Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Last Galapagos Post: lizards and iguanas

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

The tan iguanas are land iguanas; the red and black ones are marine iguanas (or in one case an ex-marina iguana). There’s also a photo of a hybrid between the two, using its marine parent’s climbing abilities to climb up a cactus-tree and eat the fruit – there are only 18 of these known. There’s also a little lava lizard, an iguana skull and a whale skeleton, plus a couple images of a fairly young lava flow (about 100 years old) just for texture. As always, click on any photo to see it bigger.

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Galapagos 4: bird photos

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

During the trip, we saw the Galapagos mockingbird, lava gulls, albatrosses (freaky!), blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, various finches, short-eared owls, frigatebirds, red-billed tropic birds, brown pelicans, great blue herons, cattle egrets, yellow-crowned night herons, penguins swimming by very fast, and even flamingoes (at quite a distance). We don’t have photos of all of those, but…

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Galapagos 3: Photos (tortoises and sea lions)

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

OK, time for what I know everyone wants to see – the photos. I want to include too many to do it all in one entry; I’ve debated about whether to split them by day, location, or what, but I’ll be mixing together two sets of photos, mine on the iPhone and Ted’s with the DSLR and zoom lenses, and it’s not always obvious which island what photo is from. Also, all the tortoises would have been on the first day anyway, since the only ones we saw were in the high-altitude rainy area in the middle of Santa Cruz island, as we were driven from Baltra airport to Puerto Ayora where we met the ship on our first day. So instead, I will divide them up by subject – tortoise and sea lion photos the first day plus crabs and scenery shots, then birds, then iguanas and lizards. (We also saw sting rays, lots of tropical fish and a couple of penguins, but those were all in the water and we didn’t have a waterproof camera.) You can click on any of the thumbnails to make them bigger.

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I took the first one below, then turned around 180 degrees and took the second:
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Also, bonus sea turtle! This photo wasn’t taken by us, but by another person on our trip who was smart enough to bring a waterproof camera. (Posted here with permission.)
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Galapagos Trip: About the trip

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

We visited the Galapagos islands aboard the Reina Silvia, a 91′ ship, along with 10 passengers (including us), 7 crew members and our amazing guide Fernando. Fernando is a marine biologist, former member of the Galapagos National Park Service, diver, and the guy who runs the Galapagos Challenge triathlon, so he pretty much knows everything about the Galapagos – it was obvious when we met him that we were in good hands.

Our ship’s passenger list included a doctor, a music teacher, a choral director, a lawyer, three engineers of various kinds, two retirees, a nice Jewish family, a speech language pathologist, three generations, a brother and sister, one single woman, three married couples, two women and a man whose significant others didn’t come along, two people even shorter than I am and one only barely taller, a triathlete, a swimmer, two rowers, two river rats, a couple of skiers, and ten people who like to travel. (There are a total of ten people included in that list above.)

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The Ecuadorian government strictly controls who comes to the Galapagos, where they can go and when they can be at each island. There are two basic itineraries, eastern and western; we took the eastern route, visiting more of the smaller islands.

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Fernando kept us busy – here’s a sample agenda for just one day.
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Galapagos Trip: Quito

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Finally, a real travel entry! (I know, I’ve fallen way behind on the wines.) For Ted’s parents’ 50th anniversary, they asked us to plan a family trip. We decided to go with them to the Galapagos – they’re birdwatchers, and it was a place we’d wanted to see. Ted decided to do the thing up in style – so when his parents drove up here the evening before, we kicked off dinner with a champagne toast, to a cumulative 73 years of happy marriage, theirs plus ours, and the hope for as many more. Before dawn the next morning, we were picked up by a stretch limo for our trip to the airport (sorry, no photos – the parents are in all of them, and don’t want their images used in an identifiable way on the Internet). For their next surprise, we’d cashed in our airline miles so that the four of us could travel in comfort up in Business class. Good thing, because it was a long trip – one five hour flight to Atlanta, then another to Quito.

