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For April I'd like to hear travel stories. Interesting people, places, foods, history, travel experiences. Might be in your town, might be across the globe. Pictures get you extra points.
I'll have Kim judge the entries as it looks like she won't be traveling for a while.
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All good travel stories start with either "no sh*t, there we were..." or "it was a dark and stormy night".
I'm in on this one. I may have to alter several names and places to protect the guilty, however.
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I hope so. Let’s plan for a lot of stories here.
And pictures. I love pictures.
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I was hoping this would be a popular one...
It’s the picture search that slows me down!
I bow out from the competition as I have recently won, but this experience the high point of my trip with my Ex sister in law in Spain two years ago. We were just browsing in a small leather shop on the main street in Madrid when a parade broke out..People in folk costumes and wooden shoes with music walked down the street...All of us in the shop, staff and customers went to the doors...the parade expanded..to SHEEP!
Turns out it is a tradition..In the old days, sheep were herded from the north to the south on this route..it has remained as a day of local tradition..ONE day..THE day we happened to be there at the right place, right time..amazing.
Let me know if the link doesn't work.
And if you do not believe me..
National Geographic Sheep in Spain
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Psst- Don't tell anyone but I might use stock images!
I can't get the three youtube videos to embed (any hints?), but the rest of this is from my blog. You can click the links to watch the videos.
We went to Barcelona and Scotland last summer. I thought Barcelona was interesting, but I didn’t totally love it like most of our traveling friends have. I loved Scotland, though.
Our older son was on a two month sabbatical trip through Europe, and we caught up with him for a week in Scotland near the end of his trip, spending time in Edinburgh, Oban, and Glasgow.
Oban was our vacation within a vacation. It's a sweet town on the water, and a hub of the Caledonia MacBrayne ferry system. I picked it for the Lorne Highland Games going on that weekend, and for its proximity to Iona and Staffa, two islands that I wanted to visit.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and settled into Kilchrenan House.
It's just down the road from Dunollie Castle. We walked up to the castle, but it was closing by the time we arrived. No worries; it was time to head for our tour at Oban Distillery.
No pictures allowed in the distillery, but here's one of the whiskies we tasted.
I quite liked it. We also tasted the Oban 14, which is smokier/peatier. Who licked the ash tray?!
On Saturday we took the Three Isles Tour with West Coast Tours. It was spectacular. We took the ferry across to Craignure on Mull, then a scenic bus tour across Mull to Fionnphort to take a smaller ferry over to Iona. We spent two hours walking on Iona, the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland.
Medieval nunnery ruins
St. Oran’s Chapel
Iona Abbey is ancient and beautiful, but that was not our destination. We were looking for the beach at the end of the road, and we found it.
Next time we'll climb Dun I, but two hours isn't enough to do everything. Iona is a most bucolic place. Peace abounds.
We saw this rounding up of sheep on the walk back.
Good dog! or dogs.
From Iona we took an even smaller ferry to Staffa, home of Fingal's Cave, and a puffin colony that comes ashore to nest in the summer.
If you sit very quietly, the puffins will come to you.
This was my favorite part of our entire vacation.
Tyler's too! We spent about half an hour with the puffins, and then decided to hurry down to see Fingal's Cave before our hour ran out. The hexagonal basalt columns are very cool.
(as seen from the water)
We made it back to the boat with one minute to spare before the appointed departure. I was the last person to board. Do you think they would have left without me? (They were counting the passengers as we boarded, so I hope not.)
It was a perfect day. And on Sunday, we attended the Lorne Highland Games, a small local highland games event. Pipe bands! Hammer throw! But we missed the caber toss, because we had to catch the train to Glasgow. I guess we’ll have to go back.
Here's another fun trip, adapted from another blog post (it's not all knitting over there!) This was a family trip to Maui a couple years ago.
Who knits with thick yarn in Hawaii? Well, me, just for a bit, but I also brought some linen to play with. This is the Euroflax Sport mini skein set from Mason Dixon Knitting, in Sea.
I think they were spot on with the colors!
Knitting at sunset
The full moon coincided with the beginning of our time on Maui, and you know how I am about the moonset. So glad I took my real camera with me; the iPhone can do most things, but not this.
We had a couple stellar day trips. One was to the Lāna'i Cat Sanctuary (512 cats!) on the next island over. Fun day, with two ferry rides, drinks at the Four Seasons, and some tide pooling on a very beautiful beach.
We saw three whales playing near a sailboat in the sunset from our ferry back to Lahaina.
