Ramblings

Saudade Starts My Monday Morn

The prevalent feeling is one of saudade (a word in Portuguese I am most fond of). It is practically an untranslatable word, full of contradictory emotions, but “longing” is mentioned in many definitions. It is unestablished of what exactly I am longing of. It’s early enough that the sun has yet to pierce the clouds and shine through. Maybe today, it won’t even attempt to.

I make my coffee, an essential part of any morning of mine, and after medicating and feeding the fur babies

 

I head to the back patio with a yet undefined purpose -despite the book in my hand-. It’s a bit chilly and my robe accompanies me and acts as a blanket.20190603_074704Inane thoughts come up before I even open my book with the determination of finishing it: My legs are still tanned from my jaunt to Miami. I love to hear the chirping of the birds in the silence of the morning. Darn it, the garbage pick up truck is piercing that silence (I get up and bring the can in.) 20190603_085145 The basil plant 20190603_074737still has many leaves -even after such a big batch of pesto I made.- I toy with the idea of lighting the fire pit for some warmth. 20190603_074718Discard it because half the fun is seeing the flames which I won’t really see now. Need to stop the cascade of unmatched and unnecessary thoughts (lots of “un” words in this post).

The thoughts stop; I read my book. About 10 pages in I get up, warm my coffee and remain inside since it is a bit too nippy for me outside. I hear the kitties little bells on their collar as they go in and out and it gives me as much comfort as my presence probably gives them.

 

A grumbling in my stomach indicates that maybe breakfast is in order. So I pick up a Le Creuset pan that reminds me of a wedding gift of a whole set of pans that I received long ago, despite them not being on my registry. I weighed 95 pounds at the time and these pans are super heavy. It was my lifting weights exercise routine! 20190603_075654 Maybe it was a regift since I got a set of 8. They stick (though now they are making them with Teflon coating too).

I heat a turkey picadillo I made yesterday and fry an egg. I’m on the Keto diet 20190530_084623 (lifestyle doesn’t apply since I do get off it at times) so bread is out of the question. I’m not one for breakfasts unless with someone, so this is unusual for me but the front patio of my friends’ house, which I am pet and housesitting for, makes it an inviting proposition.

 

I read a little, eat, and enjoy the pops of colors from the plants.

 

I glance at my cell and it’s 8:00 am and about time to start my day. Enough of lounging around. I enter my day relaxed and ready to take it on.20190529_132553

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Categories: Ramblings, Venice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sensory Overload. Oh My! Wow! Ay, ay, ay!

Today I left with some sadness the apartment that we called home on Rue de la Liberté for the past 6 days.  But I must admit I am excited about our next abode: a houseboat on the River Seine with the Eiffel Tower on our backyard, or better said back river (Is there such a thing?).  I wait for my taxi and say my final good-byes to the street I am familiar with and the neighborhood I did not feel alien to.  Our 4 bags and I are alone on the cobblestone enclosure on the first floor.  I am to move to our houseboat alone and will be met afterwards at noon.  A few hours before a visual adventure that I will tell you about soon.

I have an address composed of only two words:  Port Debilly and a phone number to call the owner of the houseboat just in case the taxi driver does not know where it is.  I am happy that I have that because the driver did not know where I was going so called Jean and was directed how to get to the péniche (barge).

Jean greets me at the garden and helps me with the luggage.  I would not have been able to do it alone and am happy that he is there.  See the plank I have to cross to get to the boat.  péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river,   I go in péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river,  to a boat with classical music on, a view that is to die for,  péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river,  Eiffel Tower a living room that invites reading and marveling at Eiffel Tower, péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower flowers in the kitchen péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, galley, kitchen (or galley), péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, galley, kitchen  péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower a porthole through which I still can see the Eiffel Tower, péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, porthole, galley, kitchen  and a bedroom péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, bedroom with a skylight so that when we open our eyes we can see the leaves of the weeping willow above us, péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, bedroom (and yes, I still get incredible views from here).

I want to share this and the only one available right now is Tutu so I sit him on a chair akin in color to his.  péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, koala, antique chair  He complains he can’t see the tower so I place him on a table.  koala More complaints so I make him the captain and he seems to be happy!

péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, captain, Tutu, koala

I go out to encounter first hand one of the many tourist boats that will be gracing my back yard.  Most of the tourists are facing the tower but some are facing me and the boat and taking photographs.  What conversations will I be included in with a “How lucky is that Parisian to be where she is?”  péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, Batteaux Mouches, tourist boats What I didn’t expect was two Parisians walking on the Ave. de New York 6th arrondissement, Paris, France, Rue de New York(the street above the dock) and as I look up, one saying to me:  “Madame, vous etes privilegie!” and pointing at the tower. Yes, I consider myself very, very lucky!  And if the Eiffel Tower view weren’t enough, the Sacre Cour is off at a distance.  péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Cour  The Eiffel Tower, the weeping willow (the only one on the dock and the one that is in on the other side of the boat), and the deck.  Oh my!!! péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, weeping willow, boat deck, deck And then a surprise as I look to my left.  A young little cat that seems very much at home on this boat.  I have a feeling she will be another house guest while we are here.  péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, cat, kitty