We finally arrived at our hotel at 2AM, so we took it easy the next day, just walking around the Mariscal area close to our hotel, which has restaurants and galleries. This included a visit to the local artisan market, where we got most of our souvenir shopping out of our systems. The next day, we elected to skip the canned tours and go on our own to the colonial city center, which has a bunch of churches dating back to the 1600s. Our first stop was Santo Domingo; in a lucky stroke, Ted’s mom asked if there was a map to the attached museum – there wasn’t, but the attendant closed the museum door and conducted us personally through the old monastery that serves as a museum, including several areas that are kept locked. From there we walked to the City Museum, which was very good, sat down in their cafe to enjoy a coffee (tea for me), then to the other old churches: San Francisco, the Society (of Jesuits), and the Cathedral in the Plaza Grand, the square at the heart of the city. We finished up with our first meeting with our fellow passengers and a guide (who turned out not to be ours, just filling in) then a quick dinner to get ready to head out to the islands!
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reunion rundown

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Yes, another one – mine this time, It was my 30th high school reunion (held half a year late because my class is not so organized). The reunion was great, actually. It was funny – the whole thing was conceived and hatched on Facebook, so that’s where all the pre- and post-discussion was, I have never seen my FB feed explode as it did that weekend. Every time I went in there were a zillion new notifications or messages.

Whenever I felt at loose ends or wasn’t sure who to talk to, I walked around and took photos of everyone. Then I posted them right away. This proved to be a successful social strategy and useful too, as it made sure everyone was photographed, kept me busy, and provided documentary for people who weren’t able to make it. I think I ended up getting more photos than anyone else; I only saw two pictures of myself that weren’t on my own phone (from the times when I took a picture, then someone grabbed my phone and said “Now you get in the shot”). Given how unphotogenic I am, I kind of like having custody of all of my photos!

January is definitely Not a Good Time for a reunion. At least one person didn’t come specifically because she didn’t want to travel to Philadelphia in January (she lives in Hong Kong and does travel a lot for work and fun). Several people who intended to make it couldn’t, due to flu. And we all got marooned at the hotel Sunday morning when there was an ice storm that shut down major roads and bridges. Luckily it warmed up enough so we could leave by noon or so.

I think the state store system has done horrible things to Pennsylvania’s drinking habits. For context, the reunion was held in a Fraternal Order of Police Lodge that, in addition to the function rooms, has a restaurant / bar for its members. We had a cash bar. So it ought to be fully stocked, right? The actual conversation went:

Me: What kind of red wine do you have?
Bartender: It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Me: Cool, I’ll have that. Just curious – what kind is it?
Bartender: You mean, like, what brand?

I’m having a hard time imagining that happen in Portland. (At the very least, they’d ask what winery; more likely they’d have a selection of local wines.) At the hotel bar later, they at least did have several types of red wine, though only one of each.

Anyway, it was unanimously agreed that it was a great reunion. It was a different kind of good time than Ted’s college reunion that we went to in January; there we got to have long conversations with good friend over the course of the weekend; here I connected to a lot of different people but there wasn’t really time and space to talk much. Mostly we talked just about the reunion itself and about high school. I think everyone felt that a bit, and the locals are arranging some more outings together.

It was also good to see Mom, and my brother, SIL, and nephew. Mom seems to be very happy and active in her new place, and is making friends. The place had a very nice jazz brunch – the last one of those I went to was in the Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans, so it obviously wasn’t quite on that scale but it wasn’t on that pricing scale either! But the food was excellent and there was plenty, including a Shrimp Louie that did have some spice to it, as well as real bagels and good lox (not a specialty in New Orleans but a brunch requirement in Philly!) and the band was good as well. Even the regular food there is pretty good, and there are lots of activities – it seems like a good fit for Mom.

My nephew Hunter is 3 and a half now, and is still convinced that the world should bend to his will if he only says “I want it!” enough but I think he’s starting to realize it’s a forlorn hope. (“Sorry, Hunter, they don’t have apple juice here.” “But dey do! Dey do have appo dzus!”) He protests but doesn’t throw a tantrum when the adults are cruel enough to make him go on the potty or drink the wrong kind of juice or whatever. It was good to spend time with all of them – we also got to have a very tasty Japanese teppanyaki dinner with my SIL’s aunt and uncle.