My favorite day included a hike to the Nakalele Blowhole. This is Mother Nature at her most impressive.
Rainbows everywhere! (If you're curious about the gifs, I'm using an app called Motion Stills, free from Google, that makes gifs from iPhone "live photos." It has image stabilization, which is awesome. It can also make short videos from the same photos.)
We really enjoyed the wraparound lanai on our rental condo. We had views of Lana'i and Moloka'i. Erosion has taken away the beach, but we were there for the views, including monk seals and green turtles swimming past. A perfect getaway.
Drinks at the Four Seasons, Lanai
One more trip! This was in 2008.
We were on a family trip with the extended family, sailing the British Virgin Islands on a 65 foot catamaran. It was the 10 of us and a crew of three: captain, chef, and hostess. Here's our home away from home:
At first I was afraid that the menu would be a lot of this:
But we all found our sea legs and it was fine. Having a chef on board meant that we weren't roughing it!
Here's the beginning of the February Baby sweater:
A bit breezy back there! I made it almost through the first sleeve (I'm on the garter edge), and that's when I realized that I didn't have the second ball of yarn. Oops. That's Guana Island in the background of the picture below; there's a very nice beach there with beautiful shells, but lots of jellyfish in the water. We were the only people there that day.
Guana Island is named for this rock formation, which looks like an iguana:
Here is some wildlife from Norman Island:
It was an amazing week, with lots of face time with family. We were celebrating MIL's birthday; it was a trip she'd wanted to do for years. The trip of a lifetime!
Lucky us, Mom decided she wanted to do it again 5 years later, so we did!
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Well, this month has pretty much collapsed in on me. I have some good travel stories. No pictures, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent (mostly me). If I get some time before the end of the month, I'll write a couple more. But here is one of my favorites:
So, there I was. I had been in Kreplachia for three weeks in the middle of summer, teaching a class for the local airline about their shiny new NFFMCo aeroplanes, and I was very much looking forward to getting home. It never dawned on me that in some countries you were still expected to "reconfirm" your reservation a day before your flight. So, I got to the airport a good two and a half hours before my flight and had no reason to suspect there would be so much as a hiccup.
I got to the business class check in counter and the gentleman looked at my ticket and frowned and asked if I had not reconfirmed my reservation. Of course, I said I had. He frowned some more and said that because I had not reconfirmed, they had given away my seat. I told him I had just spent three weeks in his lovely country teaching a class for his glorious airline, but he shrugged and told me it was out of his hands, but if I wanted to make a case, go over to the long counter over there (he waves) and talk to Omar.
While I was teaching there, one of my fellow NFFMCo employees told me that when you are dealing with Kreplachians, you don't ask for their help, you tell them 'this is what you are going to do for me'.
So, I shoved my bags over to the long counter, elbowed my way to the front and saw there was a scrawny guy in thin wire-framed glasses looking up at me. I asked, "are you Omar?" He nodded. I proceeded, "I am with the NFFMCo and I have just spent three weeks in your lovely country teaching a class for your glorious airline and here is what you are going to do for me: I have a ticket for the flight to London this morning and you are going to make sure I am on that aeroplane."
Omar didn't flinch, he didn't wince, he didn't frown. He poked at his computer, he looked at a printout of reservations for the flight, and after several tense minutes, he dragged a yellow highlighter through a line on the printout. He stamped my ticket, printed a boarding pass, scribbled something on it, and handed them over the counter.
He also told me where the business class lounge was.
I thanked him and headed to security.
In the lounge, enjoying my non-alcoholic beverage and some member of the baklava family, I looked at the boarding pass. I was in seat 2A. And the flight was on KreplachAir's very old seven-forty-seven. So, that was upstairs, in first class.
We boarded and I settled into my seat. Over the next quarter hour or so, there was some commotion in the flight deck. Captain Ahmed Muhammed Hussein al Hooziwhatzit had gone in and out of the flight deck several times, and up and down the stairs a few times, as well. At one point, the flight engineer, stormed out of the flight deck and declared, "that does it! I am NOT flying today!" Captain al Hooziwhatzit stemmed the mutiny and convinced the flight engineer to go back to his seat and all would be sorted shortly.
I dug into my carry-on bag and got out my business card a couple of pens with the NFFMCo logo. I went over to Captain al H and told him I worked for the company that built this magnificent machine, and was curious as to the nature of the problem. He looked at my card for a second and said, "this is not an aeroplane problem… this problem is that I have one more passenger than I have seats." Of course I knew that I was the one passenger too many. And I knew I really did not want to wait another day, or maybe more, to get the heck out of this lovely country.