Dean returns from the first shoot on his film and takes it all in quickly since we have reservations at the restaurant at the Eiffel Tower:  Le Jules Verne.  The day is only at its midpoint and I don’t know if I can take any more excitement!  But we head out there walking since it is only about a 10 minute walk.  Eiffel is even more impressive up front.  Paris, France, Eiffel Tower, 6th arrondissement  The entrance to Le Jules Verne péniche, Soleil, River Seine, 7th arrondissement, houseboat, boat, Paris, France, quay, river, Eiffel Tower, Le Jules Verne, view, food, Parisian restaurant  where you get into a private elevator that catapults Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, 6th arrondissement, Parisian restaurant, table with a view, Paris, France you to the second floor 213 meters up.  Paris, France, Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, table with a view, food, Parisian restaurant,

The food was acceptable.  Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, 6th arrondissement, Parisian restaurant, table with a view, steak, Paris, France The view beyond compare.  Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, 6th arrondissement, Parisian restaurant, table with a view, Paris, France  We get some madeleines as a gift when we leave to go out to the viewing deck.  Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, 6th arrondissement, Parisian restaurant, table with a view, Paris, France More amazing views.  Le Jules Verne, Eiffel Tower, 6th arrondissement, Parisian restaurant, table with a view, Paris, France

And we return to the boat with even more excitement on the way.  A wedding…6th arrondissement, Paris, France, wedding photo

A photo shoot (with a car as its protagonist). Car, antique car, photo shoot, 6th arrondissement, Paris, France  We make a side trip to buy stuff for dinner so we can sit on the deck and watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle.  We take the underpass, Paris, France, 6th arrondissementup some stairs, Stairs buy our stuff and later that night sit on the deck as the tower surprises us by being multicolor in honor of the South African season in France.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, colors, twinkle, night view of the tower, 6th arrondissement

I have to go to sleep now because I really don’t think my heart can take any more excitement.  Nighty, night!

Categories: 6th arrondissement, Eiffel Tower, France, Paris, Ramblings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Tus Ojos Son Mi Ventana!

Today, again Dean is off to help out a friend on his short.  But contrary to yesterday, for me it’s a day of play.  I intend to say good-bye to my neighborhood by visiting its many alleyways, villas – as the French call them.

cobblestones, Parisian apartment, door, entrance, mailbox, 19th arrondissement, Paris, FranceAs I leave I take a last recognizance look of the cobblestones and door I will cross only a few times more.  The cobblestones take me back to my hometown of Asunción where they are common.  I almost expect to see a horse carriage when I open the heavy wood door.

Quartier de la Mouzaia is a working class neighborhood (and I proved that yesterday with all the chores I did.) It was built between the end of the 19th and early 20th century.  Running down the hills (one where our apartment is located) are some twenty pedestrian street or villas.

Each has its own feel to it.

19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, villas, pedestrian street, Paris, France, cobblestone street, 19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, villas, pedestrian street, Paris, France, cobblestone street,    19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, villas, pedestrian street, Paris, France, cobblestone street,    Villa3    19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, villas, pedestrian street, Paris, France, cobblestone street,  I didn’t visit them all but did not tire of walking around.  Of course, there had to be one with a scooter as its emblem .  Villa

Red brick is predominant on the houses 19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, Paris, France, red brick, lavender, window, door, building  but, as the villas, each has its own unique character. And you see burst of colors which in previous walks I had not noticed.  19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, Paris, France, door   19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, Paris, France, window, door, pink façade, pink building  19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, Paris, France, window, door, blue and green façade, building

And then there is a surprise graffiti that is in Spanish!  Tus Ojos Son Mi Ventana, 19th arrondissement, Quartier de la Mouzaia, Paris, France, window, graffiti

I have yet to visit my local park Parc des Buttes Chaumont and if I don’t do it today I have a feeling I won’t do it at all so I go to the metro Botzaris metro, 19th arrondissement, Botzaris, Paris underground, subway, Paris, France where love is in the air and enter the park from a side street.  Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, park  Boxing, or tai bo, in the open air may be fun.  Parc des Buttes Chaumont, tai bo, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, park But a bite to eat at the park’s entrance may be a better idea. Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, park  Maybe some sunbathing after that. Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, park  While enjoying the view. Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, park  Going to ignore vandalism in this oasis.  Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, park

As I leave a see a vendor with maté by his side.  I automatically assume that he is either Argentinian, Uruguayan or Paraguayan so I ask him in Spanish where he is from and it turns out he is French but lived in South America for a year and adopted maté as his drink of choice.  It is a small world!

Getting late and I’m meeting Dean at a station Metroat the other side of town so I go back home passing another villa (alleyway / path) where a cat makes sure I understand this is his villa.  19th arrondissement, Quartier de Mouzaia, Paris, France, villa  19th arrondissement, Paris, France, Quartier de Mouzaia, cat, cobblestone street

I notice that my front door also provides that burst of color that the Quartier is known for.  19th arrondissement, Quartier Mouzaia, Paris, France, door, red door And I photograph the inner courtyard. 12 Rue de la Liberté, Paris, France, Quartier Mouzaia, courtyard, windows, Paris, France Everything seems to have character here.  Even a window with clothes drying.  12 Rue de la Liberté, Paris, France, Quartier Mouzaia, courtyard, windows, Paris, France

I get to Portes de Vanves metro, Paris, France– and I must say I am very proud of myself for getting there on time after two transfers on the metro – (Everyone who knows me knows that I have zero, zilch, no sense of orientation so this was a feat for me!)where we are checking out another possible shoot location.  The market of Antique and Old Books.  Portes de Vanves, book market, antique books, Paris, France   Portes de Vanves, Paris, France, books, antique book fair  Another window I like.  window, Paris, France  Back to our neck of the woods to have a great Vietnamese meal at Chez Kim.  Chez Kim, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France

And enjoy our last sunset in this part of town.  19th arrondissement, 12 Rue de la Liberté, sunset, window

Sunset

Wait till I take you to where we are moving to tomorrow!!!!

