Tag Archives: Vacations

Are You Still There?

I wouldn’t blame you if you’re not. I certainly haven’t been around. I plead vacations, with the excuse that I was leaving occasional posts and pictures on Facebook. Then I got sick.

I went to Peru for a few weeks.

Peru won.

I did try to be careful. Bottled water everywhere, even for brushing teeth. No eating unpeeled fruit or uncooked vegetables. Well, mostly.

There’s no telling where I picked it up, but it wasn’t just me. Illness crept through our group of ten, one person at a time. In fact, I made it all the way home before illness struck, two days later. Himself got sick our last day in Peru and the poor guy had to maneuver through airports and planes while practically unconscious. That was bad enough for me, I can’t imagine what it was like for him.

I think we’re over it. Our strength is back and we’ve started weeding the yard again. Taking short walks. Housework and other chores are easier. I may even have the strength to write this post.

Peru was… interesting. Gorgeous, of course, and amazing in many ways. It was challenging for us. Altitude sickness was a problem – I needed oxygen while hiking the Incan Trail, which was scary. We did the one-day section, up to the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. We spent more than two weeks above 6,000 feet, most of it above 10,000. I learned that, while I love mountains, I prefer them of reasonable height. I have new respect for sea level.

Here, have a few pictures. The lake is Titicaca, the town is Cusco as viewed from the Sun Temple. The group picture is on the Incan Trail after reaching Machu Picchu, which you can see in the last photo. Wild, huh? I’ll post more pics later!

 

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Oktoberfest in Munich

Somehow, we managed to be in Munich for Oktoberfest. We didn’t plan this, it’s all serendipity.  But here we are, and we had an awesome time, thanks to even more serendipity.

We had a good day wandering through the Marienplatz, a popular square with a huge street market. Then we had a not-so-wonderful time exploring Dachou, site of the first of Hitler’s concentration camps.

We returned to our hotel with plenty of time to walk the scant mile to where the Oktoberfest was happening.  So we bundled up against the freezing wind and set out.

Did you know that Munich’s festival is also a huge amusement park? We sure didn’t, but it is! We walked the whole thing then got a serious about finding beer.

Now keep in mind we’ve never done this before. We didn’t know the setup and don’t speak German. True, most Germans speak at least some English but it was chancy just stopping people on the street to find out the rules. We tried.

The beer appeared to be sold in huge tents set up as biergartens. We entered one and were blown over by the noise. Had to be two thousand people in there, most at tables filled with food and giant mugs of beer. Wait staff rushed everywhere with trays laden with food or fingers wrapped through handfuls of full giant mugs.

We are tender and wimpy and we turned to high-tail it to safety. But once outside in the relative normalcy of the amusement park crowd, we girded our loins for a second try. I was NOT going to be in Munich for Oktoberfest and leave without drinking a single beer!

The next tent we entered was just as crowded and loud as the first one.  But this time I saw a security g u y talking to two Asian girls in English. When they were finished talking we grabbed him and asked how it worked that we could sit somewhere and have a drink.

He said the center section was reserved for the vendors “people” but we could snag a table along the sides by finding a girl with a white balloon and reserving it. So we set off in search of our little white rabbit, and found her in under a minute as she stepped down from a raised block of tables.

Such was the noise, that I had to run and firmly tap her shoulder to get her attention. Thank goodness she spoke English too! And most amazing of all, she said a party had not shown up for their table, and if we wanted to sit right now, and were willing to share with strangers, we could have the table, which was upstairs.

So we followed her to our table and she set off to find companions for us. We ordered ONE (1) giant mug of beer to share between us. Soon a pretty 20 – something girl wearing a traditional dirndl slid onto the bench next to me. Her name was Stephanie and she was expecting several friends to join us, if we did not mind. We were happy to have them and yes, we had a great time. They were all young professionals with a local media company, very polite, silly with each other, and kind to us. We shared a meal, sang along with the band, and raised our glasses in many salutes.

So there it is. A memorable evening of celebrating beer and humanity. What a blast!

