Category Archives: Travel

Stories that take you on a journey, vacation, voyage, trip,; “Let’s go somewhere.”

Maurice’s Campground©

This story written by Will Jones

Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia
to see the total eclipse of the sun.
~ “You’re So Vain,” Carly Simon

Will we ever know who Carly was singing about?
One man? Three? More than three?
It doesn’t really matter, does it.

What matters is the walk through the dunes
Back from the beach to Maurice’s campground
On that early evening in July 1972.

How the sun’s light, extinguished in Nova Scotia
But only partially shadowed here on the Cape,
Grew dimmer as false twilight descended.

How the dune birds stopped singing,
And how the hawk,
Reacting to the approaching darkness,

Swooped down in the fading light and
Taloned the skittering mouse
Who’d made a fatal mistake.

What matters is what happened earlier
In the warm sand
with the ocean nearby

When we were invisible briefly,
Our ardor sheltered by the incessant
Sound of waves crashing on the shore.

We remember this in the silent half-light
As we walk back to the campground,
As the hawk, rising above the sandy path,

Its prey firmly grasped,
Levels off,
Flies into the eclipse.

photo by www.FranceHouseHunt.com

 

Rules of the Road

This story written by Patti Isaacs
In the early 1980s, China had just opened to the West but was still emphatically communist.  People dressed in nearly identical Mao jackets and called each other “comrade.”  Food shortages were common, a radio was a luxury, and bicycles transported the masses.  Curtained limousines with white-gloved drivers were the privilege of a few highly-ranked officials.  The locals stopped to stare, open-mouthed, when one passed by.
     At that time, I lived in the ancient Chinese capital of Xi’an, known for the army of terracotta soldiers unearthed there only six years earlier.  I returned in late 2005 to find a metropolis with skyscrapers and a high-tech zones surrounded by freeways.  In a quarter century, apartment building have replaced the traditional courtyard homes inside Xi’an’s city wall; Audis and Hyundais cruise roads once traveled by donkey carts and the occasional commune truck.  Bicycle traffic is down now that capitalism is up.
     Experiencing a city by foot, bicycle, taxi, and bus provides a glimpse of the social and cultural differences that separate China from the West.  To Western eyes, traffic in China appears utterly chaotic.  Drivers run red lights and turn in front of oncoming cars, pedestrians blithely step in front of trucks, a bicyclist hogs the center lane while glancing over his shoulder to deliver a withering look to the guy behind the wheel of a dump truck.
     In the twenty-first century, The Chinese still follow patterns of movement established when most transportation was human- or donkey-powered.  Never big on queuing, they don’t so much drive in their lanes as they jostle to fill any available space.  Released from the constraints of enforced egalitarianism, the few who can now afford cars cheerfully lord it over those who can’t, squeezing cyclists against the curb and nearly clipping pedestrians who brave the crosswalks.  Motorists unapologetically occupy a place in the pecking order that used to be reserved for the most well-placed Party operatives.
     Driving in China involves many games of chicken followed by a series of dances.  Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians constantly eye and evaluate each other, but like bighorn sheep who establish dominance by butting heads, they usually avoid the carnage of a fight to the death.  Instead, once it’s been decided who leads, they arrange themselves, with the flawless timing of Peking Opera acrobats, into a flowing, interwoven pattern.  Their feet hover the brake pedals even as they try to outrun every other motorist on the road to reach the spot they want.
     If Americans tried this, we would surely kill each other.  We are a society of laws and not men, intent on following the rulebook.  And too many of us are certain we are the one who should be leading the dance.
     As addicted as they are to their cell phones, few Chinese use them as they drive.  Nor do they shave, eat, apply makeup, or read the newspaper behind the wheel.  Driving there is serious business.  The Chinese acknowledge that not everyone is up to the task; they know their traffic is fearsome, with a worldwide reputation.
     These days, most locals use bikes only to get around the quiet neighborhood streets.  To venture into the wider city, they prefer the relative safety of a bus or taxi.  So when an American regularly bicycles to downtown Xi’an, her Chinese friends voice their respect—welcome respect, as the expatriate is incompetent at many things in her adopted hometown.
     Maybe because Xi’an now has central heating, email, and supermarkets, the exotic is harder to find.  Getting on a bike, threading into the traffic tapestry, and learning to deliver the obligatory dismissive look carries the rider to a place many people never visit.
This piece is an excerpt from a book Patti is writing about her experiences living in China in 1981 and 2005.  You can read more at her blog, timetravelinchina.wordpress.com
photo by patti