Categories: 19th arrondissement, Botzaris, France, Marché du livres ancien et d'occasion, Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Paris, Ramblings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I’m a Loca Parisienne!! Revision: a LocaL Parisienne! :)

Today is a day of errands.  My companion is off helping a student filmmaker make his thesis film and I am left to my own devices.  I wake early (Yes, you heard that right… early!) to see him go and to start my day.

So what do Parisians do in the morning?  Perhaps prepare their first cup of coffee.  Perhaps.  Probably go get the morning croissant and baguette.  Even if that isn’t what they do that is what I will do!  I go in search of the neighborhood boulangerie (bakery for all you non-Parisians) and return to my closest supermarché.

So once I map out my route, I depart.  I also must go to the bank, so first I head there while enjoying “my” neighborhood.  Paris, France, neighborhood, 19th arrondissement, street scene,   The walk is only two blocks but it takes me a while since I stop to photograph anything that catches my eye.

A door.  Paris, France, neighborhood, 19th arrondissement, street scene, 10 Rue de la Liberté  A window. Paris, France, neighborhood, 19th arrondissement, street scene, window, flower box

A street. Paris, France, neighborhood, 19th arrondissement, street scene, Rue de la Liberté

Once there, I return to the apartment (pied-a-terre) and towards Paris, France, neighborhood, 19th arrondissement, street scene the boulangerie where I confidently (Okay, not so confidently ask for 4 croissants, donut, and can he add another two croissants please?  Bonne journée madame.  The equivalent of “Have a good day.” A vous aussi.  You too.  Yay!  I manage to feel like I belong.

And with my precious croissants – my, do they smell good – I go to the supermarket supermarket, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, French supermarket chain that reminds me when they opened in Elkins Park, Philadelphia a million (well, maybe about 20 years ago).  I like their baskets, which have a curve so I can carry it on my side without having to lean like the Tower of Pisa.  shopping basket, basket, Carrefour, supermarket, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France  Now back to the apartment.  I put away my groceries. Munch on a croissant. Vaguely think that all these carbs that I am consuming are going to make me fat.  Quickly discard that fact and stare at the pile of clothes I have to take to the lavomatique (laundromat).  Procrastinating sounds just the way to deal with this, but I do not…mainly propelled by the fact that I have no more socks or undies left clean, than by a recognition that procrastinating will get me nowhere.

Again I map my course and off I go!  I pick up the keys which are the oddest shape.  odd shape keys, antique keys, keys  And with my very heavy two bags of clothes I go into the unknown.  I’m really not that sure of where it is.  After a quite a few blocks I must admit to myself (though not to others) that I have mapped out my course dreadfully wrong.  So I ask a woman on the street where is the closest laundromat and manage to understand perfectly well her directions.  Am relieved to know it is only two more blocks away and that I will not have to climb these steps to get to it.   P1150492  Or these…stairs, climb, Paris, France, 19th arrondissement  By the way, on the side is “The Aztec” club which is a weight training gym.  I get a kick out of that.

What I’m not getting a kick out of is carrying these two heavy bags of clothes.  As I approach the laundromat I spot a word that propels me back home:  Audition.  Never mind that it refers to nothing about my profession (acting) but does refer to auditory needs.  Auditory needs, earpieces, hearing aids, audition   And I arrive.  Phew!  I don’t take a picture ’cause I am way too busy trying to figure out how to work/pay for the wash.  The machines are tiny.  It’s about $6 a wash.  Yikes!  And only after somebody actually comes to my aid am I able to use them.

What I do with great ease is go to the café, the Arch in the Sky,  Parisian café, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France (L’arc en Ciel) next door, empty except for one table of locals outside, and sit and feel like I am really part of this neighborhood.  Une noisette s’il vous plait.  A little espresso with a drop of milk please (And can I feel any more French today?).  I read.  I look out the lace curtain.  Paris, France, 19th arrondissement, lace, café,   I survey the place. Parisian café, Paris, France, 19th arrondissement, café I like the fact that my waiter seems to be 100 years old and doesn’t question my choice of boisson (drink).  Time to pay and return to my errands.  I fold. I feel good. I am loving everything just about now.

I return home to a welcoming by Tutu koala  From my kitchen I see Paris’ rooftops.  I wonder about who lives in them and spin webs of words that gel into lives that really may be far from reality.  Paris, France, 19th arrondissement, rooftop, windows

Would love to see this particular wood window open one day.  Paris, France, 19th arrondissement, rooftop, window  Even through the bars I find myself enjoying washing dishes.  rooftops, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France, windows  Dean comes home just in time to enjoy another beautiful sunset in the neighborhood!

Rooftops, windows, 19th arrondissement, Paris, France

 

🙂

Categories: 19th arrondissement, France, Paris, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sing To Me Eric Clapton…

SuitcaseIt’s 3:30 am and the rooster sings.  My alarm clock is a rooster crowing.  I think it takes me back to times in my grandpa’s house where often I was awaken by one.  I have packed almost all night.  Fretted about just about everything.  Do I have my passport?  Should I take this dress?  How much of this and of that will fit?  Do I have my passport?   My permanent resident card?  I am now officially a Spaniard I have the passport to prove it!  Will it present problems?  I have a European Union passport! Passport Am I going to be okay?  More packing.  No I don’t need this much.  Is the suitcase too heavy?  Do I have my passport? Ay!!!