Hawaii: a delayed report

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I’ve been terrible about updating, and I do have stuff to tell about. We just came back from a fantastic four-day weekend in New Orleans where we reunited with a bunch of Ted’s college friends and their spouses. But before I can even talk about that I need to mention our trip to Hawaii at the end of September.

I’d never been there and had wanted to go, ever since we went to Cairns in Australia and everyone was talking about how much it resembled Hawaii. Ted’s been there before, but it was back in his teenaged years so he was ready for a revisit too. Normally I prefer winter adventures (liek the Ice Hotel) to tropical ones, so I wasn’t actually expecting to like Hawaii as much as I did, but we had a great time. Possibly all the Mai Tais had something to do with that, but I think it was mostly the warm ocean itself – I tried to make sure I got in the water every day, even on the days we went off exploring.

We spent our first few days on Oahu, in Waikiki. The beaches were crowded, but we enjoyed them anyway. We tried out boogie-boarding, not too successfully – where are you supposed to put your legs, anyway? – and stand-up paddleboarding with somewhat more success. We visited Pearl Harbor and I wished my Dad could have been with us – he’d have liked it. I’d been interested in visiting the Polyneian Cultural Center, but I was a bit uncomfortable when I found out it was run by the Mormon CHurch (and not, say, actual Polynesians) and I heard it described as a Disney-like version of history. So instead we went to the Bishop Museum, founded in honor of Bernice Bishop, the last Princess of Hawaii by her widower, and it was really excellent. That museum also helped us realize how alive Hawaiian culture really is even now, and what a large part of the people there are of Hawaiian ancestry, at least partly. (The Hawaiians were very open to marrying any immigrants who settled there, which may have helped their survival through all the germs said immigrants brought.) It’s definitely well worth a visit.

Also worth tasting are the Mai Tais, which we learned to like in Waikiki and ended up having most days we were in Hawaii, with the occasional Blue Hawaiian or Sandy Beach to lend variety. (Uh, when I say “learned to like” – there’s not much learning curve to it!)

After a few days there we went on to the Kona Coast of the Big Island. There we spent more time swimming, not to mention snorkeling, more SUP, kayaking, and of course drinking Mai Tais. We went out for a short ride on a glass-bottomed boat and got to see rays swimming right below us. Both in that boat and later that day with snorkels we also saw a ton of coral formations, right there in the shallow water in front of the hotel. We spent one day driving around the island, stopping to see steam rising from the crater at Volcanoes National Park – we’d have liked to do some flightseeing to see the active lava flows but the price was very high. So instead we circumnavigated the island in the car – even though this is the biggest of the Hawaiian islands, you can still drive around it in a day, seeing lots of spectular cliffs and gorges. Unfortunately, one of the things I’d wanted most to do didn’t work out – we went on an excursion up Mauna Kea to see the sunset and stars up there, but it was having one of its rare foggy days, so we mostly just saw gray. We did manage to get in a quick visit to the National Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, only fifteen minutes from our hotel and the home of the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Turbine – my senior project in college was to design a smaller version. (OTEC uses the potential energy inherent in the difference between the cold temperature of deep ocean water and the warm temps on the surface to generate electricity.) Sadly, they never really got the big one running, but there are hopes they’ll finally have it done sometime next year. Meanwhile they’re using the cold-water pipeline from the deeps for everything from cooling soil to grow wine grapes there to desalinating and selling to Japan as special 2000-year-old unpolluted drinking water, only $20 a bottle.

Next time, we definitely need to make it to Maui! And soon, I need to post a fe pictures and write up our New Orleans trip.

Seattle

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The thing is, we have a lot of Stuff. This makes it hard for us to think of new Stuff either of us needs, when birthdays and hoiday rolls around. So a few years ago, Ted remembered how much we’d enjoyed going to London for my 40th birthday, and surprised me with a trip to Venice. That went so well that we did a trip to Lisbon for another of my birthdays. This year, being in the Pac NW, we went to Seattle. As far as I’m concerned, this is a huge win: he does all the trip planning, because the trip is a present, and I don’t have to find a place for more stuff. (Also, it’s always the right size and color.)

