goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Special Gifts

In Perrault’s version of Sleeping Beauty, there are seven fairy godmothers. The youngest one grants the baby princess the gift of being the most beautiful girl on the world; the second, being as spiritual as an angel; the third, to do everything with admirable grace; the fourth, to execute every dance with perfection; the fifth, to have the singing voice of a nightingale; the sixth, to strum marvelously any musical instrument. Then a fairy who wasn’t invited curses the princess and the seventh fairy (who was hidden beneath the curtains) steps in and saves the princess.Sleeping Beauty movie image Walt Disney

The concept of being given a special gift at birth may seem to belong in fairy tales but I have become more and more sure that I was gifted also. Certainly not by a fairy godmother, as no one has re-entered my life to continue bestowing similar gifts, but something in my being received this ability.

No, not beauty, not grace (I laugh that klutz must be my middle name), and certainly not dance, but I have a sense of direction.

Okay, big deal you retort. Well, call it spatial awareness, but I usually am not lost even if I don’t know where I am. Let me explain.

This is Lisa in the same spot many years later...she was not even a figment of imagination at the time of the tale!

This is my daughter Lisa in the same spot many years later…she was not even a figment of imagination at the time of the tale!

When I was four years old my family went on a camping trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. There we took a ranger hike up Cadillac Mountain. The ranger was adamant about staying together when it was time to hike back from the summit, as people could easily stray off the path and get stuck on a cliff, needing to be rescued at great expense. Well, sure enough, we scattered when we got to the bald summit to gather wild blueberries and after a while it became apparent that our family and a few others had been left behind. Well, there I was 4 years old, but I read some trail signs and said, this way and lead them down. Sure enough, the ranger came running back for us when we were near the bottom, but from that point on I was nicknamed the “Trail Finder” in my family. My usual assignment after that was to find the car in the huge shopping center parking lot.

As I am still very much exploring this new place we live, I can say, okay, let’s take that road, and then turn and turn again as we meander among the vineyards and farms, and we will end up where we need to be. Sure, I have the GPS as a back-up but rarely need it.  My inner compass keeps me moving in the right direction.compass

Only two places have ever confused me. One was easily rectified. When I climbed out of the subway in Manhattan I sometimes turned the wrong way to walk to my destination. No big deal; a short block later with the numbered streets I could easily turn around if need be.  lost

The other place was more of a problem. It seemed that something geological under Huntington, West Virginia threw off my inborn compass 180 degrees. Oh sure, I could intellectualize the direction analysis, doing something like….”okay, the park is that way…oops, I’m usually exactly opposite so it is this other way.”  And that could make it right.

The irritation there was I have I NEVER have to intellectualize it outside of Huntington…I just KNOW. Sitting here in my office I know the window to my right is facing south-southwest. Yes, I have seen the sun sweep across the sky, but I also saw that at my house in West Virginia and could not just “know.”gifted

So, I feel gifted. Yeah me!  How about you? Do you have a special talent that just comes naturally with no real effort?

 

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Snow in June

IMG_3345No, not to worry. Our weather continues to delight us. My first year in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is almost complete and we are very much enjoying the climate.  After spending almost 20 years in the heat and humidity of Tennessee and then in West Virginia’s warm spot of Huntington, I find the cooler temps in Oregon much more comfortable. While y’all are roasting, we will have a high near 70 with some light rain. The crops thank you. The body can wear a jacket with a hood and manage just fine. Only visitors use umbrellas. IMG_3347

However, as a newbie I am still discovering the many new things that grow in this abundant land. IMG_3349

I learned this is called Meadowfoam and the seed produces a cooking grade oil that will not go rancid and oil for use in cosmetics. I’ll try to get some of the cooking oil and see how it compares to other kinds.


