16 May 2012

Hi, Mom, I May Be a While

This week (week 20) on the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge: Difficult Travel Moments.

I've been pretty lucky in my travels...there have been a fair share of issues -- like the trip where I couldn't find two of my hostels so had to wing it and hope for the best, or others where I had to manage through weird European strikes -- but nothing compared to what I ran into on my Argentina adventure in 2005.

The day after I was supposed to leave
The whole trip had been a bit rocky. The weeks leading up to it were crazy at work, so my research was minimal. I didn't realize it would be winter, so I showed up sans jacket. I also showed up a bit hungover from my friend's wedding, a bit worried about my dad being sick for the first time ever that I remembered (he had a mursa staph infection), and without the memory cards for my new digital camera.

Luckily my brother was there for the first two days of my stay, and had an extra jacket I could use (being that he is almost a foot taller than me, it was a little big, but it worked). And I was able to pick the memory cards up at the airport. And, after a few days there, I figured out some things to do, including visiting Mendoza.

Mendoza was probably my favorite place on my trip -- the weather was a little warmer than Buenos Aires, and the city not so overwhelming. I got a little sick, so likely hopped up on cold medicine on the flight back to BsAs. Who knows...the day I left was a long one; I had an early flight and forgot my bro's jacket at the hostel, so had to book it back there and get back to the airport before my plane took off. What I do know is that on that flight, my passport disappeared from my possession -- I think I maybe put it in my pocket and it fell out, or I meant to put it in my purse and missed.

The topper? I realized it was gone on a Friday night. My plane was to leave on Sunday afternoon. This was a problem.

10 May 2012

As the Miles Stretch...

This week (week 19*) on the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge: The Perfect Roadtrip

View from a road trip through the Andes
Anyone who knows me knows that my perfect road trip would involve me not being in a car. When 9/11 happened, I was in Atlanta, and two of my coworkers decided to rent a car to drive back to San Francisco. Someone smarter than me would have jumped into the car with them, since in the day or two after, we had no idea when planes would be up in the air again, if ever! I however, don't wish myself in a car for too long, under stress like that, on my worst enemy. (not to worry...I made it home safe and sound the Saturday after)

But, in the spirit of this challenge...a road trip. The great American dream. The open road full of potential. When I think of road trips I think of how lucky we are -- this country is so diverse, so full of natural and man-made beauty. And even just west of the Rockies, well...something surprising to me is that my bucket list may just include a trip, via a vehicle.

To me... I think the perfect road trip would consist of three people. Why three? I feel like four crowds the car too much, and two just heightens the risk of boredom. Three means one person drives, one person can nap, and one person can stay up and talk to the driver. As someone who cannot really sleep in the car, I find this to be key. Perhaps I am just jealous of those who can, but I find it rude if no one stays up with the driver. Oh, and it would be nice if all the people in the car were friends, but that's not necessary. Sometimes it's fun to go with someone who is more of an acquaintance, that way there is lots to learn. At the very least, everyone in the car should be willing to share and answer random questions, with no topics really off limits.

08 May 2012

My Seven Super Shots

My friend Francesca over at The Working Mom's Travels "tagged" me to participate in this fun challenge:  Hostelbooker's Seven Super Shots. As someone who loves talking travel, and showing off photos, I am excited to take part! Thanks, Freesia!

So, here we go.

A photo that...

1. Takes my breath away
In the Fall of 2009, I had the opportunity to visit Yosemite. I think I had been once, very briefly, for a day in college, so it felt like I was seeing it with fresh eyes. And, with every turn, I was astonished by the beauty that surrounded me. I could not believe such a place could truly exist, and even more amazing to me, that it so close to the bustling City where I spend most of my time. 

2. Makes me laugh or smile
After a long day's hike on the Cinque Terre Blue Trail, our feet were hurting and we were hungry! We had arrived back in Monterosso, taken a nap and gotten ready to go eat! But before we could go down to the restaurant, we took a little stop to dip our toes in the Med. My mom seems to so be enjoying herself here -- her first time touching the clear blue waters there! 