We took two days off and made it a long weekend trip: we drove up Friday night after work and came back Tuesday, which gave us a full three days there – and I do mean a FULL three days. We stayed at Hotel 5 in Belltown, which was comfortable stylish, reasonably priced, and convenient for pretty much everything, being halfway between the Space Needle and Pioneer Square. . On Saturday, we walked out to the Space Needle area – had breakfast on the way at a Cherry Street Coffeehouse, which turned out to be a chain but didn’t feel like one. After that we went to the Chihuly Gardens and Glass, one of my favorite parts of the trip. Here’s why:

I’ve never seen a museum so well set up for photography; the walls were black and the lights were focused to bring out the colors of the glass. I was less fond of the EMP project, where we went next: Gehry designs beautiful buildings, but I don’t feel like they work as well as they’re supposed to as museums – all the exhibits are crammed into corners and niches, while the center of the museum has soaring spaces with nothing much in it. Still, the tower of guitars was cool:

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I also liked the exhibit on archetypes in fantasy, which had lots of interactive stuff. Here’s their rendition of me as a warrior maid:

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Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great day for the Space Needle, due to rain:

On the second day, we got to try some glassblowing ourselves. I made a paperweight and Ted made a hanging ornament:

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After that we took a hotel shuttle down to Pioneer Square and toured the underground city of old Seattle. No photos, because honoestly there’s not much to see there but a lot of old tunnels and cellars. It’s worth doing the tour, though, because the history and stories from the guides make it all come alive. We ate that night at Spur, not far from our hotel; after seeing the prices and hearing that the portions were quite small, we worried that it was the kind of nouvelle cuisine that leaves you feeling vaguely cheated, but the food turned out to be great.

On the third day, we took the tour of Boeing – actually, I’ve seen the 737 factory and a warehouse on the business trip (the warehouse was actually pretty incredible, like something out of Santa’s workshop) but the public tour let us see 747s, 777s and 787s being built, as well as a small exhibit center. That night was our only planned dinner and the other highlight of the weekend – Ted had gotten us a reservation at Canlis, which has apparently been one of Seattle’s top restaurants since the 1950s. I think it was the most incredible combination of food, wine, view and service I’ve ever experience – but one warning: it’s priced accordingly. It was a really spectacular finish to a great weekend, especially because the sun came up just in time to give us a dramatic sunset view over Seattle.

So all in all a great weekend; it could only have been better if we’d had some of the perfect weather during our trip that we had for the drives there and back. But then again, it wouldn’t really be Seattle if we hadn’t gotten rained on.

First US Road trip for Zonsopgang II

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Last weekend I raced in 2 regattas – in Portland, so it theoretically shouldn’t count as a road trip since both races were within 15 miles of our home in Hillsboro. However, it took over 10 hours of driving to make this happen. My single “Zonsopgang II” (for those not fluent in Dutch = Sunrise II, named after my old boat that got destroyed in a freak storm just before we left Arizona) has been all over the world with many road trips in Europe and a few in Taiwan, but it hadn’t traveled to a race within the US until now.

The reason so much driving was involved is that the boat is stored at out other house, which is 2.5 hours away. So I drove down Thursday night, picked up the boat, drove back to Portland on Friday, then raced on Saturday, raced on Sunday, drove down south on Monday to return the boat, and finally drove back to Hillsboro on Tuesday.

For both races the weather was horrible, with heavy rains and high winds. When they predict record rainfall in famously-wet Oregon, you know it’s something out of the ordinary! Two large fronts came through dumping about 10 inches of rain over three days. This took away a lot of the fun of racing. However, I was happy with my performance and finished in 2nd & 1st place finishes. Despite the bad weather the whole trip was worth it, because it gave me a chance to finally row in Portland and gave me an excuse to get a rack for the truck to hold our boats.

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Oregon or bust

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

We’ve made our decision: we’re going to Oregon. This definitely doesn’t cancel the trailer year, just postpones it again (if you’re one of the people who wanted to meet up on our travels, it will still happen, just later.) At the moment, Ted has a job, but I don’t. So it’s a bit of a gamble: either it works out and they hire me too …. or it doesn’t, and we go do something else.

But when / if we do, we’ll have a bit more time to prepare better than we can do from over here – get our health insurance in order, buy and practice driving a big rig, get all the books that talk about mountain grades and campgrounds, and figure out what else we need to know.