Category Archives: Uncategorized

At home in Idyllwild

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Greetings from Idyllwild, California — my home. Our response to the corona virus pandemic has been to cancel all our trips and stay home. We are so lucky to live in a beautiful place and are very happy to be home, for a change. The last several years, we’ve been away from home most of the time, so this is a wonderful change. I’ve gotten out my paints, my mahjongg tiles, my guitar, my cookbooks and have been busier than ever. We are very fortunate to live in a very quiet place with miles of trails and almost no people.

Our dogs Cory and Abby are delighted we’re home and are wonderful companions. This is Cory posing for a photo.

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This is Abby. I’ve been doing Pilates on Zoom — Abby likes to keep me company.

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We were supposed to be in Svalbard right now on our favorite expedition cruise line — Lindblad Expeditions — watching the aurora borealis and spotting polar bears on the coastline, but that trip was cancelled. It’s okay. The lights will be there when we eventually get to visit, and hopefully a couple polar bears (though they’re disappearing fast). Right now I’m enjoying watching all the birds at my feeders and the sunshine of Southern California. It’s a beautiful place.

I hope everyone reading this is safe and healthy. We will get through this difficult time.

Namaste!

 


Home from Cambodia

I’m afraid I haven’t been very good at posting to this blog. Barnaby and I still love to travel and have been traveling a lot these last few years. Often we’re in areas that don’t have good internet service and it can be very frustrating trying to post.

We’ve just gotten back from our second visit to Vietnam and Cambodia. We were there in February 2017 with my sister Ren, and wouldn’t have gone back so soon, but a group we enjoy traveling with planned a trip in a small boat traveling up the Mekong River from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The trip was wonderful. Saigon is always exciting to visit and growing so fast with new high-rise buildings dotting the skyline. We visited the war museum (a must for every American), did a little shopping, had several fabulous meals and went to a jazz club where Barnaby and several members of our group played.

This first photo is from the National Museum in Phomn Phen, Cambodia. This was our first visit to the Cambodian capital city. We were delighted to visit this gorgeous museum early in the morning before the tourists. This building was built during the French period in about 1920.

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The next two photos are from a small town on the Mekong River in Vietnam. This house belonged to a French woman that had fallen in love with a Vietnamese man back in the 20s. The affair ended badly but she is remembered fondly.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lotus flower go to seed. They are the most extraordinary flowers and beloved in this part of the world.

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I thought I would include a few photos of some of the nearly 1,000 temples that are in Cambodia. They all date back to the Khmer Period — 900 to about 1,200 AD. At that time approximately 1,000,000 people were thought to have lived in the Angkor area of Cambodia. When you see these gorgeous temples you can see how it would take thousands to build them. When the Khmer empire fell and Buddhism took over as the most common religion, the temples were no longer necessary and allowed to decay. Many have gone back to the earth, so to speak, the trees and plants taking root and breaking them apart.

As you can see from the next photo, Buddhist shrines are often found in the deepest recesses of these temples. These temples are mostly visited by tourists and monks, and watched over by police.

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We were so lucky to be able to spend a day traveling around Cambodia in a helicopter so that we could visit temples that were too far to travel to by car. The next several photos are from a temple that is on the Cambodian border with Thailand. It was incredibly beautiful and in good condition. It is built on a mountain and was a little cooler there. We were the only people there except for a few monks and the police that look over it.

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Every time the helicopter landed we drew a little crowd — mostly children. There were just four of us — Barnaby and I, and our friends Howard and Kathy, the monks and the woman next to Howard were just there for the photo!

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I was reminded of Machu Picchu when walking around these temples. The Khmer used huge blocks of sandstone and other harder materials, much like those in Peru, but they have elaborate carvings which you don’t see on the Incan structures.

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It’s always very interesting to spend time in a place that has had so much struggle and civil war. Sadly Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge Regime massacred nearly 3,000,000 of their own people from 1975 to 1979, shortly after the United States bombing during the Vietnam War had killed 600,000 to 700,000 Cambodians between 1970 and 1975 (basically paving the way for Pol Pot and his hideous regime to take over).

The Cambodian people are so beautiful, polite, and hard working — smiling in the face of adversity. They have come very far but there is still much hunger and poverty. I’m afraid the government is still full of corruption too. It makes me very sad when I come home and catch up on my periodical reading and see that our own country is quickly falling into the same trap that has plagued Asia: blaming education, intellectual pursuits and cultural advancements for unemployment and poverty. Mao and Pol Pot both started by getting rid of the educated and enlightened.  It’s so sad to see our own country heading down the same path.