Here’s a picture if the center of the room:

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Proof we were there:

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A few if our new friends:

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In Which the Author Debriefs

What a summer it’s been! We’ve visited two sets of kids’ families, one by air, the other by car. In between visits, I had the flu. Timing is everything, right? We’re home now, for a brief break before we head off to Germany. Can’t finish the year without a trip to Europe!

I love our travels abroad, but of course I like the family visits best. Grandkids are such fun. They’re all getting so big, too. The oldest of this second batch is a fourth grader next year. She’s followed by a couple who are starting first grade, with the rest following in one or two year increments. We keep track using a spreadsheet.

A postcard picture with the San Antonio batch.
A postcard picture with the San Antonio batch.
Washington provides a beautiful backdrop to visits with my son's family.
Washington provides a beautiful backdrop to visits with my son’s family.

And look here! We loaded up on my kids’ invented beverage, S’Quiela. It’s not available in California yet, so our trip north gave us a chance to buy some. I recommend it with a shot (or half) of tequila. Perfect!

Mom buying S'Quiela wherever she can find it.
Mom buying S’Quiela wherever she can find it.

The next immediate mission for me is to lose the three pounds I gained eating ice cream with the grandkids and then keep trying to lose the last ten. Also, Himself and I have returned to the gym and I’ve begun yoga again. We had let all this go with all the family obligations going on over the last year, and we could really feel the difference in our bodies. We have lost strength and energy during this time and we need to get serious about getting it back. At our age, we can’t let any opportunity pass us by!

So that’s the report around here. How are you all liking the Shipbuilder chapters? I’m increasing the frequency of those posts, otherwise we won’t finish the book before next year! Everyone must keep up, okay? If you like the story, run over to Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, or iTunes to pick up Bridgebuilders the next book in the Time Travel Journals series. If you like fantasy, give Moon Over Donamorgh or Worlds Apart a try!

While I’m on the subject of books, I received a big challenge from our friend, Bev, during our visit to Washington. She clobbered me over the head (figuratively, of course) about not getting any more books finished. No sympathy from her – I just better get busy and write!

I appreciate the shove, Bev. No more laying about for me!

Back from Alaska

The internet withdrawal, also known as a vacation – or holiday to my Brit friends – is over. I have been home for three hours, checked email, did the grocery shopping, and bought dinner at the deli. I know that last one is traitorous to my personal values, but hey.

It was an organic deli.

May I just say that Alaska is one gorgeous place. We saw just a tiny bit of it: Haines, Juneau, the Tracy Arm, and Ketchikan.  And look:

Exploring Mendenhall Glacier.
Exploring Mendenhall Glacier.

I got to walk around on a glacier. This included a helicopter ride to get there.

I would like to learn to fly a helicopter. They are seriously cool.

Here are a couple more pictures of the glacier.

Himself with the rest of our crew of glacier hoppers.
Himself with the rest of our crew of glacier hoppers.
Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier

Go ahead and enlarge that last one. It’s worth it.

We had a great time, but as usual, it’s good to be home!

Italy: Summary 3

I just finished a bookkeeping marathon. Is it just me, or does Amazon try really hard to make their reports obtuse?

But enough about that – I’ve got to finish summarizing Italy! Let’s go to Pompeii:

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Of all that we saw, I guess Pompeii left me feeling the most disappointed. I was really looking forward to seeing it, from a geological perspective as well as human tragedy. And really, it’s a very impressive site. It’s just so… touristy.  It was so crowded, there were places we had to shuffle elbow-elbow through the streets. And there’s an entire village of vendors selling piles of generic crap from China, most of it centered around Pompeii’s “erotic position” tiles that were found in a brothel. Evidently this is the main attraction.

No, if you really want to see Pompeii, I suggest you sign on as a volunteer with the research teams still excavating and restoring the site.  That would be cool.

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The vendor issue bothered me throughout Italy. All the important places were overrun with these folks and their pitiful wares. I know – we all need to make a living. But it ruins the experience of seeing these beautiful places.