My flight leaves at 7:30 am.  Pick up by cab at 4:30 am.  Unreasonable times to be awake.  So worth it to be able to be London bound.    Dean’s flight leaves at 7:00 pm.  His is a direct flight.  Mine stops in Chicago.  Change plane to Berlin.  Change plane and airline to London.  I arrive a mere two hours before he does.

A cab picks us up.  The fare ends up being not the $50 or $60 they estimated but $75 plus tip.  Next time we take a car service.   We are both groggy.

My first flight is with American Airlines.  American  My next one with AirBerlin. Air BerlinEverything is self check now and I would rename it as all-confusing.  What happened to the civilized way of doing this?  But we get it all sorted out with help by personnel there for that purpose, and after over more than 40 minutes we are all set.  I get Priority Access thanks to my AA frequent flyer status.  I like.  They say that with Priority Access I can enter the Admirals Club.  Don’t believe them.  Dean gets a day-pass; I get a smile and “I’m sorry but either you pay or can’t come in.” Then it dawns on me that I have a Klout score of more than 55 which allows me to go in, right?  “Yes, mam.  Let’s see? ”  I show them, way higher… yay!  Buuuuut there is no barcode.  Huh?  Barcode.  Yes, please send to your phone.  So I try and it doesn’t happen.  Sorry mam.  Ugh!

So we go to breakfast in the only crappy sit down restaurant/bar in the terminal.  Have a lovely conversation with a couple returning from Kuai.  Then I head to my gate where Priority Access is once again a good thing and I board first.  But before that I say goodbye.  We will meet again in a Costa Coffee -ground floor, Terminal 4 in Heathrow.  Seems to me that this past year, and even the one before has been a whirlwind of departures and arrivals.  Sadness and joy, laced and inevitable interconnected.

And what does all this have to do with Eric Clapton?  What awaits us in London is two nights of Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall along with many other adventures which you and I will be taking together.  See you in London!

Categories: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Double Decker Fun and in London I Am Not

The washer dryer for our floor is very conveniently located next to the apartment and since I have woken up early I decide to be domestic and do a load of laundry.  I go out in my pajamas for I intend to climb back into bed and write my blog.  And I do so, however I am not alone.  Sox decides that I am an okay human to cuddle up to and as I go into bed he jumps up and snuggles.  I try to put my computer somewhere on my lap but Sox is quite big and heavy and is already asleep.  And I wouldn’t want to disturb him.  cat  cat shoe repairI have other errands to run once my laundry is done and, fortunately, Sox decides he will continue his nap under the sun so I am free to go to the shoe repair place.  I have brought my Born boots that served me so well in the fall when I went to Paris and I hope that they will keep my feet warm and dry in the cold that we will encounter in New Zealand.  But the heels are worn and I want to have them in tip-top shape for the trip.   Once I hand them in I’m off to the bus (I’m so glad to have my bus pass.  Bus Pass This is a pre-pay only bus. Bus stop) that will take me to Circular Quay which is where I saw a stop for the City Sightseeing Hop on-Hop offbus that I am taking today.

The tourist bus stop is in front of the Customs House (which is a library now, as you must know by now).  The place is not very busy today and a Silver Gull (the most common of gulls around here) is the one who greets me.  Customs House, Sydney, Australia  Silver Sea Gull

  Today I am focused on reflections and the juxtaposition of old and new construction.  Sydney has a lot of that to offer.  Reflections, Old and New, BuildingsBuildings, Old vs. New, Sydney, Australia    But I am visually digressing.  I must get my tourist mode on and jump on the Sydney Sightseeing double-decker bus to get a lay of the land and get an idea of what areas I would want to revisit.  The bus is $40 for 24 hours.  It’s a bit breezy today but I am just taking the plunge.  Here we go…  City Sightseeing bus, double decker bus We pass the area of Kings Cross that I would equate a bit to 42nd St. in New York when it was filled with adult entertainment both in the buildings as on the streets.  Love Machine Woolloomooloo with its converted warehouses (into apartments –flats for the Aussies- on the upper floors and hip restaurants on the ground floor) also offers a really nice view of the city.  May be a place I would like to revisit.  Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia  Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia

Harry’s Café de Wheels is famous for its meat pies which is a staple for Australians.   Harry's Meat Pies, Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia Terrace Houses, terraced housing, sydney, AustraliaTerrace houses are my new obsession.  They were built in the 1800’s and are heritage protected so, at least on the outside, they are exactly as they were back then.  They are everywhere and my camera likes them just as much as I do so please bear with me for I will bring them to you a lot.    Terrace Houses, Terraced housing, Sydney, Australia

Mary’s Cathedral will definitely also bring me in at some point. St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

 The new always follows and this is the RTA (Road and Transportation Authority) headquarters building.  

Back to the old.  Central Station’s (train terminal) clock.  Second to the Customs House it is a very common meeting point.  Central Station Clock, Sydney, AustraliaCentral Station, Sydney, Australia

Onward to Darling Harbour where the only casino in Sydney is.  It is also a huge shopping center.  Bustling.