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High Value Travel: Private Tour Guides

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.                                                                                                           Warren Buffet 1930- , American Investment Entrepreneur

 

I met Carol through the internet in 1996. She was a travel agent in California and soon began to provide service for my boss who flew somewhere just about every month. He was surprised I was using a resource located so far from Nashville and had me switch to the agency used by Vanderbilt.  However, when they overnighted a changed ticket instead of messengering it the two blocks, he learned the definition of value. Carol cared about him and providing her service for his monthly travel, and so she was responsive and easy to get along with. He agreed to switch back to Carol and she provided all his travel arrangements for the five years he and I worked together. I got to know her quite well over that time and visited her in California on two separate trips. 

She retired seven years ago and moved to Croatia. Although her parents had emigrated to the U.S. before she was born, she had been there to visit family several times and it felt right to her. Her hope was to provide individual tour guide service to people visiting Dubrovnik  but found many of the cruisers who didn’t already feel they could just see the place on their own opted to purchase a land tour arranged by the ship. It takes some work to find an alternative to a package someone hands you. And at first comparison, the price may not seem advantageous.

So I want to talk just for a bit about the way hiring a private tour guide can make a tremendous difference in the quality of a visit in a new place or as a way to explore areas of a place that are “off the beaten path.”

Just recently my daughter Lisa and I enjoyed a week in India on a group tour. As soon as I learned the itinerary I hired a private guide for some “free time”. It cost $225 for two guides and a car and driver and I was the one who finally called it quits after 8 hours. What a wonderful time we had getting to see non-tourist areas. If you have been reading my blog (if not, just go back about a month in the postings)  you already learned about how they listened to what we wanted and immediately figured out how to show us the real side of what living in India looks like. DSCF6128

About seven years ago, on a circle tour of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, my family visited Mesa Verde National Park. We stayed in a bed and breakfast that hosted Elder Hostel programs. Elder Hostel, now called Road Scholar, is an educational tour program geared mostly to people over the age of 50. I was intrigued by this b&b’s affiliation because it offered private educational programs as well.????????????

We hired a delightful archaeologist who took us on a 3 hour hike on BLM land. With her expertise we walked among ruins and learned more about the Anasazi people who lived in the area than anything the National Park Ranger told us later when we went into the park. I paid $150 for the five of us and it was worth every penny in the new appreciation each of us took from the experience.honeymoon 234

Three years ago one of my sisters presented my daughter and me with a surprise 4 night trip to Paris. She had found a steal of a deal (I’ve shared how to find those types of travel opportunities in a prior post) and was happy to take us. I decided that we needed to really get a feel for back street Paris and searched the web looking for tour offerings. When I found Richard, I knew I had what we wanted.

Shopping in a market in the Marais with Richard

Shopping in a market in the Marais with Richard

cooking_class_mushrooms_cookingRichard Nahem grew up in New York City but moved to Paris when he fell in love with it on a visit. His sense of adventure, eye for detail and love for the unexpected is what prompted me to hire him. Read through his blog to see what I mean.

We paid him 195 euros for 3 hours of back street tours 2 of the 3 full days we were there. In addition, Richard can arrange for cooking classes and also day tours outside of the city, especially to the nearby champagne wine growing area. Please go to his blog to his website about his tour service. Marais Palace family

Finally, Carol Sosa is available for walking tours of Dubrovnik. This town, called the Pearl of the Adriatic, is on the itinerary for many cruise ships. Visitors have between 4 and 10 hours there and yet, it was interesting to watch the kind of activity many chose the nine days I was there. I saw lots of people walking the main street eating gelato and going into the tourist shops and I saw long lines of tourists following a leader holding an electronic microphone. The sound quality was so poor that only the first ten people could probably hear and understand. However, there were easily 25-40 people trailing behind the guide. These tours usually cost between $25 and $40 per person and lasts maybe an hour.

Cruise ship tour group crowds around guide

Cruise ship tour group crowds around guide

In contrast, here are some things we did with Carol taking us on a private tour.green market2

Ivo working as a guide at the Fortress.

Ivo working as a guide at the Fortress.