I think that’s why we travel — we learn so much about ourselves.

 


Iceland, on our way to Greenland

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Barnaby and I arrived in steamy NYC a week ago. Even though it was in the mid 90s, and very humid, we still enjoyed our short visit. This photo is from one of my favorite places, the new Whitney Museum. It has wonderful outdoor spaces, as well as lovely galleries.

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This photo is from the old Whitney, now the Met Breuer. It’s so exciting to have this space being used for contemporary art (again). I love this window.

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The bust on the left is made of chocolate, the right is soap. Yum.

 

 

 

 

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The old Met is still one of our favorites, we enjoyed the beautiful American wing — we haven’t been there since it was recently remodeled. Barnaby is really happy anywhere the air conditioning is working.

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Saturday night we flew to Iceland, on route to Greenland. Our flight arrived at 6 am, so we were taken on a little tour. Our first stop was a geothermal plant. Iceland is volcanic, so there are many hot springs, geysers, earthquakes, and active volcanos. They use this to heat and power their cities. It is an amazing place — virtually no crime, no unemployment, no poverty, no illiteracy, and a surprisingly mild climate: 30s in the winter with little snow, and 50s in the summer — a perfect climate for me.

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The population of Iceland is about 380,000, a third live in and around Reykjavik. Then there are about 80,000 of these wonderful little horses. They’re naturally gaited making them very comfortable to ride. I can hardly wait to come back.

 

 

 

 

 


Tower of Power in Carson City

IMG_9458I’m in Carson City, Nevada visiting my sister Lorna. Last night we went to a fundraiser and Tower of Power was the main act. It was great fun — they played all the old hits. They’ve added some new players, the lead singer wasn’t even born when the band hit the charts back in the 70’s, but several of the original members are still playing. They sounded great. “You’re still a young man, Baby, ooh — don’t waste your time…”.

IMG_9459My niece Amy and her beau Joseph  were along and dancing most of the performance. The money was being raised for a working greenhouse at the high school. It’s pretty cool that Carson City High School has a farming program, as well as a culinary school. The audience was on their feet most of the concert — I was surprised there were so many fans of such a funky band in this white bread community!

Abby and my sister’s cat Tyson just can’t quite catch up on their much needed sleep!


Sunday, April 16, 2016 leaving Madeira

  
Quick post on our way out of the hotel. Funchal, Madeira was delightful. We caught some of the flower festival in town yesterday. Madeira is home to unique wine, flowers and embroidery. A million tourists visit this small island every year. 

  
The streets are the typical Portugese mosaic designs — art is everywhere. We managed to visit the gallery of Sacred Art yesterday — would have loved to have more time to visit the other museums.

  
Adios! 


Saturday, April 16, 2016 in Madeira

 

The view from cabin 222 NG Explorer

 We left the ship this morning after arriving in Madeira. The remaining 4 guests, 3 staff members and crew of about 70, were anxious to get underway as they have predictions of bad weather on their route to Bremerhaven, Germany. We were sad to be leaving, but knew it was much simpler, and would be more fun ultimately, to leave and fly on home after spending a few days in Madeira. 

  
Our stop in Fogo, Cape Verde Islands, was fascinating. Barn and I had been there in 2008 but the volcano erupted again in December 2014, so the little town at its base was destroyed (again). The locals are a resilient group and started rebuilding immediately. 

 

Lava came right up to this building on Fogo

 
I’m watching a frigate fish from our hotel window. Missing that rocking home at sea.

Whale watching


Sunday, April 10, 2016 at sea, approaching Capo Verde

At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.
-Robin Lee Graham, Sailor
It’s official: I have completely lost track of the day of the week. The only clue is the crossword puzzle is very difficult. Otherwise, one day follows the next, and the day of the week really doesn’t matter. 

  

We’ve been sailing off the coast of Brazil for several days approaching the equator (we have just crossed it this afternoon). On a few occasions, we’ve sailed through a school of dolphins and other small whales. What gorgeous creatures! Sadly, my photos aren’t the best because it takes about 20 minutes for my camera lens to de-fog from the dry, cold interior of the ship to the hot, humid outdoors. There were literally hundreds of dolphins swimming, jumping, diving, and spinning alongside our ship. The Captain always slows down and will often turn and follow along so we can enjoy them for as long as possible. But the dolphins easily outrun us and go on their way.
Yesterday we landed in Fernando de Noronha, an island off the northeast tip of Brazil. Most of the island, 70%, is a national maritime park. It was raining most of the day, but we still hiked and enjoyed its beauty.