    

Still liking the new/old overlapping.       And still enjoying looking at now familiar fixtures from a not so common perspective.  Here is the Harbour Bridge from below. And the top of old buildings at eye level.   So far this has been a “hop on and just don’t get off” bus for me but as soon as I spot the Sydney Tower Eye I know I’m hopping off and getting on that elevator to the top.   Bus Driver, please stop!  He did.  I buy a ticket for the Tower at $25 so I won’t have to wait on line and though it would later turn out that there was no line, I did save $1 by buying it on the bus.  As expensive as Sydney is, every little bit counts!  Just in case I am not going to get dizzy enough up on top, the stairs to get to the fourth floor from where the elevator departs, is dizzying enough! There is a Skywalk where you actually walk outside but it’s very windy, you have to change into what looks a skydiving outfit, I’m scared of heights, I can’t take my camera and it costs $40 so I am content to just look outside through the windows.  The photos speak for themselves so I’ll shush up now and let you enjoy.  

 

        

  It’s getting late      so I must take the ride down  (2 ½ min)     I take the double-decker to a few blocks from home.  Turns out I could have taken it there all along.  Ay!

I delight in the snapshots of daily entertainment the bowling club provides me as I walk home.       I look up and love what I see.   And once home am happy that it is not dark enough and I can still grab a quick view of the water from my window.    Feeling almost as if I’m a part of it all here.        The local newspaper, The Australian

Categories: Australia, Central Station, Circular Quay, Customs House, Kings Cross, Ramblings, Sydney, Sydney Harbor, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Woolloomooloo | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Not Friday the 13th…

It’s Thursday, September 13, 2012.  My friend is taking me to the airport.  I am thinking how fortunate that it isn’t a Friday the 13th or Tuesday the 13th.   The first is an unlucky day in my American culture, the other one is unlucky in my Latino culture.  I’m not superstitious but…  It occurs to me that the other thirteens on other days of the week must be unlucky in other parts of the world but for now I am giving thanks that it is neither Friday or Tuesday.   But is it really Thursday?  Yes, it is… just making sure that my travel day has actually arrived. I tend to be a bit compulsively insecure on my departure date.

As she talks to me about exchange rates and how to benefit from them, my mind wanders for I cannot seem to be able to grasp the concept she is so patiently explaining.  I could perhaps grasp it on a normal day but today all I can manage is to check my passport and my permanent resident card for the third time in a row. I say out loud –though not meaning to- that maybe I shouldn’t go.  But I’ve already paid my for my round trip, nonrefundable Qantas flight ($1,505.64), plus $20 for my seat assignment and for the Australian visa ($115) and for the New Zealand visa ($140), all for a grand total of $1780.64 which I would lose, so I think it best to go ahead.  She, with her humor puts me at ease once more.  Reality is that for the first time I am a bit hesitant.  So weird that being a long time traveler, I am concerned about going to Australia.  They speak English (well at least some sort of it) and even if I can’t understand the accent at times there is nothing a “What?” or “Could you repeat that?” can’t fix.  Perhaps it’s the length of this trip.  It will be even longer than my Asia trip.  Seven weeks of suspending my life-as-I-know-it and forming part of life there.  Is it the flight itself?  14 and ½ hours is only a bit more than my flight from Hong Kong.  Is it the weather?  I don’t like the cold and it will not be that warm yet.  Who knows?  But I do want to go.

As we park in front of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles airport (LAX), we hug and I feel the warmth of true friendship.  “Contact me when you get there, okay?”  I like to have someone who cares and wants to be assured of the fact that I’m safe. Oh gosh… Internet.  I don’t think I’ll have it where I’m staying so the worrier –one that I thought was pretty much defunct- starts wondering how I will manage without it.  But as I walk into the terminal my wondering and hang-ups disappear.  It is here, at the beginning of a trip, in an airport, where I go into another mode.  I am happy here.  I am confident, assertive, in control.  I am now hearing in my head Helen Reddy singing “I am woman, hear me roar!” How appropriate that she is Australian born!

I check in and watch as the Qantas rep rips off about 3 of my tags from my Southeast Asia trip.  I see them go remembering what a wonderful, life-changing trip that was –forgive the cliché.   Two of the tags  are labeled Business (it was my suitcase that was labeled as such since, unfortunately, I had traveled coach).  The girl asks me about it.  I don’t want to explain but do tell her that unless she intends to upgrade me I am not flying business this time.  Oh well, it didn’t work.  No upgrade for me.  Not even remotely so; worth a try, however.  I am handed the economy boarding-pass and sent on my way.  At the gate the Ecuadorian that checks boarding passes says to me “Must be a mistake. You have an economy boarding-pass when you seem to be a first-class person.”  I’m sure he says it to all, but he made me smile.

I go to the cantina and have, of all things, a hot dog and do what I usually do, establish conversations with total strangers.  An impeccably dressed and stylish couple sits at the table next to me.   The man lovingly runs his fingers through his wife’s hair.  Well, it could actually be his lover and not his wife.  The place is packed so a man in a stocking-like wrap around his head asks if he can sit with them.  What a table of opposites.  They start talking and it turns out that he is headed to Auckland, New Zealand where he lives; they are headed to Fiji for two weeks.  I’m going to New Zealand as well as Australia and I’ve always wanted to go Fiji so I interject.  Turns out, the couple has been together for 25 years.  From North Carolina. High-school sweethearts.  And he still runs his fingers through her hair in public?  I want that! The other guy is traveling with his sister.  He tells me to prepare for very cold weather in New Zealand.  The couple tells me it’s been a dream of theirs for years to visit Fiji.  We all talk about Southeast Asia, the Islands, New Zealand and before we know it an hour has passed.   I go to my gate.

All doubts have left my mind.  It is Sydney where I want and need to be right now.

