Feb 27 2009

Bye, Bye blue shirt

I tossed my favorite shirt into the trash. Just wadded it up, and threw it away. It had been loved too much – and finally because of two reluctant stains and a snag I had to let it go.

I bought the sleeveless azure-blue shirt four years ago, off the sale rack, because it matched my eyes. Soon enough, the shirt proved to be the best piece in my wardrobe. Folded in half and rolled it never held a wrinkle, this is a critical point for travel wear. If I ate too much gelato in Italy, or feta in Greece, the flowing material was forgiving. Casual with a bit of flair, the top could easily be dressed up or down, worn with skirts, shorts or pants – just about anything I owned could be paired with this little gem. And, speaking of gems, I do own a pair of earrings and a bracelet now, just because of the match with this shirt. The memories live on. Had I known at the time what a wonderful article of clothing it was, I would have bought one in every color, and two of the azure. An impossible lesson.

What’s your favorite piece of travel clothing, and why? How will you dispose of it when you can no longer be seen in public wearing it?

The running joke about our travel photos is “Here’s Paula…wearing her blue shirt…again…” So, here are a few snapshots of me and my favorite shirt.

Poros Island, Greece

Poros Island, Greece

National Archaeological Musuem, Athens Greece

National Archaeological Musuem, Athens Greece

Death Valley, California

Death Valley, California

Via Julias Augustus, Alassio Italy

Via Julias Augustus, Alassio Italy

Xunantunich Ruins, Belize

Xunantunich Ruins, Belize

Path along the Italian Riviera

Path along the Italian Riviera

Washington Monument

Washington Monument


Feb 26 2009

Driving the Blue Ridge

**choose to watch this video in high quality (bottom right of video) – otherwise it’s extremely pixelated.


Feb 25 2009

Real or Replicated?

trip-to-animal-kiingdom-disney-010

Since launching this new travel blog, the number one question I have received is “Where was the main picture taken?” Instead of coming up with a clever contest to keep you all guessing, I thought I’d post this picture taken two months ago at Universal Orlando’s replicated version of the original Portofino, Italy. Amusement parks do remarkable things, don’t you think?


Feb 23 2009

Jindabyne, Australia

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Australia was the first country stamped in my passport. I was completely turned around, upside down, and backwards, and fell in love immediately. Desperately seeking a kangaroo sighting, I thought this trio was a real score. Turns out they are as prolific as rabbits – but I’ll never forget the adrenaline running through my veins the first time I saw them in the wild.


Feb 22 2009

So long, Orlando

Nearly every night during the last 90 nights, I’ve enjoyed overhearing the 9 pm fireworks extravaganza from Epcot Center in Disney World. The first few nights were a little like eavesdropping – curious about the roaring booms and fiery rat-a-tat pops, unsure how long it would go on or where exactly it was coming from. Close to a month later, I knew for sure the 13 minute explosion was Epcot’s nightly finale, and not the Magic Kingdom or Celebration or even Old Town Kissimmee just across the street. Nearly six weeks passed before I got to see them in person – a finish to a day park hopping that left me without words, or breath, nothing but a gigantic satisfied smile for seeing this beauty in person once and for all. Tonight is the last night I will hear the familiar thunderous “goodnight” of Epcot’s fireworks, we are leaving Orlando tomorrow.

epcot-fireworks

My last 24 hrs. to hear the Barred Owl hooting “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all” at all times night and day, and tomorrow before the sun has even started thinking of rising, will be my last day to hear the little unidentified bird that I swear is immitating a car alarm. We’re leaving the racoons to rummage through someone elses garbage, the gator to think about eating someone else’s dog, the deer in the nearby swamp to amuse some other unsuspecting RV’er.

Our time in Orlando has been well spent. Though being in such flat country does have me at a serious disadvantage navigationally, I have figured things out. I have no formula for how long it takes to gain familiarity in an area, but it is a part of the traveling routine I enjoy a great deal. Something as simple as picking the right grocery store and making friendly acquaintance with the clerks can make a big difference on “living” in an area. Making friends in the Orlando area was a different sort of challenge – the residents are used to a very transient population coming through to visit the amusement parks, they’re so over it. We met lots of nice people, doing the same sorts of things we were, Disney World, Cocoa Beach (hoped to see the Discover Launch, but it was scrubbed), Magic basketball, Cirque du Soleil La Nouba, and just hanging out in downtown Orlando.

Will we come back? To Florida? Most likely. To Orlando? I never say never – so, probably not. I have loved most every minute of being here, but the excitement of exploring another new area is to great to resist. This is our finale. **warning, this video is a spoiler if you are planning on seeing Epcot’s fireworks yourself. If not…watch away!**


Feb 19 2009

Ohhhhh, you’re Belizean

I love Belize. My friend Caroline from Jr. College told me in 1988 that I would, and she was right. Wish I could find her and tell her so.