  
It’s home to a great many birds and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There is a small airport with flights everyday from Europe and Brazil. It has the best scuba diving in Brazil, perhaps South America. We had the director of the national park on our hike yesterday afternoon and she said they had 80,000 tourists visit the island last year. She said that is too many, they don’t have the infrastructure to handle those numbers, but apparently the government collects high fees from the tourists (which she is working on getting them to share with the island). They don’t let any large cruise ships stop here as there really isn’t a proper dock.  

 The philosophy of the park service is a little different from ours — they tolerate non-natives like this adorable cat we met on the trail. Barnaby and I are so starved for our furry friends that we couldn’t help but pet this one. She looked very healthy and stayed with us for most of our hike. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2016, at sea in the Tropics

“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live. Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.” -Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer 

Ipanema Beach

Time is going by so quickly. I think I spent the entire day yesterday sewing and chatting in the lounge with the ladies. No, I didn’t bring sewing from home. Sadly, I haven’t figured out how to pack for a trip like this. Oh, I brought the right clothes, but I didn’t bring any crafts. I brought books, but I’ve never been very good at solitude when there’s other people around. Especially people that are fun to talk to. So I’m helping one of the gals with her quilt. I was surprised to find how relaxing it is, I can actually imagine doing it when I get home. You don’t have to pay that much attention, like when knitting or crocheting — there is no counting, stitch change, or pattern to follow. Plus the fabrics are very beautiful (and new cotton smells so good), so there’s a creative element. And you can listen to the lectures, which are fascinating. 
We had a wonderful time in Rio de Janeiro. A few of us ventured out to a market on Saturday afternoon, then after dinner we went to one of the oldest neighborhoods of Rio — Lapa — and heard some samba music. We went to another club and heard some more modern, Brazilian music that was great. Our only regret was having to get back to the ship to get to bed because we had a very early call the next morning. Several of us spent the morning in the national forest hiking. This park is right in the city — a rain forest. It was good to get out and walk, even if it was very hot and humid (at least it wasn’t raining). 

I’m just back from lunch on the back deck. We had a quite a show by 5 masked boobies that were following along fishing. I don’t know if they were attracted by the smell of the barbecues, but for a good hour, they fished right along side our ship.

   
 


Thursday, March 31, 2016, at sea of Uruguay

We’re off the coast of Uruguay, headed to Rio, both engines running smoothly for a total of about 16 knots on smooth seas. On Monday, we docked at Puerto Madryn, Argentina, so that we could have divers extract the fishing lines that had entangled our propeller. The mass must weigh several hundred pounds (some of us are bringing home sections of the line as a souvenir), we feel lucky it didn’t do any permanent damage. The engine started up and everything is running normally, except that we are running behind schedule. We’re happy with the alternative plan though — we’ll spend more time in Madeira and fly home directly from there. We’ll miss our stops in Portsmouth, England and Bremerhaven, Germany, but that’s okay — they weren’t highlights for Barnaby and I, and we’re just grateful to not have the trip completely cancelled, or worse — dead in the water in bad weather. We are at sea and anything can happen.
 
  During our stop in Puerto Madryn, we visited a Welsh village, Gaiman, that was settled in 1865. This part of Patagonia is desert (really most of Patagonia is very dry and very windy), the Welsh settlers were misinformed as to the nature of the land. They nearly perished the first year, but with promises of support from the Argentine government, help from the local indigenous people, stuck it out and have prospered. Some Welsh is still spoken and many of the Welsh traditions are maintained — including high tea. I’m afraid our diets have suffered, the cakes, pastries, and sandwiches were so delicious that our group ate like we had been starved on the ship (which we have not!). An excellent local choir performed for us, we were especially impressed since their community is so small. It was a lovely day. 
Rio is only a couple of days away, so we’re learning about the culture, geography and diseases. After our doctor’s talk this morning, no one will be swimming at Ipanema Beach this visit.
Nowhere else than upon the sea do the days, weeks and months fall away quicker into the past. They seem to be left astern as easily as the light air-bubbles in the swirls of the ship’s wake.
Joseph Conrad

   
 


Barn entertaining me !

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