I go to the window seat I have been assigned after consulting with www.seatguru.com (a site that gives you seat recommendation on the aircraft you are flying) and start hoping that no one sits beside me, knowing that as tired as I am, the window and I will become one no matter what.  Don’t think there is much that can keep me awake until I feel a kick, and another, and another.  The child in back of me is sitting on a booster seat, which shortens the space between him and me.  I debate whether to say something or not.  Now, not having someone beside me is the least of my concerns.  So I turn and in the best of ways tell the parents that I know it’s hard to travel with a small child but could they possibly see to it to keep the kicking to a minimum?  To my surprise they are more than accommodating and understanding.  And now a woman is sitting in the aisle seat but no one is in the middle seat.  The doors close and we look at each other and go “Yes!”   The whole plane is packed to the max.  We are the only ones with an empty seat and my row partner can’t be more pleasant.  Ah, it’s going to be a good night.  Anyone hearing The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta A Feeling”?

Nine hours later I awake.  The flight has been the best one yet.  Qantas crew has not been the most solicitous or charming –hope that is not indicative of the population- but they are definitely efficient.  Some turbulence at the beginning caused by a plane ahead of us -according to the co-pilot- and smooth from then on. The five hours that are left are interspersed with mini-chats with my row companion and listening to Aussie music and discovering that some singers that I actually have on my iPod (like Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu)  are Australians.

As we approach landing my heart starts beating faster.  No trepidation left, just excitement for a new adventure. I go through immigration and customs and frankly they are the friendliest of any of the countries I’ve been to (and there have been many).   For some reason going through immigration always causes me some anxiety.  And that’s without anything that should concern them or me.  So, thank you Australia for welcoming me so kindly.   You will be my home and home base for almost two months so I love that we start off in such good terms.

I left on a Thursday and today is Saturday, September 15.  I have lost a day that will take me almost two months to recuperate.  And I feel no sadness for it.  🙂

I enter the “other side” the place where I will reunite with someone dear to my heart and… there is no one there.  It becomes clear to me that I have changed dramatically through the years.  I am not troubled or annoyed or even worried.  As the minutes go by I chat with a couple that says there was a bad traffic jam as they headed for the airport and they offer to look after my bags as I get my coffee. I sit, open my Mac and was going to send a message, then look for a hotel if necessary but crisis averted as I see him arrive.  I am home for now.

Nothing seems foreign really.  The climate is as Los Angeles.  It’s sunny tending to be on the warm side.  Perfect weather.  Then I see the dark clouds and it starts raining for a little while.  Then the sun is once again out and it is beautiful and warm.  I am staying in Bondi Beach.  As we go through the corridor to the apartment, the beach lies ahead.  A park is right in front.   I am reminded in some way of Venice Beach in California.    It all seems so relaxed and laid back.  He goes to work and I am left to go explore.  I am wide-awake so choose to unpack.   I open the door and the beach feeling surrounds me.  The park is becoming crowded.  People sunbathing, some are alone, some with kids, some with friends and/or lovers.  The sounds of laughter, conversation, and even different languages pour into the room and, for some reason it comforts me.    I start getting tired.  3:30 pm here.  Since I don’t have Internet and my brain is a little fuzzy I can’t and don’t want to figure out what time it is in Los Angeles.  But I’m fading fast.  I take a shower to wake up, determined to stay up and suffer from no jetlag.  It has the opposite effect.  That bed is looking goooood…  No!  So I get dressed and open the door to head out to the café where I can get some caffeine and some Facebook time.  The park is now packed but it’s gotten really much colder.  So I take a step back, get undressed and crawl under the covers and start writing.  That ought to keep me awake, right?

Categories: Australia, Bondi Beach, Ramblings, Sydney | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Return of Sorts…

Today I had taro frozen yogurt in my neighborhood parlor.  So what does that have to do with my blog?  Simply, the taste took me back to a journey through seven countries I remember with great nostalgia and fondness.  So it seemed so very right to get back to this blog to relive and share the second half of it even when it has been three months since I returned from it.

Last I left you was in Cambodia with a visit to the Killing Fields.   Less somber areas to cover from now on.

We leave Phnom Penh today and head over to Siem Reap.  Thaly –our only female guide- is there to see us off.  People are well into their day.    The road awaits us and it will be an all day trek.  We will go through Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom provinces.   Stupas along the way…  

Of course we must stop at a “happy house” (aka: as bathroom).  I don’t need any more “happiness” so I roam.  There is such peace in this place.  Wish we could just eat here.  

Orchids hang from the balcony.    Reminds me of all the orchids my mother grew in her backyard.  There you go again Asia, a million miles and time period away and you are bringing me closer to my past than I’ve been in a while.

We pass by numerous lotus plantations.  The lotus plant is not only beautiful but every bit of it is of use.  Every part of it can and is used for medicinal purposes. At the side of the road we spot a vendor selling its fruit.  Some in our party are excited to see it since they used it in salads and have not been able to see it any other place outside of India.   

But the lotus flower is so beautiful that one almost forgets the rest.

    

We stop and gawk but must continue on toward spiders and crickets and water bugs and lots more creepy crawlers.   When we get there, one tarantula decides to check the time on Tom’s watch.    Our tour guide approaches me with it and I don’t think I’ve ever jumped back as quickly as I did then.   Some of his species where not as lucky as it was and ended up in this huge pile on the side of the road, fried to a crisp.   Yep, I actually had one –all I could taste was the rancid oil it had been fried in- though I decided to pass on the crickets and water bugs…

A kid, trying to sell us some green mangoes, demonstrates how the crickets are yummy too.  

