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Posts Labeled with ‘travel’

Singapore Is Great

If you get a chance, visit Singapore. It is a really nice city. Yes, they are known for being strict: they fine people for all sorts of things, they even cane men. But you know what? I think it works. Call it an extreme version of the Broken Window Theory.

Here are my photos.


Wasai Eigo Janglish

The Japanese love the way that English looks for marketing purposes, but don’t necessarily want to learn proper english… so they make up words and phrases that are specifically for internal consumption. This phenomenon is alternately called “wasai eigo” or “janglish.”

In Janglish, the sound of a word is more important than the proper spelling, so yummy becomes “yammy” and one becomes “wan.” Addtitionally, throughout town, one word seems to take on special properties in janglish: the verb make, which magically transforms nouns into verbs. Soap is called “make wash”, holiday shopping becomes “make joy Christmas”

Here are a couple of interesting janglish signs:

Make Wonder

Yammy Dining

Wan Love


Japanese Customs Signs


Arrived in Tokyo

I arrived in Tokyo and made my way to the hotel. This city is so different, and very beautiful!

Immediately after arrival, I went out to party with some locals who are friends of a colleague. A very fun introduction to the city!

Japanese Friends of Al & me


Lovers with good taste prefer…

So I’m booking my 5-star hotel room for Japan (at the crazy low rate of $138/n). I thought it was funny when I saw this review:

“Rooms include rates at the Granbell Hotel for daytime use as well, making this a possible love hotel for couples (with good taste).”


Oakenfold Perfecto in Vegas

Last Saturday, I went to see Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto show at the Rain nightclub/venue in Las Vegas.
It was a great show! In addition to him spinning some great music, there’s a really cool Cirque-du-Soleil type acrobats performing above the dance floor without a net. Here are 2 photos. More photos are located in my smugmug gallery for the Vegas trip.


Oakenfold Perfecto acrobats

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South Bend Indiana & Chicago

Recently, I attended my friend Tamara’s wedding at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. I flew into Chicago & spent a few hours in downtown Chicago on the way back.

Here’s a photo of me and Tamara, along with a link to the photo gallery on Smugmug.

Lura and Tamara

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Cuba Vera!

Today, the Obama administration officially lifted the bans on travel & money transfers to Cuba.

This is pretty exciting. Having grown up in Florida, with so many Cuban friends, I am totally fascinated by the little nation that was the cause of so much political dissent and disagreement.

Right now, the travel ban is just for people with relatives in Cuba. But I don’t know how they will enforce that! Regardless, it just seems like a matter of time before they open it up to the rest of us. I’m looking forward to visiting.


Links to All European Photo Galleries

Here are the links to all of the photo galleries for my recent trip to Europe. I haven’t made a Best Of gallery yet, but I intend to do that sometime soon. In the meantime, click around all the different galleries & have fun.

Show all of my European Blog Posts (the web page will re-draw, showing all of my European-travel-related blog posts, including this one.)

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Ice Cubes Galore!

Ahhhh… to be back in the good old USA where ice cubes are abundant & you get ice-cold tap water to drink without even requesting it from the waiter. And ice-cold Coca Cola too… I can finally have a Coke and a smile!

I was getting pretty thirsty over there in Europe where they won’t let you drink the tap water (even though it is potable) and your only option for water is to buy the small water bottles for 3 euros (roughly $5 USD.)

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Work in Body Not Spirit?

I just got home from Europe. It is 10:AM in Venice, which means that I have been mostly awake and en-route for 28 hours. I am spent, but I am also feeling anxiety about all the stuff that I need to do. This anxiety kept me from sleeping much on the plane rides back… well that and the cramped Coach-fare seats.

Somehow, come hell or high water, I need to drag my butt to work in a few hours. Let’s just hope that I am present in both body & spirit. I shutter to think what my to-do list will look like.

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Vacanza è Fatta

This vacation is winding down & coming to a close. Today was the final day in Venice. Mom and I went to the island of Murano, where we received a glass blowing/sculpting demonstration. Here’s a photo of the simple glass blowing technique that was demonstrated. Such artistry!

Glassblowing Art in Murano

We bought a few souvenirs today, looked around, and had some gelato near Piazza San Marco. For dinner, we ate pasta and clams, with red wine and beer. For only the second time on our vacation, a little rain fell. Instead of a downpour however, it was a pleasant, cleansing shower that made everything smell fresh and new and cooled down the piazza.

Tomorrow morning we’ll have a leisurely breakfast peering on the glittering green canal… but then I have to face the reality of getting all the luggage to the airport; and her suitcase is going to be the death of me. I did hand washing almost every night so that I traveled light, but mom just packed everything but the kitchen sink.

This vacation is done. In Italian, that’s “vacanza è fatta”

Link to my full Venice Italy July 20 gallery on Smugmug.

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High/lowlights and Almost Coming to Blows

Despite the beauty of Venice, and all of the Mediterranean, I am eager to get home. In a sense, this has been the hardest “vacation” of my lifetime. I’ve been caring for my 81 year old mom and that is not an easy task. Literally, my muscles are sore from helping to support her weight as she struggles to maneuver the many boat docks, cobblestone streets, and uneven staircases of these old towns. She’s taken the whole thing very seriously: she’s stubborn enough to push herself so that she can see as much of the world as possible. This lead to some breakdowns and there have been some moments where I’ve been frustrated, tired, hot, and downright cranky about the various situations we’ve gotten into. Once or twice I was so completely overwhelmed that I just started crying.

At the other extreme, I can be terribly protective of her. For example: there was a huge line for the cable car at Santorini. This group of Italians rushed the line (Italians don’t queue.) I told them the back of the line was behind us; at which point they conveniently didn’t speak English. So I spoke Italian and said the same thing. They were stubborn and refused to go to the back of the line. And all of us who had been in line waited a lot longer as a result (1.5 hours total). Later in this interminable, unruly queue, my Mom spotted a bench. She wanted to make her way up to the bench to sit with the concept that I’d catch up and she’d get back in line after a bit of a rest. The Italian woman wouldn’t let her pass & started yelling at her & me. This was a very bad move on her part.

There’s one thing I know from my time brief time living in Italy in 1993: Italians can be terrible bullies and verbally vicious, but they usually back down if anyone has the guts to challenge them. So, I didn’t back down. I yelled at this she/he woman in both English and Italian, then… I challenged her to a fight. No, I am not kidding. I actually said “I will fight you, you b**ch.” At this point, the other people in line felt the need to mediate so that we didn’t literally come to blows. By the way: the crowd sided with me. Mom got to sit down and the Italian monstrosity had to shut up and wait in line just like the rest of us.

