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The moment I saw the heavily embroidered sleeves, I began looking for an escape route.
The uniforms were not terrifying, nor did the men and women wearing them look particularly menacing.
Typically I encourage tipping of street performers (especially if you post photos or video to Facebook or Instagram), but costumed “performers” have always been a quandary.
Is putting on an unauthorized Mickey Mouse suit and posing with kids in Times Square really performing?
Costumed characters already are so prevalent, I’ve thrown money in the hat for Spider-Man in Venezuela, Generic Panda Guy in Paris and Levitating Jesus in Madrid.
Originally, the plan for the day, after two weeks in Latvia and Lithuania, had been to hunker down in the hotel room, despite being in the middle of Vilnius’ historical center, until it was time to catch a cab to the airport.
The places and people in these Baltic states had exceeded my expectations, but the strangeness of foreign places that I seek out at the beginning of a trip — few recognizable meals, constant linguistic bungling and only random moments of familiarity — often wear me down by the end.
Locked in the hotel, I had managed to shun further exploring, even while surrounded by cultural wonders and rare opportunities.
Eventually, curiosity about the cathedral across the street pried me from the room and my self-pity.
At the cathedral, I noticed the dramatic statue of some medieval leader, which in turn lured me past the museum, into a tree-shaded park and up a hill of crude cobblestones.
The road ended at the castle courtyard, near the tower, where the costumed group stood — the group that had started singing.
By the third song, I recorded some audio, knowing I might use it later, and tried to find a way to tip them and talk with them.
 at a break in the music, I approached.
Any other time, it would have been the universal opening line of tip-seeking street performers.
“Please tell them their music fills my heart,” I said, clasping my hands to my chest.
There were hugs and handshakes, kisses on the cheek and “Farewell” butchered in two languages, until I had to walk away — before I got too misty.
Walking the cobblestones back down, I thought about having been “too tired,” and about past times I didn’t go out to explore more.
Connects house dwellers (and their backyards) with adventurous campers.
More than half of the garden listings are in Europe; the remainder are sprinkled throughout the rest of the world.
There’s a robust facilities search filter if you’re looking for gardens that have Wi-Fi or public transportation nearby, allow dogs or provide hot water and other amenities.
Not all the listings I was interested in had photos, so that omission hindered my search process.
Be aware that there could be cynical listings such as the one I found for camping in the heart of Los Angeles’ skid row.
Traditional crafts and activities such as weaving and adobe brick- and tortilla-making enhance the Old California aura that already pervades the well-preserved but not overly remodeled mission.
New World Baroque Orchestra and Choir will play mission-era music in the more than 200-year-old church.
 you’ll hobnob with the winemakers, be treated to pairings, hear musical performances and enjoy Gold Country scenery.
Sixty celebrity chefs, a passel of sommeliers and 250 wineries will be on hand for Pebble Beach Food & Wine, one of the Monterey Peninsula’s biggest events of the year for those who identify as gastronomes.
The self-described hedonistic event will stage lunches, dinners and wine tastings, with classes and cooking demonstrations on the side, for four days.
Speaking with the Cuban people at every opportunity.
Best to take a break from being connected.
An art print from the art school in Cienfuegos and, of course, rum and cigars.
Wish we’d packed: A good camera for each of us as the photo opportunities are spectacular and unending.
By the time we’d made the short drive from Seattle to the floodplain that’s home to over a thousand acres of flowers, it was too late.
Thanks to an online bloom map that shows exactly which fields are in flower, I stood gazing across acres of daffodils.
The tulips were coming in as well; there was a field of luscious pinks, a little short of full flower, beautifully offset by their soft green leaves.
Nothing embodies the abundant arrival of spring like acres and acres of brightly colored flowers.
The tulips are an excellent excuse to squeeze in a last-minute getaway to the Pacific Northwest.
There’s a nice back patio with a view over the Swinomish Channel, but it’s not only about the view, it’s also about the baking.
 the Rexville Grocery, in a restored gas station and general store, is recommended.
Snow Goose Produce is 2 miles south, but save that stop for a bit later in the day, when you need a break for their Immodest Ice Cream Cones.
When the light starts to fade, and your head is full of flowers, head back into town for oysters at the Oyster and the Thistle.
La Conner Brewery has delicious bar food, a handful of standard brews and several rotating taps.
Taylor Shellfish Farms is just up the road from La Conner, so you’ll see its oysters (and a lot of other seafood) on local menus.
Do stop at one of the show gardens — Roozengaarde or Tulip Town — to see the staggering variety that tulips can offer — ruffled edges, two tones, purples so deep they look black.
Locals will tell you that the irises arrive after the tulips are done, but those fields are primarily greenery — no showy color.
All units have kitchens and lovely views of Puget Sound.
Big breakfasts, substantial sandwiches and excellent baked goods.
Cash only for ice cream; you can pay with plastic for all the other farmstand goods.
Cute little pub and restaurant with an excellent bar menu.
Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland created this tour to educate visitors about the history of farming in the Skagit Valley — the audio clips are well done and they’re not too long.
Each tour stop is marked by a large green billboard that tells you how to access the audio file for that site.
There’s the La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum in the historic Gatches Mansion, and a dozen or so galleries that feature the work of local artists.
Snow geese and trumpeter swans both use the Skagit Valley as a migration stop; you’ll see them in the fields.
 for other birds — herons, hawks, bald eagles — and programs about the wildlife of the region, head to the reserve.
Take a guided ride or use a route map to explore at your own pace.