of course, I already knew, but he didn’t. For all the aged hippies out there reading this, however, I have to say that the Flower Children have sold out. They’re all a bunch of money-grubbing capitalists now (what I paid for a t-shirt for Chris, yikes!). Sell-outs, just like Abbie Hoffman joining The Establishment. Sham freedom-loving lay-abouts, sham environmentally-conscious lovers of the earth (read: shills for Greenpeace eco-terrorism), sham peddlers of mind expansion (read: sellers of the latest over-priced New Age fake “energy” enhancers). But Chris was amazed, Jeremy was offended, I was amused, and Annette just shook her head (a $69 price-tag for a tie-died skirt opened her eyes to the scam). I count that a smashing success.

After Haight-Ashbury, being very near the Golden Gate Park, we went to the Japanese Tea Garden, because I wanted to see it, and walked around. Now that’s a beautiful place, meticulously kept, and exquisite in that perfectly Japanese way. I could visit it every day.

After the Tea Garden, we stopped very briefly at Our Lady, Joy of All Who Sorrow Cathedral, the one of Geary Ave. that St John (Maximovich) built, and where his incorrupt relics lie. I got one of the workers in the bookstore to let me in, and I had a few minutes alone with St John, to present to him in person all the specific things I had been praying about for a long time. Alas, the time was too short. But I did get a couple of bottles of oil from the lampada which hangs over his relics, so I’ll have that for everyone when I get back to St I’s.

Regrettably, the day turned foggy again by mid-afternoon, so none of us ever got a good picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, but we drove across it anyway, and seeing a sign for Muir Woods, we went there late in the day, and saw the giant California cypresses that grow there. Very fine trees, if you’ve never seen trees of that size. Only sequoias are bigger

From there, we were beat, so we went back to the hotel and crashed.

Day 72, Vacation, Monterey, CA

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 26, 2011

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Tickets to Alcatraz sell out weeks in advance. We did not know this. Hoping to get tickets by going to the ticket booth early tomorrow morning, we drove down to Monterey today and visited the aquarium and Cannery Row (of John Steinbeck fame). We also took the beautiful “17-mile Drive” around the coast at Monterey, goggled at the mansions of the filthy rich, and saw natural beauty, sea life, and the famous “lone cypress.”

Day 71, Vacation in San Francisco

Photos by Fr Michael Butler, Jul 25, 2011

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Got the family from the airport okay, though they were ravenous after a 5 hour flight. In-N-Out Burgers, which I was told was a local favorite, sated everyone’s hunger.

Our hotel was on Lombard Street, a few blocks from the “crookedest street in America,” so we walked there first. Alas, city maps of San Francisco are not topological: it was very much uphill. Very much.  Uphill. We shall have calves of steel by the end of the trip.

I’ve got several pictures of interesting people scattered throughout the photos: people taking a Segway tour, the odd guy with a green mohawk, new friends in Haight Ashbury,  street theater, that sort of thing.

Made it to Fisherman’s Wharf, which wasn’t too far away from the hotel; had dinner at an Irish pub, then found our way to Chinatown around dusk.

Not bad for our first few hours of vacation.

Vacation destinations

The last month of the sabbatical will be vacation time, R&R, with my family. Here’s where we plan to be. (If you click on “View Larger Map,” below the picture, it’ll take you to a Google page that has more information about the places we’re planning to be.

Itinerary (T minus 19 days)

The itinerary for the sabbatical.

15 May. Last Liturgy at St Innocent’s. After Liturgy, the sabbatical officially begins.

16-24 May — Fly to San Antonio, TX. Week at Lebh Shomea House of Prayer near Sarita, TX.

24-26 May — Time with family & friends in Clute, TX, my home town.

26-28 May — Time with my parents in Comfort, TX.

29 June – 19 July — Home with my family.

(14-17 June, attending Acton Institute’s Acton University in Grand Rapids, MI, where I will be lecturing on an Orthodox approach to environmentalism. This is not part of the sabbatical, but it is something of significance that I’ll be doing.)

19 June — Fly to London.

20-28 June — Week at St John the Baptist Monastery in Tolleshunt Knights by Maldon, Essex,  England.

29-30 June — Thessalonica & Ouranoupolis, Greece.

1-7 July — Xeropotamou & St Panteleimon Monasteries, Mount Athos.

8-11 July — Thessalonica & London.

11-17 July — Home with my family.

18-25 July — Week at St John of Shanghai Monastery, Manton, CA.

25 July – 18 August — Vacation with my family in CA, NV, UT, WY, MT, and WA.

19 August — Return home.

21 August — Back at St Innocent’s, the sabbatical finished.