Let’s just call these trying moments “learning and growth” experiences.

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Fireworks in Venice

The fireworks show that I witnessed along the Grand Canal in Venice last night will go down as one of the best in my life. It’s not that the fireworks themselves were particularly spectacular, but the atmosphere was electric! Families set up space along the promenade…. lots of candles and japanese paper lanterns to denote their picnic area along the canal. The rich people have huge yachts filled with revelers: one plays 70s disco music, another 80s music, another techno. And the boats all toot their horns in unison after the fireworks finale. It was awesome!

Link to my full Venice, Italy – July 19 photo gallery on Smugmug.

Fireworks in Venice Italy

I’m no photographer. I’m sure that someone else could have done better, but… I used the fireworks setting on the camera and set it on the Arsenale bridge for stability.

Fireworks in Venice 2

Link to my full Venice, Italy – July 19 photo gallery on Smugmug.

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Venezia Festa Del Redentore July 19 – 20, 2008

There is a festival tonight in Venice. The reason for the festival is related to the end of the plague, from which approximately 50,000 Venetians died. They built the Basilica of the Redeemer (Redentore) in 1577 to celebrate and thank God that the plague had ended. In modern times, the festival appears to include a mass, some political and church representatives, a regatta and fireworks. There be fireworks set off near the church, along the Grand Canal. I’ll try to find the fireworks setting on my new camera & get some pretty photos.

Tomorrow is my last full day of vacation. We’ll do a little shopping in Venice; if I’m up to it I might venture to a museum — but even I’m a little topped out on my cultural intake!

On another note, I am starting to have some anxiety about returning to Seattle without a new apartment lined up for Aug 1. Despite any jetlag I may have, I’m going to be “behind the eight ball” as the saying goes.

Link to my gallery with photos of the fireworks on Smugmug.

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Peace and Love

I was talking to a young couple on the cruise and we decided that cruise ships are the alternative to Burning Man for +45 foodie set. The atmosphere is all very open and happy — very peace and love. Pretty much everyone gets along, smiles, dances, sings, and suspends self-consciousness for the duration of the cruise.

Feelings of peace and love flow easier when everyone is being pampered and well fed; and this can only happen because there is a huge staff that makes it all happen. For the roughly 2000 passengers of this cruise, there are 700 staffers.

This is a remarkably similar to the ratio of freemen to slaves in most ancient societies. Therefore, I speculate that a cruise ship society may be a little microcosm of how the ancient cities worked. No wonder the ruling classes had the leisure time to contemplate philosophy.

Of course, even today the truly wealthy have staff to coordinate every aspect of daily life, but if you are middle class (like me) a cruise ship or resort is really the only time where you can experience this type of lifestyle. All I can say is that it is not surprising that the ruling classes want to hold on to this power – by force, if necessary. So peace and love had its limits.

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Cruise Story

This has been a good cruiseline; very well organized, friendly, with good food. One night we sat at the Captain’s table. I asked a few questions of the Captain and his fiancee, one of which was “What is the most inane thing ever said by a passenger?” The Captain was very diplomatic… but his fiancee offered the following story.

A passenger complained about the volume of the helicopters at night. When she pressed the guest for details, it turns out that the guest was under the impression that the crew was spirited away every night by helicopters and brought back in the morning!

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We visited Corfu on July 17. We toured the palace built by “Sisi” – the Austrian empress. We also toured a Greek Orthodox church in town that is dedicated to Saint Spyrotus. The tourguide was saying that this is such an important saint that a majority of the boys and men of the area are named Spyro. Can you imagine calling out one name and having over half the town answer?

Lura on Corfu

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Santorini, Greece

I went to the little Greek island of Santorini on July 16. The majority of the town is up on top of the island, so visitors have the options of climbing the steep stairs by foot, riding a donkey up the staircase, or taking a cable car. I seem to recall that one of the Blue Collar Comics did a bit about the cable car vs. donkey scenario.

Link to my full Santorini Gallery on Smugmug

Lura on Santorini

Link to my full Santorini Gallery on Smugmug

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Today, I went to the ancient ruins of the city of Ephesus outside of Kudasi, Turkey. This is the city that is mentioned in the Bible… you know, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The Temple of Artemis was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. But now the Temple artifacts are actually housed in London, and are not in display at the original location outside of the Ephesus archeological site in Turkey; the site of the ancient Temple of Artemis is actually a farm.

Link to the Full Ephesus Gallery on Smugmug

About 30% of the ancient city has been excavated, and some of it has been reconstructed. It is a lovely archeological site… especially the library, which is marvelous.

Here’s a photo of the library at Ephesus.

Ephesus Library

Link to the Full Ephesus Gallery on Smugmug

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Cruising the Greek Isles

Ok, it is the 4th day of the cruise. So far, we’ve gone from Venice, to Split Croatia, then a sea day, and Heraklitos Crete.

On the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, I toured the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian.

Link to the my full Split, Croatia gallery on Smugmug.

Split Croatia

Today, in Crete, I made my way to the ancient Minoan palace of Knossos.

Link to my full Iraklion, Greece (Crete) gallery on Smugmug


The cruise is pretty good, but I have one major complaint: the pools onboard are all salt water. And boy oh boy are they salty… my eyes sting, and my sunscreen stays on for only approximately 0.5 seconds in those conditions. The food is good on the ship though, so it is amazing that I can still fit in my skinny jeans!

Link to my full Royal Caribbean Cruise gallery on Smugmug.

My mom is healthy again. But the heat is too much for her, so she is staying on the boat while I visit all of the archaeological sites with the hot old stones.

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Venice in the Summer

Che bella! Venice is beautiful.

Link to my full Venice, Italy – July 10, 2008 gallery on Smugmug.

I haven’t been to Venice since 1993. When last I was here, I was pretty miserable. The streets were flooded, the canal was stinky, the hotel rooms were moldy and crumbly, etc., etc. This time, I’m noticing some positive differences:

  • Although they’re still renovating the Piazza San Marco (yes, after 15 years, there is still scaffolding all over the place). But, the areas that have been renovated look really nice and sparkly in comparison to what I recall.
  • Lura in Venice Piazza San Marco

  • The pidgeon population seems to be a bit more under control than they used to be (last time it was like a scene from the movie The Birds)
  • The canal doesn’t smell at all! And it looks pretty clean. Everything along the Grand Canal looks renovated and beautiful.
  • Along the Grand Canal Venice

  • The gondolas are impeccably maintained. Every one of them is gorgeous. Clearly this is a thriving and well respected profession now.
  • Gondolas in Venice

So don’t be afraid of Venice in the summer… well, be afraid of the prices, maybe. Everything is so damn expensive that I feel absolutely poverty striken. But I’ll quit my whining.