 

Birthday – A Sharing Tradition

Sharing birthdays with Shinazy
birthdayHappy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear, Linda, Marlene, and Kitty . . . WHAT ?  !!!
     When it came to celebrating our birthdays, my younger sisters and I became triplets.  Our mother altered birth certificates so each of us could enter kindergarten by the birth-date cutoff.  (Why no one questioned this statistical oddity is another story).  Every year three little faces puckered lips and blew.  I never revealed my birthday wish, but I knew it would someday come true because, in the presence of all that wind, every candle was extinguished.  
     My sisters and I were born under the Sagittarius sun sign – with Christmas only a few weeks away.  As each birthday passed, I closed-in on that wished-for December date – my true, single-birth day.  A birthday where I was the center of attention…no sharing.  I’d be the only birthday girl smiling for the flash bulbs and the cake would appear decorated with one name . . . mine.
     The first time my wish came true was on my 30th birthday . . .  Yeah . . . Great.  I was 30, the age-defining split second of becoming a member of The Establishment.  It was official; I joined the You-Can’t-Trust-Anyone-Over-30 crowd.  For three decades, I imagined a joyous celebration of my very existence, instead, I was blinded by candles commemorating that I was OLD.
     As the other hallmark birthdays passed: 4oh, 5oh, 6oh, I shared the occasions with other Sagittarians, while imagining a celebration, which became more elaborate.  The great thing about imagination is everything is possible.  birthdayOne year I invented a party at the North Pole where the aurora borealis was my personal candle light.  Even in this fantasy, when it came to candle-blowing time, I wished that next year the deep exhale would extinguish real flames.
     A few Decembers ago, I decided to combine my birthday with my honey’s, who was born in February.  The perfect gift was for us to go away for the weekend and experience something new – births are new, birthdays should be new.  Off we went to overnight in the lighthouse on East Brother’s Island.  We’ve repeated sharing our birthdays every February, staying at a different lighthouse.  This February as we drove to the Point Sur Lighthouse, my sweetee turned to me and said, “Here you are again, sharing your birthday.” 
     Yes, Sharing … The best way to celebrate a birthday.
photo by Aih and Larry 1732
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More Eating Counters for Us to Enjoy

  Update 12/5/2011
   

Thank you Bev
      by Shinazy

·         Fat Dog Cafe, Rotarura, New Zealand 
o   You need to like a busy place.  Think about sharing because the portions are huge
·         Pastis, New York, NY 
       www.pastisny.com
o   Folks either love this place or say avoid it; in the higher price range
o   Brunch is popular here
·         Mama’s Fish House, Maui, HI 
o   Make a reservation to time your meal with the sunset
o   The food will match the view
·         Hali’Imaile General Store, Maui, HI 
o    Appetizers, cocktails, dessert = perfect    
o   Grand ol’ building   

Eating at The Counter, part 2 of 2

by Shinazy

As promised, here are a few of my favorites. Watch for additions to this list as I eat at more counters or when I receive your recommendations.

·        Central Park BistroSan Mateo, CA  
    • Tell Gorgio, the owner, how hungry you are and let him select your meal and wine – you will be surprised with foods that are outside your normal choices
·        FarmsteadSt. Helena, CA  
    • A fine example of the Local-Sustainable-Organic movement, and of course, the wine country location supports an award-winning wine list
v  Thank you meekb for this recommendation
·        IberiaMenlo Park CA  
    • The Best Tapas in the world – only serviced at the counter during the dinner hours.
·         JW Marriott HotelMiraflores, Peru 
    • I recommend you eat your first dinner be at the bar, enjoy authentic dishes, watch how to make a dynamite Pisco Sour, and listen to stories about the area
·         Va de Vi  Walnut Creek, CA  
    • Call ahead for reservations, or plan to wait; the wait is worth it
·        Vino LocalePalo Alto, CA
o   I can truthfully say, they serve some of the best Santa Cruz mountain wines and in-season, local small plates

Eating at The Counter, part 1 of 2

Eat at a counter with Shinazy
eat

When was the last time you ate at the counter?