3. Makes me dream
When I returned to Buenos Aires after a brief visit to Mendoza (and before I realized I lost my passport), I took a rainy-day visit to La Recoleta Cemetery. This may be a strange place for dreaming -- after all, it is celebrating those that no longer have the capacity to dream -- but this particular picture has a sense of hope, of purpose. The angel in the forefront is pointing to the sky, as if telling us to believe, and the opening in the clouds in the distance, through the rain clouds, seems like the light emerging through the tough times. 

4. Makes me think
My first visit to Barcelona was in 1998, on my way back to Paris after living in Sevilla. The contrast between the two cities was amazing. I was especially struck by Gaudi, and how he influenced so much of what I was seeing in Barcelona. And nothing caused me more pause than the Sagrada Familia, the huge, unfinished cathedral. That someone dreamt up this place, and made other people believe in it so much they continue to work on it through to this day! I have visited it on two subsequent visits, and love to sit and reflect on life, dedication, and what it means to have such passion. Will I ever feel that passionate about something? 

5. Makes my mouth water

A perfect cappuccino, served to me in Vatican City prior to the tour of the necropolis and grotto. I fell in love with these cups of goodness on my trip in 2011, and while I try, nothing I have had back here in the States can even compare. Is the milk different? The espresso? Or is it just the special pleasure of partaking in such a delicate drink while in midst of a different culture, language, and routine? I'll never know.

6. Tells a story
I love the juxtaposition of these two people sitting beneath the mural of two others. The past and the present coming together in the same moment...this was mid-morning on a weekday in Cartagena, Colombia, and already oppressively hot. These two seem to be taking a break, although I do wonder what they do, since Cartagena seemed like a place where unemployment may be high. They seem deep in conversation, but there's also a chance they are just acquaintances from the neighborhood that happened upon a break at the same time. I was far enough away that they didn't see me take the photo, but they seemed so intense that I couldn't resist taking a shot.

7. I am most proud (i.e. my National Geographic shot)
Taken near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, these little buggers were all over the place at the Bali House where we stayed. But while they were a constant, it was near impossible to get a good picture. They would poke their heads out and then quickly hide if they sensed any movement -- like a whack-a-mole! One day, I headed towards the beach, framed my shot, then patiently waited...and waited...finally, this little one popped its head out politely allowed me to snap a picture. It was a matter of seconds, but I just love this one.

I don't have any other bloggers to tag at the moment; stay tuned and I will add a few when I can!

05 May 2012

On the Road


As a kid, I feel like I traveled quite a bit...though we barely left California and never left the USA. I was extremely to lucky to grow up where I did, where so much change -- in topography, climate, and culture -- in just a few hour's drive. Often, when thinking about "travel," many people automatically assume that means going somewhere international, and poo-poo domestic travel as "not real." And while I, too, think it is important to get out of your home country, that it helps you gains some perspective, I don't think people are inherently wrong or ignorant for doing so. We live in a huge and diverse country, hell, I live in a huge and diverse state...so even going to another part of my state can be a huge cultural shift for me. To me, travel is getting out of your comfort zone and home and experiencing something different.

Family reunion in Eureka...underneath a Redwood tree in my
aunt's backyard
This thinking, and appreciation of this type of travel, stems from how I grew up. Our vacations did not involve going to far-flung countries, or even cities or states very far away. Most of our travels as a whole family occurred within a few hours of home, and involved a car ride, wriggling in the back seat, and perhaps a punch or two -- this was before the days of any sort of entertainment in the car other than a book -- and an eventual arrival to the Redwoods or maybe the Monterey area or something. My dad's schedule (and, I think, general dislike of being too far from home) defined a lot of what we were able to do as a family of four.