Note: I’m at a hotel with a really slow internet connection. So I won’t be uploading my photos to smugmug at this time.

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Vienna to Venice

We went on the train today from Vienna Sudbanhof station to the Venice Santa Lucia station. This route has one photogenic village after another. The mountains are a verdent, vibrant green as far as the eye can see. In Austria, many of the alpine cottages are painted a bright sunshine yellow and their flowerboxes are overflowing with pink and red geraniums. Along the way, each town has their own church, with the alpine steeple and clocktower. There was one town, north of Villach, where there is a gorgeous fortified castle, complete with a stone wall that wound around the hillside.

As you head into Italy, the homes change to stucco facades of more pastel colors. And when you cross the border to Italy, the train conductors turn off the air conditioning and cabin fans (no joke) just when it starts to warm up.

Unfortunately, I have no good photos. Cameras don’t work well taking pictures from moving trains through dirty glass.

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McDonalds in Europe

Personally, I take offense when I see McDonalds fouling up the historical landscape. It’s one thing to see a MickeyDs in a brand-spanking-new stucco strip mall in California, it’s another thing entirely to see the Golden Arches inhabiting a building from the 1700s. Truly, this is a monument to tastelessness, yet this abomination seems to be best that America has to offer & and it is our culinary legacy to the rest of the world. Ugh.

McDonalds Vienna

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Tons of Monuments and Museums!

Even more photos of Vienna, Austria – July 8, 2008

Good grief there are a ton of monuments, museums, and former palaces in Vienna. These Hapsburgs and their hangers-on were ridiculously wealthy by any historical standard. Talk about a building boom: it must have been a full-employment time period for architects and artisans of the Imperial era.


Turns out that yesterday, when I walked so much of the city, I wasn’t in the museum quarter at all. Actually, that’s a slightly different part of the city, and I went there today to visit the Leopold Museum. The Leopold Museum normally has lots of Klimt on display, but they are re-tooling the exhibit and had nothing on display today (which explains why The Kiss was temporarily on exhibit at the Belvedere museum). However, the permanent installation of the Leopold museum includes a huge amount of Egon Scheile’s work — so I was educated in his progression as an artist.

Yesterday, I really enjoyed the special exhibit of Kokoschka‘s on display at the Albertina museum. They also had an amazing assortment of Paul Klee, who is actually my favorite Bauhaus artist. (I like Kandinsky quite a bit too, but Klee is my fave.)

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Bikes for Hire

I think that Seattle might be a good candidate for the bicycle rental system that they have in Vienna. Here’s a photo of a guy renting a bike with a credit card.

Bike Rental Vienna

Link to my Vienna, Austria – July 7, 2008 photo gallery on Smugmug.

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Mozart Concert in Vienna

Last night, my mom and I attended a Mozart concert in the gold room of the Vienna concert hall. The music was very well done, but I have to admit that the whole thing was overly cheezy because they do it in period costume — white wigs and stockings.

Cheezy Viennese Costumes

I have a video of a portion of the show… if it isn’t too shaky and awful, I may post it to YouTube later.

Here’s the link to my Vienna, Austria – July 8, 2008 gallery on Smugmug.

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Do I look Austrian?

For some reason, in every city I visit, I always get stopped and asked for directions. Yesterday, this occurred 4 times. In three cases, the people asking me for directions spoke German. In one case, the tourists were from England, but they thought I was a local.

I don’t think I look the slightest bit Austrian. But perhaps I don’t look like too much of a tourist, either.

Anyway, I couldn’t help any of them get any closer to their destinations in Vienna. Of course, I don’t think I can give good directions in Seattle or San Diego either, I am notoriously bad with my sense of direction and I am a slave to my GPS device.

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Vienna is Great

Yesterday, I went out on my own in Vienna while mom recuperated in the hotel room. The weather was overcast, and it eventually rained… but it was a good opportunity for me to see the city.

Vienna building

I walked all over the Museum district area. In a sense, all of the beautiful buildings begin to look the same. It’s just one gorgeous architectural wonder after another… the mind gets a little loopy trying to distinguish what’s photo worthy amidst all of the splendor.

Here’s a link to the newest photo gallery.

I like Vienna. The architecture is stunning. The people are impeccably honest and respectful, and they are generally friendly – even though my interpretation of the German language is that it makes everyone sound terse and angry. Vienna is easy to get around: with lots of options for metro and bus usage. And the food is good too. The only negative thing I can say is that the coffee isn’t particularly good, but I wasn’t expecting much, so it’s ok.

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Day 4: Stop at the Austrian Hospital

Hospital Stopsign Austria

There are no tourist-y photos to show today. I spent the day in an Austrian hospital. My mom has an infection of her salivary gland. (I know, it’s weird.) The antibiotics that the “housecall” doctor prescribed the other day didn’t work. She received antibiotics intravenously today. If she doesn’t get significantly better very soon, I will have to insist that she return to the US.

Honestly, today was rough. It was really stressful for me, trying to negotiate an incredibly bureaucratic health-care system in a different language. Many people speak English extremely well in Austria, but it is still mostly the common, simple, conversational topics in the language. The technical, medical, conversations today were very stilted. Thankfully, they assigned us to an Australian doctor… but that was our prize for my having successfully navigated the maze of the rest of the system.

I have a newly-found sense of empathy for all of the foreigners who have to go to an American hospital or clinic. Dealing with a foreign language and foreign system when you are at your most vulnerable and stressed out is pretty awful. And I noticed that, for some people in the hospital, English was the common denominator language. What I mean is that they spoke Farsi (for example), and stilted English. The Austrians don’t know Farsi, so they spoke back to the patients in stilted English. Oh man, that must be frustrating and frightening! The situation produces lots of hand gestures, and stress.

I don’t know the status of computer-based sophisticated medical translation technology. But this seems like a problem that can be solved. This technology should be matriculated into every hospital in the world.

Austrian Hospital signage

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Prague is cancelled

We had intended to go to Prague today, but that’s a no-go. So I will not be adding another country to my list of visited places. Oh well.