I told him, "well, if it would help solve your problem, I would be more than happy to ride in the flight deck in the jumpseat."
Captain Ahmed Muhammed Hussein al Hooziwhatzit looked back into the flight deck, looked at me, looked at my business card, looked at me again, and said, "please get your bag."
I followed him into the flight deck and he announced to the first officer and the flight engineer, "this is Mister Piano Juggler from the NFFMCo. He will be riding with us today."
The first officer, who was a young Australian fellow, looked at me, and asked, "do you know how to put on an oxygen mask?"
Now, one of the things I had just covered in the class was how to remove, install, inspect, and test flight deck oxygen masks. But I had never actually put one on. Again, not wanting to catch a later flight, I just said, "yes."
Then I noticed there was a second jumpseat behind the flight engineer's station. Frequently if an airline pilot is "deadheading", they ride in the jumpseat. And who was sitting in the second jumpseat? A scrawny guy in thin wireframe glasses.
"Hi, Omar," I said.
"Where are you off to?"
"London," he said. He was the pilot for the return trip to Kreplachia.
"Oh, so in between flights, you sit at the long counter and deal with passenger problems?"
I said no more. He had taken care of my little problem, and I had solved the one he created as a result.
I had gladly traded my comfy first class seat for a wobbly jumpseat for the eight hour flight to London. I still enjoyed a first class meal along the way while Captain al-H quizzed me about the new aeroplanes. He chainsmoked something like seven cigarettes from the start of the descent until we landed in London.
That's my story of how I got out of Kreplachia. It's a lovely country. In fact, at one point in the air, the flight engineer pointed out the window and exclaimed, "look at that! Have you ever seen such a beautiful country???" I looked out the window and all I saw was sand. Windswept dunes for thousands of miles in every direction.
"No," I replied. "I have NEVER seen such a beautiful country."
Excellent, PJ! Glad there was an extra extra seat.
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These are fantastic!
(Stock photos OK)
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So, there I was in Bangkok, working for the NFFMCo, teaching a class for an airline there. When lunchtime rolled around, my host, Mister Suprom Thingawatasurawat, said that along the edge of the complex there was a stretch of sidewalk with food vendors, or I could eat in the lunchroom where most of the non-Thai people ate. Of course, growing up in Seattle, I have eaten a whole bunch of Thai food and I love it a lot. Still, Mister T was skeptical.
We walked along the sidewalk and there were over a dozen pop-up canopies set up with people cooking some of the most amazing-smelling foods I have ever encountered. We got to the end of the line of vendors and Mister T again prodded me toward the lunchroom that catered to westerners. The windows were all steamed up and some smell hit my nostrils that I could only place as peas that had been boiled until they were gray, mushy, and completely devoid of flavor. I told him again that I love Thai food and I was not the least bit interested in eating in the hall of steamy blech.
He asked what specifically I did want to eat and I said, "I love all Thai food, so please get what you want to eat, but order two of everything and I will have one. But, please not too spicy." I have been to Thai restaurants here were "two stars" was enough to singe the tastebuds right off your tongue. Mister T assured me that he has a fragile stomach and he avoids overly spicy things, too.
Across the sidewalk there were tables and plastic chairs that looked like the ones I sat in in fifth grade. I sat and waited for Mister T to bring our lunch. He came over with a tray with a plate and a bowl for each of us. There were some grilled chicken parts and rice on the plate, and a thin soup in the bowl. I started with the soup. There seemed to be a delightful assortment of vegetables and mushrooms and things in the soup, and some sort of yellow spongy something that I thought might also be a mushroom of some sort.
"Mister Thingawatasurawat," I started, "this soup is very good. I see there are some vegetables and some mushrooms, but this yellow stuff, I don't know what this is."
Sometimes it's better not to ask.
Mister T frowned slightly and said, "I do not know the word for this in English…"
I should have just stopped him there.
He pantomimed casting with a fishing pole, and said, "you know when you catch a fish…" He reeled in his imaginary fish. "And you cut it open…" He held his imaginary fish in one hand and slit it open with the index finger of the other hand. "And there is food that the fish ate, that has not made it all the way through?" He smiled and excitedly pointed at the strip of yellow spongy stuff in the soup bowl.
I finished my soup. I ate the chicken parts and the rice.
Someone later told me that it was more probably stomach lining and they just call it "fish stomach soup".
I would have been just as happy to have eaten the soup thinking that it was some spongy mushroom.
Sometimes it's just better not to ask.
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