Sorry – end of rant. Here’s a final picture of Pompeii, with Vesuvius looming in the background. You can see they probably loved the beauty of their home. But wow – to me, this is chilling.

Vesuvius over Pompeii

 

 

Italy: Summary 2

Now, where were we? Oh yeah, in Florence. You need more pictures:

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View of the river in Florence
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Typical street in tourist section

 

Copy of "David"
Copy of “David”

From Florence, we drove to Siena, where the medieval horse race, Palio, is held twice a year in this plaza:

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There’s also a large remnant of the original city walls and castle. Rick and I took a short walk there during a break after we first arrived. They still use it, too. There’s a restaurant/nightclub there, and they also have concerts in the amphitheater. That’s where Rick is sitting.

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Siena was one of the prettiest towns we visited. Here’s a view from the castle wall:

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The next day we headed to Rome, with a lunch stop in Pienza. It’s also a pretty town, but all we saw was the main tourist street. That was impressive for the fact that it was part of the original road leading to Rome. I don’t know where those pictures are, but I don’t have anything good to show you.

So. Rome. It’s huge, of course, and here’s a drawback to taking a tour: I have no concept of the city itself. I never looked at a map to place myself or to figure out how to get from “here” to “there.” I just followed along, looked where they pointed, and generally tried to keep up.

“Overwhelmed” is a good word. There’s just so much! 

We started in the Vatican. Yeah, I know. Me at the Vatican. No, there weren’t any lightening bolts. We wandered through the museum and were duly impressed. But the Sistine Chapel simply struck us silent. Pictures don’t do it justice, believe me. Being there, looking up at the ceiling and the walls… holy cow, those are truly gorgeous images. Utterly alive, colorful, and vibrant, even after 1500 years.

After the Vatican, we went to the Forum and Colosseum. We also walked through many streets to discover the famous fountains and squares that you see in so many movies.  My favorite impression was of a walk down a busy, modern (albiet, old) street lined with sidewalk cafes and shops, then coming into a large square, where loomed above us a very old and stately building. It was like a time warp. The building was the Pantheon, built more than 2000 years ago as a temple to all the gods. It was absolutely beautiful.

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The Pantheon in Rome

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Entering the Pantheon

Roman Coleseum
Roman Coleseum
Inside the Colosseum
Inside the colosseum

I could show you a million pictures from Rome, but I’ll be merciful. Another post, another day!

Italy: Summary 1

Whew. Life has sure been hectic. It’s not slowing down yet either, but I must not allow myself any excuses to not post. Must. Write. Post.

So here goes. The big trip summary. I could write pages and pages, but I’ll be merciful. You get just a summary. In a way, this also a recap for me, since I ran out of time and energy to keep a daily journal. Looking back on previous posts, I see I finished off Ireland but gave you pretty much nothing on Italy. So here goes.

We booked a tour for this trip. It was our first time in Italy and we wanted the highlights, with a view to returning another time for more in-depth experiences. This worked well, I think, with some disappointments, but mostly a week full of Wow.  Italy is full of history, and a highlight trip is going to hit the places that show you the most famous parts. So we saw a lot of statues, paintings, incredible buildings, and really, really old towns.

And we ate. A lot. I believe I’ll save that for a separate post.

Our itinerary included Venice, Modena, Florence, Siena, Pienza, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, and the Isle of Capri. Each place had its own flavor and specialty. All were amazing places and I’m so glad I got to see them. I’m a lucky gal.

I already posted a couple of pictures of Venice, but you need more. There’s just something wild about a city built around canals.

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We also went to the island of Burano, a fishing village with beautiful colorful houses.

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Modena was a blast, but since it was just a pit stop tour of a balsamic vinegar farm/factory, I’ll put that in the upcoming food post. You’ll love it, I promise.

Florence – holy cow, almost every Italian genius you can think of was born in Florence. The town really plays this up, with lots of museums and statues everywhere. This is where you can see the original statue of David. You can’t take pictures in that museum, but there’s a copy of the statue outside in a plaza. There are better pictures of this statue online, I’m sure, so I’ll show you some buildings and other statues.

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I’ll give you a break and post more later!