I loved getting away from home for a little while. Hotels were the coolest thing when I was a kid -- there were pools! Unlimited ice in the halls! The chance to get some junk food from the vending machine RIGHT THERE! Then there was the camping -- which we still do to this day; when I was little we only did this one or two summer weekends a year, and it meant going to the River and playing with my older cousins, chasing after a kid named Neil with shaving cream for the Sadie Hawkins dance, and playing at this magical place called Piggy Park.

I do remember a few plane trips -- we went to Disneyland (every once in a while, my dad was able to join us), and once to this far-flung place called Austin, Texas, to meet relatives...I remember being on the UT campus and thinking it was the most neat-o place in the world and maybe someday I could go to school there and hang out in that huge library. But mostly I remember the car rides with the four of us.

Should I ever have kiddos, I'll be hauling them on some international travel. But equally important will be the local trips, visiting and appreciating the things we have right in our own backyard, and understanding how those experiences are vitally important to the people they will become.

This is a part of the BootsnAll Indie Travel Challenge. Each week, they give a different prompt...I'm starting a little late; this is in response to week 18, "Family Travel."

I'm working on catching up!

03 May 2012

A'shopping We Will Go

Flea Markets are one of those things I've never understood. How people can get so excited about a glorified garage sale (my perception) was something extremely foreign to me. I am not much of a shopper, period, unless I have something specific that I need/want. It is...exhausting.

Nope, not a trunk.
Recently, I found myself in need of sprucing up my home a bit. I am bored with things, and hate some of the things I have, and just need to make some changes. One such change includes a new coffee table, which, I would like to be an old travel-style trunk. While this is something I guess I could spend some gross amount of money on at Pottery Barn, I wanted to find something more authentic (oh, and, I don't have even close to a gross amount of money). I had heard through the grapevine (and read on the interwebs) that this is the sort of thing I could find at garage sales/flea markets/antique stores.

Enter Treasure Island Flea Market.

This market is relatively new -- about a year -- and they are doing a great job promoting it. I have seen it referenced in emails, on buses, from friends...enough that I definitely took note of it (and I tend to not notice a lot). Treasure Island doesn't always feel super accessible -- you have to get on the bridge and, more dauntingly, merge back mid-way to get back home -- but it is only about 10 minutes or less outside of the City.

It was a lovely Sunday that my friends & I headed over. Driving through the Island, we noticed a proliferation of wineries -- also very new information! We spilled out of the car, four people and 2 dogs, and headed on in, prepared to be wowed.

At one of the first stalls I happened upon, I found some great trunks. Not being an impulse buyer (ahem), I decided to keep trucking on to see what else may be out there, and could I get the best deal. I was absolutely fascinated by 1. how common these old trunks seem to be, 2. what else was being sold there. One booth had the mixing bowls my mom owns -- white with green flowers that she got for a wedding gift in 1974 -- for 12$/each. Another had a bunch of junk items from my childhood for prices way higher than what we paid way back when.

And then we came upon this stall that was selling homemade signage with various inspirational quotes...and these cute, bicycle-like push carts. Both my friend A & I were entranced...oh, the things we could do with these carts. Again, not being impulse buyers, we walked away...but were drawn back moments later after talking each other into them. They are all homemade from recovered parts, and are super, super cute. To me, it was the kind of thing you see in wine country for some crazy price. These were very reasonable. I only wish the vendor had a company name or website or anything where I could recommend them -- a wife & husband, nice as can be.

With our major purchases under our belt, our energy was spent, and it was time to head off to drink some wine and toast our success.

Not sure if I personally would head back out there anytime soon, but it was a really fun experience. There were tons of people & pooches, a bike demonstration, and a whole "food court" of trucks. If I need something unique or more vintage, this would be a great starting (and possibly finishing) point. For now, I will content myself with my new bicycle cart and figuring out what to do with it.

Held the last weekend of each month. Admission is 3$, and they sometimes offer specials from the discount sites that include wine tasting and food from the food trucks.