I really enjoy eating at counters, especially when I travel alone.  It feels like I’m sharing a meal with other people.  Eating at a table or in a booth, alone, is well . . .  eating alone.
When I eat at the counter, the person next to me may start a conversation or I will.  These talks are different from the talks with an airplane seatmate.
At the counter, everyone has something else to do – eat. 
Everyone has a different time to depart – when his or her meal is finished.
There are pauses to take a bite, or sip.  There are the interactions with the Server.  Because my time at the counter is short, I keep the topics light, talking about food, wine, the day’s events.
I think of The Counter as a daytime place.  The same place at night is The Bar.
At the bar, folks add business related topics to the conversation.  Sitting alone is a networking opportunity; business deals can start here.  Or, it can be like attending a mini party – happy people coming and going.
Sometimes I need to get out of the house, just to . . . be out.  So I take myself to my favorite local restaurant and sit at the counter or at the bar.  I enjoy watching the actions of the staff, well-choreographed movements, or the theater of a performing bartender, while I chat with folks I just met.  It’s a lovely time.
I highly recommend you eat at a Counter.
—————————————
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about some of my favorite Counters.
photo by shinazy
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Beach Towns – Catalina Island, part 2 of 2

by Shinazy

One of my intentions for this website is to share links to information I find useful, or fun, or interesting, or . . . 

    • Spend the extra few dollars and upgrade to the Commodore Lounge.  You get a voucher for a beverage; I like Bailey’s and coffee or Mimosa.  You sit on the top deck so you get a great view of the Queen Mary, then Catalina Island.  If it is foggy, you can stay inside.  If it is sunny, you can go outside.  I like options.
  • Buffalo Nickel Restaurant: 
    • www.buffalonickelrestaurant.com
    • The food is fresh and tasty.  I recommend the Mahi Mahi tacos – big moist chucks of fish.  For dessert try, a drink called Buffalo Milk, the signature drink on the island.  Each establishment has a slightly different recipe.  I think the one at Buffalo Nickel is the best (ask for more chocolate syrup if you want) – beware Buffalo Milk is easy to drink and potent.
      • Buffalo Milk
1 ½ oz. Smirnoff vodka
¾ oz. light crème de cacao
¾ oz. dark crème de cacao
¾ oz. banana liqueur
1 ½ oz. half and half
½ of a fresh banana
Blend ingredients with ice and pour into a hurricane glass.
Dribble chocolate around the inside of the glass and top with grated cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Zip Line: 
    • www.visitcatalinaisland.com/avalon/tour_zipline.php
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vrR_TpZEcI
    • Yes, this is FUN.  The first step on the first line is scary.  The first step on the second line is less scary.  Then it is just FUN.  On line 2, my sister stopped short of the landing.  As promised, a rope was tossed at her, but she forgot to catch it.  Then came a series of maneuvers until one of them worked and she was pulled onto the landing.  Was she scared being stuck on a wire, hanging over a ravine?  “Nope, it was pretty cool”
  • CatalinaWiFi 
    • http://gateway.catalinawifi.com/index.html
    • If you want speed greater than 1Mbps without interruptions, then head for somewhere above the fifth floor, otherwise, forget it.  Anyway, you’re in a Beach Town, try unplugging.
  • Taxi from LAX
    • www.lbyellowcab.com
    • Before your trip to LAX, call and arrange for a taxi to be at the airport.  I call the Long Beach Yellow Cab Co-Op and ask for the driver named Menour.
    • Try to travel the freeways between 10:00am and 2:00pm; otherwise, it will take twice as long to get anywhere.