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The People of Budapest Were Not Nice

I did not have a good time today in Budapest. The weather was perfect, and the architecture was inspiring, but the people we dealt with were mean and they cheated us.

Let’s start with the cheating. I am actually quite generous while traveling. I typically round up and give a little tip, even in countries where no gratuity is expected or required. But I want it to be my choice, and it is usually merit-based. The people that I dealt with today in Budapest really didn’t like that way, so they helped themselves to a little cut here and there. We actually got cheated out of quite a bit of money today. Two train employees helped themselves to a bit of a “tip” on top of the price of the fare listed on the ticket, but the worst was the cab driver… who really cheated us. Mostly, this was my fault. I don’t do math quickly or well, and I was really messed up by the currency conversion. And with taking care of my mother, it is really difficult for me to handle all the stress of everything coming to a head at the same time (like in a cab situation.)

Ok, now onto the mean attitudes. I got yelled at today by several obnoxious Hungarians peasants on little power trips. We were at a museum and I asked for the toilet. Usually, I scout the situation ahead of my mother to find out where everything is so that she doesn’t have to do unnecessary climbing and such. I found the toilet downstairs, used it myself, then found the elevator. I came up the elevator, gathered my mom and guided her to the elevator. At which point, a woman working at the museum proceeded to kvetch at me in a stern, gruff voice. I made all of the body gestures associated with appealing to a powerful person for mercy, to no avail. She called in 2 other people for backup and made it very clear that she only allows people in wheelchairs to use the lift. At this point, I openly disagreed with her and motioned to my mom to take the elevator down & that I’d meet her after taking the stairs. So I did. And the gang of three harpies retaliated by locking the lift… essentially making it so that we couldn’t get up any other way but the stairs. Luckily for us, there was another old male American man who overheard our situation and decided to take up our cause. He fought with them for a good 10 minutes, and may have gotten some police involved. Eventually, they opened the lift and escorted her on it — but the power-trippers were fuming the whole way.

That wasn’t the only situation of people being rude and disagreeable today… just the most dramatic. By the time our short tour was over, I was happy to leave the country. A little worse for the wear… but now I can say that I’ve been to Budapest. And it may be a good long time before I feel the need to return. You win some, ya’ lose some when it comes to traveling.

Here’s the link to my Budapest photo gallery on smugmug.

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Vienna – Fourth of July

Today, my mom and I spent the day in Vienna. It was a good, but tiring day.

Mom woke up with some sort of infection in her ear/lymph node area. When we asked for the nearest English speaking doctor’s office or clinic, we were informed that doctors in Vienna make house calls… or in this case, hotel calls. The doctor came to the hotel room, examined her, prescribed antibiotics, and asked for payment.

Everything was fine until he asked for payment. It hadn’t even dawned on me that we wouldn’t be able to pay with a credit card for the doctor visit, and we didn’t have quite enough cash in Euros. A bit desperate, I asked: “you wouldn’t happen to accept payment in US currency, would you?” He said “Sure,” then quoted the exchange rate. We happily paid the remainder in US currency and settled the tab.

At this point in the day, however, we were completely broke. No euros, and a ridiculously small amount of American dollars. Finding a bank machine in another country is always an adventure, which is why I try not to wait until I am completely out of cash in a foreign country (which is quite different than how I am at home in the US.) Eventually, we found one… but we were sent on a few wild goose chases by well-meaning, but clueless volk.

As for tourist-y stuff, the main part of the day was spent at the Belevedere museum, which was a former palace. The Belvedere is the current showing location of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt. Of course, that is a beautiful painting, but the painting that surprised me most was a painting of a Chef by Monet. I didn’t even know that he did portrait painting.

We also went to the Wien Museum, which is not the fine art museum (we had both been to that one on previous trips)… it is instead a museum about the history of Vienna. It was an unusual museum, quite different than all the other museums that have paintings by all the same, great artists. This museum of Vienna had artifacts from local Roman history, lots of interesting stuff from the middle ages, a famous portrait painting of Queen Maria Theresa of Austria, as well as some of Gustav Klimt’s early paintings.

Lastly, we did a good amount of walking around the Opera house, and I took a lot of photos today.

Here’s the link to the Vienna gallery.

The day ended oddly. Back at the hotel, I heard fireworks… on the fourth of July. Now this would make sense if I were in the USA, but I am not. Still, I heard the rhythmic booms of a fireworks display in the distance. I don’t know the cause for celebration and I didn’t see the colors, but I wonder if they were red, white, and blue.

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Travel Day 1+ — The Longest Day

I have been traveling for over 24 hours. From Seattle to New York, then NY to Venice airport. From Venice airport to the train station… and now I am waiting for the train to Vienna. Thank goodness I have the capacity to sleep in any type of conveyance. I wouldn’t say that I’ve had the most restful sleep ever, but I have managed to get enough rest that I am not a zombie.

We’re spending time in the old city of Venice a little later in the trip. So eventually, I’ll have all the typical photos of gondolas and pigeons. But right now I’m in the part of the city where the normal, blue-collar Venetians live. I’m over by one of the two city train stations, and I had a little time to kill in which I did some urban hiking. While on the urban hike, I took a few photographs in the streets around the Mestre train station of Venice. Here’s a link to the photo gallery.

Update: I arrived in Vienna… dead tired, but I wanted to get this uploaded & posted. Boy oh boy was this a lot of travel.

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Ode to the Porter

My friend was rather late picking me up (at zero dawn thirty) and I arrived to the airport a mere hour before my flight.

Then I saw the line. Holy moley! The Delta checkin line for the flight to JFK was epic. There was *no chance* that I was going to get through this line in time to make it through security and get to the gate before the cabin doors closed. I was screwed.

Thinking fast, I rushed back outside to attempt curbside checkin. Normally, porters aren’t supposed to take customers with International itineraries. But I was lucky… I got a porter who liked cash more than he liked the rules. He said to me: “I’ve got friends behind the counter; I’ll take you inside and take care of you, if you take care of me.” I said “ABSOLUTELY!”

As a result of his actions, I was checked in lickety split. Normally the porters get $3 a bag, I gave him $10 for my one bag. It was the best money I’ve ever spent at the airport. Not only did I get to the plane on time, I actually had time to spare. As I was settling into my seat, I did notice one person who had been far ahead of me in that original “epic” line. He arrived at the gate panting and discombobulated. He had obviously struggled to catch the plane.

But I was sitting pretty… thanks to the friendly porter.