I wasn’t buying it.  Which says a lot, for this kid could sell you anything!  

He had a way with words and his expressions said so much.    And he had a lovely smile.  Yep, I bought a bag of mangoes.

As we leave a vendor is bagging some tamarind.    

We are back on the bus.  Our next stop is a stone carving village.   No matter what culture, children always like to play.

Carvings are impressive.      

Some oversee the abodes of the ones that carved them.  

It’s almost hard to appreciate the skill it takes to carve them when there are so many together.

But it is a skill passed from one generation to another.  

The larger the piece the more valuable it is and the more skilled the carver has to be.

   

But again, it is the faces that captivate me the most.  What are they thinking?  What is generating that expression?  What is he reacting to?      

After a bit more of a ride we stop at Prei Proh Village where lunch is riverside.     

After which we visit the ancient bridge of Kampong Kdei.   Three things I am particularly fond of photographing: bridges, windows and doors.

I am happy snapping away.

 

Ah, but I forgot:  faces, I love photographing faces, specially when they are not aware of it.

This man waits for a tourist to offer a ride to. And not having found one returns to just waiting.

So does his horse.  

A bit more of a ride and mid-afternoon we arrive at Angkor Home Hotel whose lobby can’t be any more soothing to the soul. 

At night we go to a Angkor Mondial restaurant and show.  The dancers were amazing.  A characteristic that stuck to me of the dance is how the women, while dancing, bend their fingers back so much that it seems that they will break.

Tomorrow we will go to Angkor Wat, a visit I have been looking forward to throughout the trip!

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cambodia, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Oi Goi Oi!

Again my eyes open early though I can’t capture a sunrise on my lens due to the fact that the hotel is in a very busy area of Ho Chi Minh City.  Not much of a sky to see here.

After our morning ritual of coffee, breakfast and climbing on the bus we are all set for our day-long trip to Chau Doc via Cantho.

A few hours in, most on the bus need either a coffee or a bathroom  break so we stop at the Vietnamese version of a Starbucks.   Much more relaxed atmosphere than the chain, with much better coffee!  They use this aluminum coffee filter and place it on top of a glass, one-third filled with condensed milk.  They pour hot water on the filter of ground coffee beans and when the condensed milk and freshly brewed coffee meet, the result is heaven to the taste buds! Don’t know how these people remain thin!     

There are hammocks all over and when you order your coffee they will bring it to your selected hammock.  We congregate around some low, small tables so we can chat.  Again, Vietnam unexpectedly is providing me a flood of memories of my childhood and my country.   Hammocks are a standard in Paraguay.  Rarely will you see a back yard that doesn’t have one.  The shade from the trees they are usually tied to, providing a perfect setting for a siesta and shelter from the brutal sun, while the hypnotic side-to-side swing helps keep the flies away and you sound asleep.  But no time to sleep now.  I do not waste the chance to go back in time and space and lie on one, nonetheless.  I recall, while I do so, that it takes a bit of balance to climb on!  

After a few more hours (observing daily life alongside my window)  

and a stop at a lotus plantation

we arrive to Cantho   and it’s time for lunch near the river.   

Lunch of vegetable soup,  steamed shrimp with mango sauce,

stuffed pumpkin flower   and crispy pork with mushroom sauce, is divine.  Heavenly coffee, divine lunch… there’s an out of this world theme in this post. 🙂

There is a market on the side and I buy yet another scarf and t-shirt.   Our guide has taught me to say “Oh my god!” in Vietnamese and when I exclaim:  “Oi gioi oi!” when a vendor quotes me the price, I get a look of total surprise and the most charming  of giggles  as she calls the other vendors and has me repeat it.  This was me just before I said it.  They are having a ball.  Didn’t get me much of a discount but it did make for fabulous interaction.

A short distance from there we climb on scooters for another of what my tour company calls UFE’s (Unforgettable Experiences).  Scooters and drivers wait for us to take us to a bird sanctuary at the other end of the town, Banglang.    Didn’t spot many birds.

They leave us and we walk through town.  My “inside quietness” surfaces as I photograph their faces, their houses, their town.   


Back to bus.   Karaoke or Internet anyone?  

Long Xuyen is our next stop where we visit the Cao Dai Temple.  Not a promising start…  

Then a surprisingly pretty building…  

Then puzzlement when I see the monument in front with a reverse swastika embedded. Turns out that the reverse swastika, which happens to have a Buddhist influence, is sacred to many Vietnamese.  The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness.

Cao Dai is a religion that aims “to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.  Cao Dai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers form a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”  May get my vote on that premise.   I am mesmerized by its colors and by its principles.  About 2 million people practice it in Vietnam.  Persecuted by the communist rule, it gained in the ’80’s its acceptance.

Back on the bus.  Am really liking crossing the countryside.  We are taking this route so as to be near the Cambodian border.  Tomorrow we are cruising from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Pnom Penh, Cambodia on the Mekong River.

On the way we view a bit more of daily life.  School is out and some girls are in the traditional ào dái dress, used as uniforms in the school. They are heading towards the local ferry which will take them home.  A lot of life takes place on the river; they are so dependent on it.  

We arrive to the Dong Nam Hotel in Chau Doc.  I take a shower and again get on the bus to go to dinner at a local family’s house.  It’s actually a bakery by day and at night she hosts small dinners for tourists.  I try taro and rice soup –purple in color with what to me was a pretty strange taste.   Egg noodle with seafood –great.  Stir-fried morning glory (a plant not the same as the one in the US which is not edible) –delicious!   Catfish cooked in a clay pot –good.