Dubrovnik back streets3

old city pharmacyCarol has spent the past six plus years getting to know the secrets she can show to a small party. She has found out the shops that have authentic items made in Croatia, not tourist trap purchases found in some of the main street shops. She charges 70 euros per person for 3-4 hours and your tour is tailored to your specific interests. Read her blog to learn more about her.art

In a nutshell, a personal tour guide can customize the trip for YOU. While you can find tour programs that will give you great overviews (several years ago we enjoyed the boat trip on the Thames in London), and a group walking tour can give you tremendous value usually in one hour (like the Ghost Tour we joined in Oxford on that same trip), only a private tour for you and your immediate group can be geared to your interests and specifically address issues you have.

For example, when my camera died on our walk in Paris, Richard was able to take us to an electronics shop that had great prices, and we not only felt assured we were safe making a purchase there, the experience became part of the “getting to see how real Parisians live” experience.

So, consider hiring a personal tour guide, maybe not every day or every place you visit on a trip, but at least once to expand your awareness of what makes that location, the place that interested you enough to plan the trip, so very special.

 


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Out of This World

When we mention to people here that we moved in September from West Virginia the typical next question is why? Why did we move clear across the country to McMinnville, Oregon. Graham usually makes some kind of comment that he heard there was a winery nearby. (We now live in the middle of one of the amazing wine producing areas with over 100 wineries within 15 miles of our house.)

Domaine DruhinI did a lot of research before we decided on McMinnville.  One thing that really excited me was the availability of a lot of local food. In the seven months we have been here we have established direct relationships with farms for our proteins and produce. There is a farmers market ready to open for the season this week,  a year round farmers market and also a service that delivers farm fresh food to your door.  market Sept 26 2013

Additionally, the downtown business district is vibrant. It wasn’t always that way, though.  However, since the McMinnville Downtown Association formed in the late 1980s the street’s appearance has improved with trees, lighting and sitting areas, the stores are all occupied and there is a lot of business. DSC_0007

The Downtown Association sponsors a number of events that entice tourists. DSC_0030This weekend was the UFO Festival, held annually to commemorate the sighting of a flying saucer by a local farmer in 1950. It is an affair with lectures ranging from ufology to  astrophysics, but much of the attendance revolves around the parade.

May 17 2014 UFO Days

My three, of which I am very proud. LOL

Yesterday, after Lisa made sure we were all dressed in some kind of costume, we headed downtown for the 1 mile Abduction Race.

This was the last obstacle before the finish line

This was the last obstacle before the finish line

Sam expected to win and was in a good position but a middle schooler  was in front the whole way and he decided to let him come in first. He remembers well how that feels and knew his need to win was not as important.  Lisa was well behind in the pack but finished despite an asthma attack.  Her costume had people talking as they thought at first she was naked. She had had her gold unitard painted when we first got there.DSC_0012

But her costume was mild compared to most.  We had been told EVERYONE wears a costume but it became obvious that actually most people wore regular clothes. DSC_0097DSC_0120DSC_0139There seemed to be three levels of costume wearers: people who purchased something at the event to add a touch of alien whimsy;

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~people like us who put together something fun, even if it was not alien-related;DSC_0102

DSC_0107and peopdsc_077le who spent a lot of time and/or DSC_0202money on alien attire.DSC_0154

The parade lasted over an hour with bandsDSC_0251 and floatsDSC_0287 and lots of  groups. Anyone in alien costume could join in. What fun!!

This girl was part of a TaeKwondo group

This girl was part of a TaeKwondo group

Pet parade was held later in the day.

Pet parade was held later in the day.


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Walk on the Beach

I think my posts about India are about done and I will be moving on to other topics now so I thought sharing some photos taken a couple of days ago when my sister Laura, my son Sam and I walked on a beach south of Newport, Oregon might be a nice switch.

Sam wanted to take a selfie of the two of us on his phone.

Sam wanted to take a selfie of the two of us on his phone. Laura caught us with my camera.

Laura got into the spirit of hamming it up.

Laura got into the spirit of hamming it up.