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Almost Ready

I am almost ready to go to Europe. My stuff is packed, the hotel reservations are set, I got a new camera, etc. I’m off to get an electrical adapter, but basically I’m feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I’m really looking forward to this vacation.

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Hot and Cold

So Houston was hot; nearing 100 degrees each day I visited. Amazingly, however, I didn’t really mind it, but that’s because I was in air conditioned homes, cars, restaurants, and bars almost the entire time.

The trip was good… my family is doing well. The kids that were there got to know each other a bit better. My brother Bill took me on the New England Catamaran that I/we helped build. It was one of our father’s unfinished hobbies/projects. The boat was built from scratch. Bill helped build it the most out of all the kids, but I definitely recall helping to sand and shellac the boat and getting fiberglass stuck in my skin, and coughing from the fumes. Anyway, it is a 20ft sea-worthy vessel, a fine achievement for him.

I especially liked hanging out with my nieces and nephews who are around my age. They are fun, funny, loud, snarky, sarcastic, and fabulous. I had a really good time.

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How will I make this plane?

I just did something completely ridiculous. I booked myself on a flight that departs at 5:50 AM. Let’s see… they typically board the plane 30 minutes before departure, so that’s 5:20… time for the security checkpoint… parking… etc. I probably need to be driving into the airport around 3:45 AM.

Now I have never been a morning person, and 3:45 sounds more like night than morning to me. In fact, it’s so early that I don’t know if I can trust myself to wake up… I may have to stay out/up the night before so that I am sure to be at the airport on time. I’ll probably be recovering from a few cocktails and sleepy, but if I have any hope of being on time, that may be what I need to do.


The Pocket of Winter

South San Francisco, near SFO, is extremely cold, no matter what time of year it is.


Ugliest. Awful-est. Car. Ever.

The PT Cruiser sucks. No really. I don’t get why this car exists. I tried to change to a different car at the rental company, but no dice. So I’m stuck driving a PT Cruiser. A white one. My least favorite car color.

This car is a huge eyesore. It’s the size of a bus, but it is low to the ground. Visibility sucks, the turning radius is lousy, and nothing is in a convenient, ergonomic location. On top it off, no-one takes me seriously on the road in this awful car. Forget trying to merge in traffic! No one wants to stare at the back end of this car. I’m like Rodney Dangerfield, no respect.

The PT Cruiser reminds me of that Simpson episode where Homer gets to design a car. “Powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball.”
Yeah, it’s just like that.


Corporate Hotels

The whole concept of a chain hotel is that you know what to expect. But it can get a little disconcerting when the hotel is so similar that you literally can’t tell if you’ve stayed at that precice location before.

Last night, I experienced an overwhelming sense of deja vu. My internal dialog went something like this: “I’ve stayed at an Embassy suites that looked like this one. On a road much like this one. With a strip-mall across the street, with that Greek restaurant and the coffee shop next door. There were gray-stucco non-descript mid-rise office park offices on the street. And the landscaping was the same… Have I stayed here before? The room configuration is exactly the same. There is that almost-soothing-but-too-loud waterfall noise eminating from the fake lagoon in the lobby. No, seriously, have I stayed at this exact hotel before? I don’t recall ever staying in Milpitas before; I usually stay in Mountain View. The view from the window is similar. Have I stayed here, in this room, before?”

In the end, I decided that I hadn’t stayed at that specific Embassy Suites before. But it is eerily similar to one in El Segundo.

If you’re asking. I don’t love chain hotels that cater to corporate travellers who really just want to feel as though they aren’t staying in different places even though they are travelling every night. I really prefer some local flair.

But perhaps I’m missing the point. The local flair of California is… corporate. That’s what they do well.

Update: A fellow hotel guest was struggling to remember his floor number in the elevator. Our brief conversation was about how all the hotels look exactly the same and he just couldn’t remember what room he was in at this hotel, this time. This is a sad, sad, widespread problem.


Italian? Yeah, right

I actually studied Italian. I took a few semesters of it in college, lived in Florence for a semester, and even managed to pass (just barely) a graduate-school-level language exam in Italian as my foreign language requirement.

But don’t get the idea that I remember any Italian; because I do not. Really. I can barely place an order for wine and pasta at a restaurant, and culinary Italian is common knowledge. Just keep in mind that I haven’t been to Italy since 1993, and I haven’t studied any Italian since 1997. That’s over 10 years of cumulative, degenerative forgetting. So I’m not buying the encouraging words of my peers who suggest: “oh, it will all come back to you easily once you’re immersed in the culture again.” Let’s just say that I seriously doubt it.

Therefore, I will not be even pretending to know any Italian when I go over there in a month or so. Instead, I’ll just be another one of the stupid, spoiled Americans, who act as though everyone speaks American. And if they don’t, they really should. Perhaps if I just speak a few decibels louder, slower, and do more charades with my hands… yeah, that will work, won’t it?

Oooh, I have an idea. How about I wrap myself in maple-leaves? Then maybe I’ll get away with my ignorance without the ugly American stigma. Eh?


Travel Book: Getting Ready for the Summer

I’ve been looking through The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country In The World. It’s an attractive book, with nice photos, and a little information about each locale, many of which are quite exotic to me.

Travel Book

I am particularly drawn to the pages on Greece and Eastern Europe. In July, I’ll be going on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Turkey & the Greek Isles with my mom, departing out of Venice. I haven’t been to any of the Greek islands, but I have been to the mainland, specifically the city of Athens and the town of Delphi. I am looking forward to seeing a bit more of the Mediterranean coast and visiting Santorini. In case you din’t know, I’m actually quite an island girl. I was born on an island, and islands have a special place in my heart.

Royal Caribbean Cruise to Greece

We depart July 11, and we are going to try to go over a bit early to have a little extra time on terra firma. I’ve not been to Eastern Europe, so we may try that. I really want to see Budapest, which everyone says is so gorgeous.


Lura World Tour?

I have a vague goal of doing a Lura World Tour.

In addition to making a trek to Albania to go to Lura National Park, I just found out that I need to go to Tibet / China.

In the middle of nowhere, directly between Lhasa and Chengdu, there is a town called Lura.

This place is situated in Markam, Xizang Zizhiqu (Tibet), China, its
geographical coordinates are 29° 56′ 0″ North, 98° 37′ 0″ East.

The problem is that this place, at first glance, looks ridiculously difficult to get to. It looks like the Gap adventures to China and Tibet fly over the Lura, but none of the organized tours go there.

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I really need to go back to France.