Standing in the laundry room of the marina one morning I had a 15 minute conversation with a man who works in communications for the American Embassy in Belmopan, 45 minutes south of Old Belize where we live. His is the boat in dry dock that my fostered potlicka little mama chose to have her pups under, and that’s what got the two of us talking. He and his family have traveled extensively, but it’s the Caribbean that has captured his heart. We both say it at the same time,

“There’s no stress”

I, of course, make the motion of gliding my hands out from the sides of my body. He just stays, leaned against a door jam as he’s been since the beginning of the conversation. I’m telling you folks, seriously, come to Belize to unwind, it happens quickly.

Keith had his Belizean work permit, I had a dependency Visa from just about the time we arrived. Both are good until mid-2009, this makes us Belizean. We get a “locals” discount. This cracks me up. Keith shrugged off the potential savings at one of the ruin sites, something about the difference in the few bucks meaning more to the caretakers of the ruin than to us. Little did he know, the trick is to not take the ticket issued…that’s where the real difference is made. The corruption of this country is nothing if it is not completely on the table. Ok?

One day we took a Sunday drive. We were not going far, or for long, but we just wanted to get out. Heading for one destination, we turned at another, Jaguar Paw, a place we’d been meaning to explore for awhile. Isn’t that the definition of a Sunday Drive?

Surprisingly, the road was fantastic. Paved and not potholed, this means big money in this country, and for us, it meant we could relax and just keep going. We missed the Jaguar Paw – tourism is not at its finest around here, signage is a problem and businesses are often behind shut gates. Fortunately, in Belize, where you end up is equally as good as where you intended to be – insert Western cliche – “It’s all good”.

The road ended at an Archaeological Reserve. A ticket booth had been built between the end of the road and the parking lot.

“You going tubing?” The guy behind the glass asked.

“No. We live here.” Keith replied.

“Ohhhhhhh, You’re Belizean.” The ticket guy finished, waving us along to park.

We wished we had brought our suits, going tubing looked like a fine idea, and lots of people were partaking. All along a shaded gravel walk-way were small corrals filled with inner-tubes, and “guides” offering to take us tubing. By now we had the phrasing down,

“Nah, s’ok, we live here”

Off we went to walk into the jungle, waded into the river, and explored like locals. Keith convinced me to follow him “off trail” (I swear from one time to the next I am not going too…but I always do) to look for what might have been coatimundi, or even a tapir, for sure a toucan that we had heard earlier was back in that way. Soon enough, I lost sight of him, and began feeling less than prepared to be trekking in the jungle. I mean, most people at least have a machete to hack along this growth, not to mention that I’d forgotten bug spray, was walking in open toed shoes and had no water….this went on inside my head for a few minutes as I stood atop a vine claimed tree stump under the shade of a banana tree.

Butterflies were surfing on the refreshing breeze, I scanned the tree tops for Toucans (and glanced at my feet occasionally looking for a Fer De Lance, the aggressive and deadly snake I’d learned about). When Keith emerged from the distance, he did so clutching a beautiful purple flower, like a morning glory but 15 times the size. It’s like that here in the jungle, take any common house plant of garden flower and expand it 15 times. A person could wrap themselves in a single philodendron leaf here. I put the lovely flower behind my ear and we trekked on out.

Before we left the reserve, we assured the guide, Lewis, that had approached us before the others, that we would call and arrange a tubing expedition. He offered that we could get in on a “night” tubing tour – and though I don’t know the real difference between tubing through a cave in the night or in the day, I suspect it’s because we are Belizean that we received the offer.

archaeological-reserve.jpg


Feb 19 2009

Belize City

Belize City

Afternoon flight from Ambergris Caye to Belize City. The swing bridge is the oldest such bridge in Central America and is hand cranked to allow sailboats to cross from one side of Haulover Creek to the Caribbean Sea and vice versa. This is the very same area that cruise ship tourists are advised to avoid…and though I was nervous to go into town myself the first few times, I’m sorry people are warned against immersing themselves in the colorful culture of the city.


Feb 17 2009

Alassio Alleys


Feb 17 2009

Hydra, Greece

overnight-on-ydra-172

Mid summer afternoon on the island of Hydra, Greece. Earlier in the morning my friends and I had walked the dirt and rocky paths, mostly designed for pack animals…not tourists, up hillsides above the seaside harbor to reach a Monastery. Originally we’d set out to find a Convent we’d heard was at the top that sold hand made goods, embroidered and woven clothes – but if it is there, we never did find it.


Feb 17 2009

How it all started

He Said – Our First Day Story

When you have an empathic personality as I do, you definitely “feel” people before you get to talk to them. What I feel, is an energy associated with an emotion. Its not a gift and certainly isn’t a skill. I often mistake a high energy feeling towards me as dislike, when it is often just the opposite. So much for reading people. My only skill, or curse would be more accurate, is that I am – as one friend described it – a magnet for crazy people.

Now, might be a great time to say that this questionable ability of mine, was not the basis for Paula and I meeting.