A friend of mine takes wonderful photos of waves and birds and other natural things. She lives further south in Oregon and heads to a nearby beach regularly for her shots. I visited her a couple of months ago and she showed me how she captures and then edits her photos and I try to replicate the process but still have a ways to go. Check out her blog to appreciate how her skill is so much better.DSC_0043

The seagulls were enjoying some peace and quiet

DSC_0100until Sam started to chase them

DSC_0099DSC_0025DSC_0027The Pacific Ocean in Oregon does not usually attract a lot of swimmers, even in the heat of summer, because the water is typically cooler than the Atlantic, which enjoys the benefit of the Gulf Stream. Still, I had to put my feet in and they acclimated quickly.  The patterns of the shallow water over the sand caught my eye.DSC_0011

Sam needed to climb, even though he was only wearing flipflops. He is a boy, after all.DSC_0073

 

The tide was really low, the lowest Laura had ever seen in all her walks on this beach. A lot more was uncovered than she usually sees.

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So, an hour walking the beach, we headed to our favorite restaurant in Newport, Local Ocean, and then visited the resident sea lions basking on the old docks.

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I live in a beautiful state where the Coast is only one of the many wonderful ecosystems available to explore.

 

 

 


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Faces of India

Take a look at the people of India……their faces, their pride…their lives.

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Street food vendor in Agra market

 

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Volunteer in Delhi Sikh Temple kitchen preparing food for 1100 people a day

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School girls leaving Ghandi shrine in Delhi

 

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Snake charmer in Amber Fort in Jaipur

 

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Little girl who started following us in Jaipur

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Craftsman in Agra inserting semi-precious stones into marble

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School boys, courtesy of Nancy Leung

 

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Sikhs at Temple in Delhi

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Doorman, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Jaipur woman, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Receiving the blessing, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Guard at Unknown Soldier, India Gate, Delhi

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kids on a team, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Shop by the road, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Street food vendor, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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On a motorcycle, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Climbing up, courtesy of Nancy Leung (I think this is the winner of the being ready at the right time prize!!)

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Wedding guests, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Groom, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Little girl, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Sweeper, Amber Palace

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Roadside hangout, courtesy of Nancy Leung

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Philosophical discussion, Sikh Temple, Delhi

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Mother and son at wedding

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Nancy Leung and her husband Richard on an elephant at Amber Fort, Jaiput

With special thanks to Nancy Leung who was on the SmarTours trip with her husband Michael. Her superior camera and eye captured many of the shots here and as noted in other places in my blog.  After spending hours editing, she graciously shared them with all of us, to use as we would like.


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Animals Everywhere!!

As highly populated as India is with dense urban areas, it is primarily a rural country. While driving between cities, several types of birds were noticed.  These egrets found a safe haven near a farm area. egrets Nancy

We spotted our first monkeys when we drove into Delhi.moneky Nancy Arvind laughed at our excited reaction and assured us we would have a chance to see more monkeys later.  monkeyOn our drive back to Delhi he had the driver stop at an area where monkeys were being relocated from the city.

DSCF6479He told us that the vendor offering bananas and other foods for the animals gave a whole new meaning to the term “monkey business.”   DSCF6520

Lisa purchased some feed to entice some of the monkeys closer, but they remained pretty elusive.DSCF6514

There we also saw a nilgai, a native antelope of India.DSCF6505

I heard peacocks in several areas but it was Nancy Leung, with her superior camera, who caught sight of this one near the Birla Temple in Jaipur.peacock Nancy

Her camera also captured these parrots at the Taj Mahal.parrots Nancy

The bus also reacted with enthusiasm when we noticed our first camel.  camels-NancyThe area west of Jaipur is desert so there were more in that region that further east, but we noticed them working everywhere.DSCF6473

And the elephants!!! elephants-NancyWe got to ride some up the hill at the Amber Fort (more on that later) in Jaipur, but that is a nice touch at a tourist area. elephants-NancybGovernment regulations limit the elephants to four trips up the hill per day.elephants-Nancyc The handlers then ride them into town to find other locations where tourists might want a short ride or photo opportunity. DSCF6424We saw most elephants just as a part of everyday working life along the roadways.wind palacecb