My Map of Visited Countries

create your own visited countries map

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Left America for the 3nd time in 2007

I left the US 3 times in 2007. Not bad, but not great. In 2008 I hope to jack that number up a little bit more — I’m shooting for 5 trips.

Two of my trips were to Canada (one for work), then there was the trip to Australia.

Whistler, Canada Xmas 2007


Seattle Revisited

I was up in Seattle again, from Friday to Sunday. This time, I was up there for an interview, which went well. On Saturday night, I had a great time with Kelli.

I spent some time looking for places to live. The lead contender is the Milano apartments in Bellevue.

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Channel Islands National Park Santa Cruz

On Wednesday we went to Santa Cruz Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park and surrounding marine sanctuary. On the way there (we took a boat through Island Packers), we saw two humpback whales feeding in the area.

Here’s a link to the gallery on Michael’s site.
Here’s one of the photos that I took.

Channel Islands Santa Cruz

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Best of Seattle Photos& Video Too

Here’s a Best of Seattle gallery that repeats only my favorite photos from our recent trip.

Seattle Best of gallery

Additionally, I have uploaded a couple of movies to my You Tube. They are peaceful, waterfall-related mini movies. Watch the spring thaw in action.



For a complete viewing of all photos, visit Michael’s three galleries from Seattle.

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Rainy Day: Perfect for Coffee and Tea

Well… the great weather couldn’t last. It was wet and rainy all day today in Seattle/Bellevue. We drove around a bunch of neighborhoods: Medina, Mercer Island, Ravenna, Queen Anne, Belltown, Fremont, etc.

We got lost a lot. Most of the streets include a directional notation example (35th street NW or N 34th Avenue), but it’s unbelievably confusing since you can’t see the sun most of the time in this rain-soaked city. So here’s a tip: if you visit Seattle and want to get around, you should either buy a compass or make sure that your rental car has a GPS system in it.

The good thing about the rain is that it is perfect for enjoying hot beverages. No wonder this city is the coffee capitol of the world! I had a latte at Starbucks, a mocha at Diva espresso. Then at Cafe Lladro in the Queen Anne neighborhood, I drink called a yankee something or other…. the recipe was described as an Americano + cappuccino foam. Since it was so cold and wet, we literally walked next door to have 3 full cups of tea at Teacup. With all the different drinks I’m getting a good tour of the inside of Seattle restrooms too!

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North Cascades National Park

Went to North Cascades National Park today…. sort of. You can’t actually drive into the park. You can drive on Hwy 20, which bisects the park, but the land just off of the highway isn’t the National Park…instead, it is called the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.

So… do we count it? Heck yeah! I’m not a backpacker/camper-type, and I don’t own a pontoon boat, so there isn’t much of a way to get into the actual park any other way.

Here’s a photo:

North Cascades National Park sorta

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In Seattle, Visiting Friends

We visited with Kelli, Chris, and their son Dillon. We had a great visit and a great meal.

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Mount Rainier National Park

We went to Mount Rainier National Park today. Neat area. Here are two photos… the gallery will be posted soon.

Lura at Mt Rainier National Park

a Fox at Mt Rainier National Park

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Mom’s 80th B-day

Going to Tampa for my mom’s 80th birthday party & family reunion.

Here’s a photo of my mom and I at the 2005 Rose Parade.

Lura & Mom at 2005 Rose Parade

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American Idol – Aussie Woohoo, Yeehoo!

I have to admit that I’ve been sucked into watching American Idol this year… and I like it…and I’m supporting LaKisha for the winning spot.

Anyway, if you happened watch tonight’s performance, you saw Gwen Stefani’s performing the song Sweet Escape. If you recall my blog on Oz Music, that’s one of the songs that I associate with Australia!

Picture it: driving on the right side of the car, windows down, summertime weather, driving in the middle of nowhere Tasmania singing along to Sweet Escape. And what an escape it was!

Woohoo, Yeehoo Woohoo, Yeehoo (If I could escape) Woohoo, yeehoo (If I could escape) Woohoo, Yeehoo

Driving in Oz


Jellyfish in Australia

There is an invasion of deadly jellyfish near where I visited in Australia. It shut down production of a major motion picture. Here’s a link.

Thank goodness, my only encounter with a species of Australian jellyfish was of a far less toxic kind, the Bluebottle. Here is a link to my photo gallery of Manly Beach, which was closed to surfing and most swimming due to a lot of bluebottles.

Bluebottle at Manly Beach


Hangin’ with Koalas

What an Australian tourist day! I went to a Koala sanctuary in Brisbane and got to snuggle with a koala. I also got a chance to pet and feed kangaroos (males, mums, and joeys) and pademelons.

After that, I walked all around downtown Brisbane — along the Brisbane river and through the Central Business District (CBD). It’s Chinese New Year, and all of Australia seems to celebrate it with parades and festivities in the their respective China Town district. I caught a dragon dance and a lion dance at Brisbane’s festival.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time scheduled for Brisbane and the city is pretty closed down on Sunday afternoons. I have a few more hours tomorrow morning before my plane, but basically my trip has come to a close.

It has been a wonderful, memorable trip.


A Relaxing Day in Tasmania

I had the most relaxing day today at the Royal Tasmanian Gardens, Hobart.

Originally, the day started out very overcast and cloudy…. that’s when I decided to go to the gardens instead of 7 mile beach.

The gardens were beautiful and very relaxing. I walked around, sketched, napped, and watched the clouds go by. I also listened… to the sounds of Tasmania which include lots of happy children calling out to “mummy” and the kookaburra bird. I couldn’t see the famous birds, but I could hear them talking to one another.

All in all, a great day. Now I’m waiting for my plane. I’m traveling tonight to Brisbane.


Music in Oz

I don’t know if everyone is like me…. but I tend to associate certain songs with certain places. Usually it happens when the local DJs go crazy for a particular song and play it over and over. And, since I’m listening to the local radio station in the car, thus setting the stage for a musical memory. So I have two musical memories.

  • First, the local radio station seems to have Scissor Sister’s I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’‘ on continuous loop.
  • Second, I just love Gwen Stefani’s The Sweet Escape which seems to play every time I step into the car and I heard it in a few Sydney shops too.

Both songs make me smile, and both will forever be associated with Oz for me.


View from the Top

Today, I drove to the top of Mount Wellington. What a view!

On a clear day (which it was) I felt like I could see all the way to Antartica… but not quite. In addition to taking photos at the summit, I tried to walk a bit down some of the paths. But they are steep and I am sore from my hike at Wineglass bay yesterday.