When we arrive it was pouring. First downpour in almost 20 days of travel. It reminded me so much of the storms that hit Asunción and used to scare my mom so much. Ay Vietnam, what are you doing to me?  You have generated so many memories!

The rain brings in a visitor that was not invited to the table.    Mom did not like them; I liked them less.  She got accustomed to them; my aversion got stronger.

Back to the hotel.  The rain is steady and strong and turns into the prequel of dreams of times long gone.

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cantho, Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Long Xuyen, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Unexpectedness

I have been waking up earlier than usual on all our stops.  When I don’t think I am going to be up on my own, I ask to be woken up at least 1 hour before the rest of the group.  The group is woken up 1½ before any departure.  I wake up 2½ hours before.  I unpack everything when I arrive to the hotel room, even when we are somewhere for just one night. The extra time allows me to pack calmly and a lot of times enjoy a sunrise with a cup of coffee in my hand.  Tonight is different.  I’m too exhausted to unpack and since we are leaving at 7:00 am, wake-up call is at 5:30; I ask for a 4:30 am call –or a 4:30 am knock on the door since the hotel is quite basic and has no phone.

I plunk onto bed almost hurting myself ‘cause it’s so hard.  Regardless, I fall asleep immediately.

And I wake up just as suddenly, earlier -way earlier- than my wake-up call and at an hour that is quite indecent to be awake.   My eyes shoot open so violently they almost hurt my upper lid.  My stomach is in knots.  My head feels like it’s burning –I touch my forehead and it is- and feels like it is going to burst open at any moment.  My legs are shaky and I am sweating.  Then I feel a dry heave. Now I know I am very ill.  I don’t throw up, ever.  If I even feel like doing so, it means I am violently, horribly sick.  Fortunately I am organized and fumble towards the Azitrhomycin/ Loperamide combination the Healthy Traveler’s Clinic gave me.  I’m going to take it even if I don’t have, you know, diarrhea… yet. The instructions are blurry and move side to side defying me to grasp them, but I decipher them and with the pills in my hand I crawl to the bathroom where usually a bottle of drinking water has awaited.  Not now, not in this hotel, and not when I need it the most.  I drag myself to the open-air restaurant (fortunately next to my room) where I intend to raid the refrigerator.  There it is.  I plaster myself against it searching for the handle so as to open it but find around it a big old lock preventing me from doing so. I go back to my room, actually bathroom, where the next 3 hours are spent being grateful that I wrote my will while alternately bent over and on the toilet.  Hoping I won’t inconvenience the tour.  Don’t think I have ever thrown up for that many hours.  I hear noises out in the restaurant.  It’s 5:00 am and they haven’t come to my door.  I ask for water, feeling like I’m in the desert and after traveling hours under a midday sun, encounter a nomadic tribe that will give me some life liquid.  I take my pills, open my door, close my suitcase, look outside and see it is light.  I have missed the sunrise and my morning coffee, but I am alive and am as relieved as I am surprised.

The group passes by my front door.  I rise (it really feels like from the dead) and join them.  The doctors say I look very pale.  I tell them I’m sick, though I can safely be away from the bathroom from now on.  The prospect of many hours on the bus, on the death road, bopping up and down, is almost making me sick all over again though.  Another one in the group is also sick.  Misery likes company they say.  I just want to recover.

We are headed to Vientiane, Laos.  It is the capital and largest city in Laos though as of 2012 its population is still less than a million. On the way we will stop at Tham Jang Cave then continue to an organic farm where the group will have lunch.

The group is concerned about my wellbeing and check on me periodically.  I feel cared for and well-liked.  When they stop at the cave they ask if I can make it.  There is a suspension bridge leading to it.  Am feeling better but extremely weak so don’t want to chance it.  Our trip leader, Otto, and others in the group offer to take photos for me.  I hand Otto the camera and this is what I didn’t want you to miss, though I did:

Beautiful!

I think he took this photo just to make me feel less bummed about not having gotten off the bus.  

  Wouldn’t have made it up these steps.

Or down this tunnel.    

I’m bummed anyway.  They seem beautiful.  

They are back, so onward we go to Vang Vieng Organic Farm.  

I am still weak so will not join the group with the owner of the farm, Mr. Tim, on the walk around the farm.    I ensconce myself under a thatched roof, able to enjoy the slight breeze by slathering myself in bug repellent. I still seem to be a magnet for mosquitoes.   

Up from a snooze I feel well enough to slowly walk around.

The farm is really involved with the community.   

Found a jack fruit tree.  Strangest fruit.  The taste is really sweet.  Orange in color.  Texture sort of like an oyster.   I can relate this not from tasting it then, but on another day.      

The only thing I am tasting today is my mulberry tea. 

And a little bite from this fried leaf which actually was tasty.  However, the oiliness prevented me from having more than a tiny bite.  

I take a photo of the group and they all cheer as they say: “Lidia is feeling better; she is taking photos, wonderful!!”  Their reaction made me feel even better.

I did not have dinner, however, when we got to Vientiane.  Needed to get more rest.

The city surprised me.  Will tell you why on the next post.

PS:  As you may have surmised, I am behind in my posts.  Just didn’t want you guys to worry about my health so rest assured… I am fully recovered!

Categories: Laos, Ramblings, Vang Vieng | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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