On the San Francisco Bay: 432 nm
On the English Channel: 247 nm
In the Bay of Biscay: 746 nm
On the North Atlantic Ocean in Europe: 220 nm
On the Chesapeake Bay: 143 nm
On the North Atlantic Ocean in North America: 2740 nm

Grand total for 2012: 4528 nm

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*denotes multiple visits.

Chicago, IL
Alexandria, VA*
Santa Monica, CA
Los Angeles, CA
Chincoteague Island, VA
Carmel, CA
Oberhaslach, France
Rennes, France
Vannes, France
Nantes, France
Quimper, France
Douarnenez, France
Pointe du Raz, France
Lorient, France
La Baie de Trespasses, France
Saint-Malo, France
Saint-Guirec de la Plage, France
Roscoff, France
The English Channel*
Plymouth, UK
Falmouth, UK
The Bay of Biscay
Cape Finisterre, Spain
Vigo, Spain*
Enseada de Barra, Spain
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Sanxenxo, Spain
Beue, Spain
Pontevedra, Spain
Illa de Arousa, Spain
Islas de Cies, Spain
Baiona, Spain
Porto, Portugal
Valle Mendiz, Portugal
Lisbon, Portugal
Regaleira, Portugal
Convento de Capuchinos, Portugal
Cabo de Boca, Portugal
Boca de Inferno, Portugal
Cascais, Portugal
Annapolis, MD
North Atlantic Ocean*
Caribbean Sea*
St. Thomas, USVI
Washington, DC*

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On the San Francisco Bay: 189 nm
On the Hudson River: 36.2 nm
On the Atlantic Ocean: 673 nm

Grand total for 2011: 898.2 nm

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*denotes multiple visits.

Paris, France*
Jordan, Amman*
Petra, Amman
Beirut, Lebanon
Taanayel, Lebanon
Park City, Utah
Monymusk, Scotland
Inverurie, Scotland
Strangford, N. Ireland
Belfast, N. Ireland
Alexandria, Virginia*
Honaunau, Hawaii
Princeville, Kauai
Honolulu, Oahu
New York City, New York*
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Pelham, New York
St. George, Bermuda
Hamilton, Bermuda
Point Richmond, California
Portland, Oregon

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1/2 cup butter
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 large can condensed milk
3/4 cup milk

  1. Put milk and butter in a thick-based or insulated pan on low heat.
  2. Add sugar and give a good stir.
  3. Add condensed milk, stir continuously until toffee comes to a boil, approximately 20 minutes. It must be boiling continuously — not just a few bubbles.
  4. Stir constantly for 20-30 minutes, without stopping. Throughout the stirring process, the mixture will begin to turn a dark honey color.
  5. To test, drop a teaspoon of the mixture onto a plate. If it sets, then the toffee is ready. If not, continue stirring.
  6. When ready, remove from heat and beat the mixture before pouring into a greased pan. Leave the mixture to set.
  7. Cut the toffee into squares after it has set, but before it hardens.
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  • If you have a Platinum AMEX they refund the application fee, so it’s essentially free.
  • The online application requires residence and employers for the last 5 years, countries visited and declaration of any criminal red flags, but not infractions such as speeding tickets.
  • The in-person interview for those in the San Francisco Bay area takes place at SFO. The office is outside of International Arrivals near immigration.
  • You must bring your passport to the airport along with your provisional acceptance (from the online application).
  • The interview consists of questions that confirm the information in the application. Additional questions asked in our case: “How often do you travel outside the US?”, and “Which airports do you generally depart and arrive into the US from?”, which seemed to be for the purpose of telling you where kiosks were located in those airports.
  • The rest was just banter-chat questions. Nothing spooky, no interrogation vibe.
  • They fingerprint and photograph you, but no passport photo in advance is required.
  • They do add a sticker to your passport, but it’s very small. It doesn’t appear to be RFID, and we’re not sure what the purpose of the sticker is, as the kiosk does not interact with the sticker, nor do you show it to anyone in the process. Weird, right?
  • They then give you an instruction leaflet, and take you to a dummy machine to show you how to use it. They train you on the process of entering the country, and give you a few troubleshooting tips.
  • The impression is that if you’ve been provisionally approved online, the visit’s sole purpose is to capture a photograph and fingerprints.
  • It really didn’t feel like an interview. They don’t take you into a little room, the office is a bit like a bank or a rental car desk.

We were told that the entry process is:

  • Go to the kiosk, which is normally near the crew line.
  • Put the ID page of your passport in the slot for scanning.
  • The kiosk then wants to take your photo, and your fingerprints
  • It then asks you the standard customs questions, which has the added bonus that you don’t ever have to fill out the customs declaration manually again!
  • If approved, it prints out a card/sticker that you show/give to the customs officers as you pass through the customs line. Unfortunately you don’t get to skip that line.

One note — this system does not work for travel (land or air) into Canada or Mexico. Apparently there’s an alternate system for these borders, which requires its own fee, etc.

If you get a new passport, or are near expiry, you have to then take your new passport to the airport to update your records and get a new sticker, but you don’t need to make an appt for that.

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Irish food, despite what Anthony Bourdain would like to assert, is bad in all sorts of incredible ways.

Is there a general agreement on whether or not it’s OK to handle your own luggage at a hotel? I pack light and I’m territorial. Get your paws off my things.

It’s quite a novelty to hear your surname called on the PA at the airport with complete assurance that it’s not you they’re looking for.

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If asked, a true Scottish gentleman will not tell you if he’s wearing his kilt in the traditional style. However, he will often quite happily show you.

There were no oranges in the Orangery.

Scotland has a national toffee.

If you’re ever at a ceilidh and someone asks you to dance the Cumberland, politely refuse.

The best man’s speech involved a recollection of misdeeds in Amsterdam. Still not sure which variety.

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Water and Sky by Tricia McKellar

On the San Francisco Bay: 123.4 nm
On the Long Island Sound: 46.6 nm
On the Mediterranean Sea: 349 nm

Grand total for 2010: 519 nm

At 1573 nm, I’ve earned 31.46% of a swallow.

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Unexpectedly, it was a banner year for world travel. 2011 should prove interesting as well, considering my imminent departure for Amman, Beirut and our planned escape to Aberdeenshire in March.

*denotes multiple visits.

Tokyo, Japan*
Osaka, Japan
Nara, Japan
Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi-ku, Japan
Tahoe, California
Los Angeles, California*
Marina del Ray, California
Calistoga, California
Alexandria, Virginia
Washington, DC
New York City, New York
Great Kills, Staten Island, New York
Treasure Island, California*
Athens, Greece*
Naxos, Greece
Folegandros, Greece
Sikinos, Greece
Ios, Greece
Santorini, Greece
Astypalea, Greece
Kos, Greece
Kalymnos, Greece
Nissyros, Greece
Symi, Greece
Seattle, Washington
Napa, California*
Mendocino, California
Paris, France

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