Instead of pushing it, I opted for the rest of the day as a lazy day in the city: a pint of beer, a walk around the Hobart harbor, an ice cream cone, and some wine tasting of local wines at the liquor shop.


Driving on the Wrong Side

I’ve rented a car to drive around Tasmania. It’s such a challenge to drive on the opposite side of the road. Thankfully, people drive slowly here… it gives me some time to think. Every movement is a thoughtful process and going around the roundabouts is always a gamble. Still, I’m glad that I decided to rent the car. There really isn’t a choice like there is in the big cities. In order to see anything here in Tasmania, you need a car.

I think that there is something about driving on the left that requires additional road signs. There’s a million “keep left” signs, and the painted street crossings always tell you which way to look. It’s almost as if they know, deep down, that this is a more difficult way to orient themselves.

The funniest part about being in opposite land is that I am constantly dancing with people as we attempt to pass while walking or hiking. Our normal tendencies collide and we end up dancing. It has made for a few funny scenes.


Tasmania Mania

I’ve arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. It’s very different from Sydney and very nice also.

I went for a hike in Mt Field National Park at Russell Falls. Right at the base of the falls, another hiker called out for me to stop. The reason? There was a huge tiger snake hanging out right there on the walking path – just waiting to kill someone.

Eventually, that snake left. Another was spotted in the next 5 minutes. Then I went on an hour long hike, and came upon another one making his way up the path. First, I retreated and got the hell out of the way; then I made as much noise as possible to try to dissuade the snake from the path.

If a death-defying adventure isn’t what you were hoping to read about in this blog, I saw other wildlife in the park too. I saw a momma wallaby and a joey hopping around. I also saw a pademelon.

On the drive back to Hobart, I did a bit of blackberry picking from the wild bushes along the road. The area is a really good wine region… it’s comparable to the Russian River area of California. They also grow Cascade hops on hop farms.


Soaked to the Bone, a day for music and storytelling

Well, I went to the blue mountains with the Oz Experience yesterday, but the weather was not cooperating with me being able to view the Three Sisters rock formation. So…. instead, I went to Wentworth Falls. Normally it is a trickle of a waterfall. But yesterday it was a rushing torrent of water. We were all drenched.

The tourguide, Adam, took us indoors for lunch and brought out his didgeridoos. He played the thing well, and even told a story with it in true Aboriginal style. I got a chance to try it and I was able to make a decent sound. But the breathing is the really difficult part of playing the instrument.


Bluebottles at Manly

I took a ferry to Manly beach. It is a really great surf spot, but I don’t surf. I had intended to go swimming, but the beach was invaded by bluebottles. Bluebottles are the local type of jellyfish. They were especially prominent nearest to shore… and the lifeguards really had their hands full trying to help the children and tourists who were adamant about getting in the water despite the announcements over the loudspeakers and posted “beach closed” signs.

It was also a rainy day… sort of. Sydney is going through a drought, so the rain came in 5 minute bursts of sprinkling showers.

I’m going go crazy with the chickas staying in my hostel room. I don’t know how I managed to get a room with the most boring homebodies. One girl was sleeping at 8pm, when I returned from dinner. Everyone was asleep by ten. And, as far as I can tell, I’m the only one with an excuse. I’m headed off to the Blue Mountains for a hiking day trip, so I’m up at 6 am for a 7 am departure.


A Day at the Opera

Went to The Marriage of Figaro opera at the Sydney Opera House. The singing was amazing. If you’ve never seen an opera, see this one. It is very accessible and understandable. Trust me; this is only my 3rd or 4th opera ever and generally speaking they are like taking cultural medicine. But not this one. It will be a really treasured memory for years to come.

My seats were about 5 rows from the stage… which sounds like fabulous seats and they were excellent for viewing the action and minute details on the stage. But that opera is sung in Italian, and (thankfully) they project the English translation onto a tiny screen high above the stage. So there was a good bit of my craning my neck to look up. In an effort to really see the words and not miss the action, I was slumping so far in my chair that I was practically lying on the floor.

The singing was fantastic, and the costumes were excellent. But they really needed my help in the historical consulting realm. There were so many anachronistic props! They had an electric iron, a metal wheelchair, a salon hair drying contraption, and a plastic “couple” on top of the wedding cake. I’m giving the director the benefit of the doubt that this was a decision rather than a series of oversights. It has to be…. and besides, I was probably the only one who noticed the anachronistic props.


The World is Fat

In case you haven’t noticed…. the whole world is fat. I mean it! Don’t wax poetic about the French woman’s diet until you’ve visited a hostel recently. I hadn’t stayed in a hostel in a dozen years. Everyone is bigger. And I mean everyone… even the folks speaking French. I’m guessing here, but my guess is that women are about 15 pounds bigger at the age of 18/20 than they were a dozen years ago, and the guys are schlubbs too: at least 10 pounds bigger and all of it around the middle.

So I chatted with the Irish chef/traveler about this topic. We discussed various aspects of things. The typical suspects turned up (not enough walking, eating too many fried foods, and fast foods) but we also discussed the issue of variety. I really think that variety is the key to the change.

All humans are hardwired to take full advantage of food variety. It is the reason why we eat like pigs at the buffet table. Well the Western world has had an unprecedented increase in food variety: fruits in winter, cross pollination of food preparation techniques. Even backwater towns have a dim sum restaurant nowadays. As a result, things that used to be true delicacies are commonplace. And everything is everywhere. Nothing is too difficult to find. Compare that with the cuisine in 1970s America and you’ll begin to see my point.

The chef agreed. He has noticed that in the past ten years the Irish have truly broadened their palate. Now they eat more than just the standard fare of potato-based meals. Now everything is pasta-based, or prepared in the rich French style. It definitely helps his wallet, but it is bad on the belly.

Our riches will be our downfall. Every thriving economy with a thriving trade in goods and services is doomed to be fat.


Long Walk & Long Talks in Sydney

Went for a long walk yesterday. Walked all over town. It really is the only way to get to know a city. Walking gives you a completely different perspective on a city. Every blemish is visible, at the same time that every hidden gem is revealed. Sydney continues to impress me. The only thing that is less-than-desirable is that the Sydneysiders (that’s what the residents call themselves) are so reserved that I seem to only be able to “meet-n-greet” with immigrants and travelers.