Just the opposite. I knew from 20 feet away that I was going to have to meet Paula. Just back from Australia I had decided to burn away some Sunday morning jet lag with a skate down the shore line bike path near my Santa Barbara home. Cool damp salt air along East Beach, zipping down the bike path on my inline skates. Perfect! Bicycles, joggers on the grass, joggers on the hard packed beach, fitness Moms pushing high speed baby buggies along the bike path. I weaved in and around the pathway traffic, drafted behind a fast mover on his racing road bike and slowed as I approached the artisans setting up their tents and tables on a parallel sidewalk. I dropped off the bike path and walked in the awkward fashion that skates on grass forces you to do. While I might have almost approached some semblance of grace skating earlier, I now more closely resembled a teen aged girl in her first pair of high heels. Stepping on the sidewalk along Cabrillo Boulevard I slowly coasted by the artisan and less artsy items for sale. Jewelery, art, photography,bric brac, nick nack and next weeks yard sale wind chimes. A great selection of those high performance kites that would end up beach bombing victims at the hands of some goof later this day. Man, I hate those things!

The sidewalk converged with the bike path near Stearns Wharf at the foot of State Street and I picked my away between the tourists, families with dads carrying mini me’s strapped in front, coffee carrying slooow walkers, kids in bike seats with a limited view of Moms backside and me skating along beside. Hi there, smiley.

The bike path crosses a creek that trickles its last life into the sand by the beach. I accelerated a little to crest the bridge but stopped short on the top of the bridge. A woman stood at the top of the bridge looking out to the Pacific. I never just stop and talk to women and this one looked like she was just as likely to speak German or some Scandinavian dialect. She was even far more likely to walk on, before I thought of something to say as I stood by the bridge railing. Standing there, a panting mouth breathing, slightly sweating stranger, I thought I had maybe startled her. When noticing her book, I said,

“So,what are you reading?”

She looked at me, flashed a dimpled, blue sparkly-eyed smile and then dropped the bomb.

“The Testament.” she said.

OH NO! I thought. But, managed to stumble out some remark about being the right day of the week for that book.

“Enjoy your day” I said as I rolled down the bridge.

Now I have no aversion to religion but any conversation that begins with a Bible reference is about as inviting to me as a car load of Jehova Witnesses during the Super Bowl. About the time I was asking myself how something that felt right could be this wrong it clicked. Skating back alongside the now walking lady, I said,

“Uh, that would be John Grishams,”The Testament”, correct?”

She laughed and said “Yesss, I knew, what you had thought.”

Well OK! I was thinking, she realizes that I appear to be not so clever and yet she seems to like me being here. I know I like her. The more we walked and talked along the bike path the more I knew that I was just exactly where I was supposed to be and I couldn’t have been happier.

She Said – Meeting Keith

Wandering the boardwalk along Santa Barbara California’s East Beach, book in hand, I thought I’d be spending the day sitting in the sand, reading, keeping an eye out for migrating California Grey Whale. No one could have told me that in the next few hours, my future would dramatically shift its course into a wildly unexpected, adventurous, love affair. Nor would I have believed them.

A tanned, tall and muscular man leaned on one of the bridges along the path, as I passed he spun on his in-line skates coming up beside me,

“What’re we reading?” He asked.

“The Testament.” I replied.

Looking towards the cloudless sky, he smiled, said “Seems appropriate for the day,” and skated away. Amused, I smiled thinking “this guy thinks I’m reading the Bible at the beach.” It was a Sunday. No sooner had I chuckled about his assumption, he was back, circling to my side once again.

“That’s John Grisham, right?”

“That’s right,” I answered, more amused by his return than by his initial departure.

“Where’re you from?” He wanted to know.

“Bishop, California.” I proudly told him.

“Bishop. Bishop is one of my favorite places.” This surprised me; more often than not people do not know Bishop, maybe Mammoth, or Yosemite, but rarely Bishop. He went on and asked,

“Do you know Bobby Lloyd?” I went to high-school with Bobby Lloyd. He’d flown helicopters with Bobby.

“Do you know Mark and Kathy Gish?” I worked with Mark on our Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce and knew his wife Kathy the way folks know each other in small towns, being in the same place at the same time. He flew a helicopter for SCE (Southern California Edison) and worked with Kathy. I was intrigued. Right off the bat we had established our six-degrees of separation started at one. I walked, he coasted, and we talked for hours.

I was really enjoying his friendly company. And then everything changed. Out on the Pier leaning elbows on the railing, this man, Keith, scooted up next to me – so close his left arm rested against my right. Stunning electricity zipped inside me from shoulder to toe, it happened so fast, and had never happened before in my life. That instant I considered this man to be more than a friend.

That was March 26th, 2000. Within the next 45 days I had tendered my resignation at the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, sold my belongings including my car, and with my 3-legged dog in tow, hit the road to full-time travel with Keith, the biggest and best surprise of my life.


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