So yesterday I met some immigrants: a white guy from Zimbabwe, a Korean who grew up in both the US and Dubai, and a dark-skinned British Arab. (I mention his skin color because it is important to the story.) I’ve decided that all British find it great sport to attempt to “wind up” us Americans – especially when there is a pint of beer to be enjoyed, but I don’t fall for it anymore. This former Brit tried to wind me up by attempting to tell me that Thomas Jefferson had black Arab ancestry in his immediate/recent familial chain. I simply wasn’t playing along the way he would have liked, but we did have a good laugh about it all.

I’ve also found myself in more than a few political discussions. I’ve described how the electoral college works; I’ve been asked to explain how and why Arnold won the governorship, I’ve even been in the unenviable position of attempting to explain how it is that someone could be in favor of gun ownership rights and still be a sane, logical person. And many people have asked me who I think the presidential candidates will be. As a result of these conversations, I’m more convinced than ever that, despite their view of America as being of being full of arrogant lemmings, citizens of every other country are absolutely riveted to the minute exigencies of our system of government. It is weird to be simultaneously so desired and yet feel the sting of such repulsion.


Sydney Settling In

Yesterday, I tried to check into my Sydney hostel. The hostel’s computers were down, so I went next door to do email…. came back and the computers were still down… so they let me drop my bags and go out for the day. When I finally returned, around 7pm, I found out that I was trying to check into the wrong hostel. That one is on the same street, roughly 10 minutes from this one. Similar name. Thankfully, this one is *much* better: cleaner and newer.

I did a city tour bus yesterday. One of those jump on/off deals. Unfortunately the Sydney Diva’s tour (by the drag queens) is only done on Sundays and is typically booked up weeks in advance.

Big news is that I was able to get an opera ticket for the Syndney Opera house Sat performance of The Marriage of Figaro (in Italian, with English subtitles.) I paid a bit more for tickets, but I’m only a few rows from the stage. Looking forward to that.

Sydney is a very nice place. Totally clean. Despite the fact that it is a city, it’s has almost no bums, and the central park is amazing. I could totally live here.

I met an Irish guy who is a chef. He travels for 3 months a year, then works his ass of the rest of the year to pay for it all. Sounds like a good way to live! For an American, I’m well traveled. Amongst the world traveler set, I’m positively homebound.


Cruise to Mexico

For Thanksgiving 2006, Michael and I went on a week-long cruise of the Mexican Riviera on-board the Oosterdam, a Holland-America cruise-liner. Overall, it was OK, and the best part is that I didn’t gain any weight – despite all of the good food.

Here’s a link to all the photos and Michael’s blog post.


New Zealand Trip – September 2006

Michael and I went to New Zealand for 11 days. It’s springtime there. We had a fantastic time.

Here’s a link to Michael’s blog post and photo galleries.


Went to Hawaii – November 05

Had a great time in Honolulu, Hawaii – Oahu island. Here’s a link to the photo gallery.


Fall in New England – October 2005

We enjoyed our trip to New England.

a river runs through it

marina in Kennebunkport

Leaves in New Hampshire

Here’s a link to Michael’s photo gallery.


Mammoth Lakes for Thanksgiving 2004

We had a blast in Mammoth for Thanksgiving. We stayed in a beautiful lodge/mansion owned by our friend Ralph’s brother.

The first night was spent doing moonlight snow shoeing. This activity rocked. Snow shoeing is like hiking on the top of snow. I saw some big cat tracks (puma) and hoof prints (which must have been from deer or elk).

The next day was Thanksgiving. Before chowing down on tons of food, we did cross country skiing. I liked this activity, but Michael and Ralph weren’t that excited about it. I managed to stay up on the skis for the most part, which was great.

The day after Thanksgiving, MAS and I had our first down hill skiing lesson. I really had a great time. I was fairly competent at skiing. In fact, I was teacher’s pet and a star student during the class. Then…..well, then I got cocky and a little stupid. I decided to go up on the intermediate course. But the chair lift ride up to the next level made me terribly altitude sick. My head was pounding like a giant drum. It was so bad that I got nauseous and had problems concentrating. So I took a few tumbles on the way down the mountain. Eventually, I realized that I was very much out of my comfort zone. So I took off my skis, sat on my butt, and scooted down the rest of the way down the mountain to a much flatter area. From there I geared back up and skied in the rest of the way in to the Main Lodge.

A glutton for punishment, we took a snow boarding lessons the next day. Snow boarding is hard. Really hard. I fell on my butt and got a huge bruise. But no broken bones. Thank goodness.

Here’s a link to Michael’s blog post and photo gallery.


Grand Canyon Visit – April 2003

Here’s a link to:


Grand Canyon – A Death Defying Visit

Grand Canyon Airlines Scare – the first clue

You might also be interested to note that we almost didn’t make it back alive. We were in a very, very scary, very perilous situation during out sight-seeing airplane trip in the Grand Canyon. There had been a snow storm earlier, but the storm lifted and these 30-something cowboy pilots said “we’ll give it a try.” That was the first clue, but I didn’t comprehend it as a statement that should have caused concern.

The second clue

Michael recounted (after-the-fact) that he heard the pilots quoting lines from the movie Dumb and Dumber prior to take off. I didn’t see the movie, nor did I recognize the dialog. So, this too was ignored.

The Ride

We got up in the air and it was a white-knuckle ride all the way. We hit some serious turbulence just a minute or so after take off. When we got close to the canyon, the turbulence was severe. I looked out the windows and saw us dip and sway and I just kept thinking that, at any moment, we were going to be dashed into the canyon rocks and killed. Michael says that at one point we were literally being blown by the wind currents so much that we were just barely keeping upright. I am not exaggerating when I say that all 8 of us passengers were scared out of our wits. That fear of falling that I have was in full effect.

We had sudden, significant, losses of altitude on several occasions due to wind shears and turbulence. The pilots also had to deal with severe wind gusts as we landed. I am just amazed that they landed in one try. They landed with one wing practically scraping the ground and it felt as if the plane was going to be overturned in the process. Suffice it to say, that I could not have been happier to feel terra firma under my feet, and I was damn glad that we were driving home to San Diego so that I wouldn’t have to go up in the air so soon after that incident. It was bad enough that the airlines offered to give all of us our money back, but we all had way too much adrenaline running through our systems to even comprehend that kind of transaction.

Perhaps strangely, considering the events, I don’t have a new fear (fear of flying) to add to my list of phobias. I will fly again, it just won’t be soon. And I will never, ever, ever go for a plane ride in the Grand Canyon again. Furthermore, I shall think twice (maybe three times) before flying in “iffy” weather conditions – especially in anything smaller than a jumbo jet.



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