Lives turned upside down

Our (carefree, simple, travel-oriented) lives have (temporarily) turned upside down. When did this happen? It started when we arrived for a month to be near our daughters’ families.

We’d been on the road for well over two years and we admit that one of the reasons we love to travel is the freedom from errands, chores, and work. No more niggly little demands on our time. Our time is ours – and that’s a joy after lifetimes of working.

So, when we arrived to visit our daughters, our simple days ended abruptly.   Our time was now in demand.

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We walked the dogs.

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We attended school concerts for three grandchildren and a science fair for the fourth.

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We shopped for lumber and helped build a children’s fort.

We celebrated birthdays, including this one at a bounce house.

We celebrated birthdays, including this one at a bounce house.

We primed and painted patio furniture.

We primed and painted patio furniture.

We spent time doing photography together.

We spent time doing photography together.

And we did a lot of caring for the grandchildren.

And we did a lot of caring for the grandchildren.

A month has flown by and we’ll be back on the road again. Our time will turn right side up. Days will again include long hours of reading, writing, taking long walks, and enjoying our new destinations. Will we miss our grandchildren and their families? Absolutely!

 

April 2015

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Wandering eyes

When we visited a great travel site, we noticed that our eyes often wandered and our attention diverted from the important site to some small detail. We visited a temple in Bangkok, and all we wanted to look at were the ceramic tiles that covered the edifice. Who remembers the temples’ name or history? Those tiles captivated us.

We had to go back and look it up. The temple is Wat Arun.

We had to go back and look it up. The temple is Wat Arun.

We’ve noticed this happen when we bird watch, too. An attempt to stay focused on winged creatures doesn’t always come about when we pass beautiful flowers and compelling landscapes. Birds are twittering in the trees but our cameras focus elsewhere.

Birds flew through Vasona Park, but, instead of birds, we photographed this view of the pond in the early morning.

Birds flew through Vasona Parkin Los Gatos,, but, instead of birds, we photographed this view of the pond in the early morning.

Our eyes wandered again, but we did manage to get an American coot in the photo -- by accident!

Our eyes wandered again, but we did manage to get an American coot in the photo — by accident!

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We’d spotted a flock of cedar waxwings before stepping down a path, and, then forgot the birds entirely when we saw the aptly named egg yolk flower.

We read that Elkhorn Slough, one of the best places to see birds in the mid-California region, would be well worth a day trip, and it was!

Elkhorn-Slough bird watching trip

The eared grebe paddled against the current and that gave us a chance to watch it from a small bridge. Love those red eyes!

Even lovely birds compete with sumptuously colored wildflowers.

Even lovely birds compete with sumptuously colored wildflowers.

What did we miss while our attention was diverted? We’ll never know. We do know that some of our best travel memories – and photos – resulted from wandering eyes.

 

 

April 2015

 

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Trip planning: a new lesson learned

We knew that someday we’d visit the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, and knew just how we’d do it. A trip-of-a-lifetime deserved the best. Years ago we pored over the photos in the National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions catalogue, chose our room (the least expensive), and took note of the price. Years later, the time had come to plan our trip in earnest. That’s when we learned something new: how to plan a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Maybe it was lucky that, when we looked up the cost for the April 2016 Natiional Geographic and Lindblad expedition to the Galapagos Islands, “sticker shock” whacked us with a price tag starting at $6,990 per person. Maybe it was lucky that friends recommended another boat and that, during our annual medical checkups, our doctor -knowing we travel – handed us a printout showcasing her wonderful trip to the Galapagos she’d just taken with another company. All the signs were there: we needed to look into other more affordable options.

At the beginning our research wasn’t focused, looking at 30 boats, skipping from cost to how the interior of the boat was configured and decorated. Stop already! We realized this was a ridiculous way to plan a trip to the Galapagos. Clearly, we needed to focus on the important first decision: what did WE want to see? Only then could we find the best operator for OUR choices.

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We wanted to see the giant tortoises on the Galapagos Islands but realized we didn’t even know on which island or islands visitors were most likely to see them. The answer: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. (This is a photo of an African spurred tortoise, not Galapagos, but it’s the only tortoise photo we’ve got.)

We discovered the amazing online resource, “The Galápagos Islands, 2009 & 2013”. We pored over all the information to narrow the choices down: an 8-day cruise to include the islands of Isabela and Fernandina, (newer, wild, volcanic islands with flightless cormorant and Galápagos fur seals) as well as Genovesa (breeding colonies of great frigatebirds and all three species of boobies (Nazca, blue-footed, red-footed).

Quicksilver day trip to Great Barrier Reef Huntington Gardens

Since we planned to snorkel (and Beth likes her water to be warm), our trip is planned for April when the water temperatures are at their highest.

With 7 tour boat finalists at this point, we mapped out their itineraries and a clear winner emerged for our trip: Ecoventura. We’ll be able to visit all 3 islands we chose plus 4 more. Ecoventura stops at Punta Vicente Roca, one of the best snorkeling beaches and where the wildlife is supposed to be terrific.  It goes to the rarely visited island of Rabida with interesting rare birds.  Another stop is the Santa Cruz Highlands where the Giant Tortoises roam free.

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The north-west route we’ll take with Ecoventura – visiting SAN CRISTOBAL, GENOVESA, SANTA CRUZ, FERNANDINA, ISABELA, RABIDA, and SANTIAGO islands.

The cost of $4,300 is considerably below National Geographic and Lindblad’s fare. Will the guides be as good and will the educational aspects of the trip keep us happy? We’ll see.

It took a lot of reading and planning to make our decision. The process taught us an important lesson in trip planning: be clear what you want and only then can you find the place, the tour operator, the way for it to all happen.

 

April 2015

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Where are we now?

We’ve been traveling – visiting old and new places – for the past 28 months. When we arrive, some destinations look exactly like we thought they would. Venice, Marrakech, Rome. Other times, the look and feel of a place is not at all what we were expecting. Where are we now? See if you can guess ….

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Elkhorn-Slough bird watching trip

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Did you guess San Jose, CA? On this visit, we stayed in different neighborhoods and exploring areas of San Jose we’ve not been to on previous visits. San Jose may be part of Silicon Valley, but it also has California’s rolling hills as a backdrop and rose-filled, jasmine scented neighborhoods.

Looking around us has been a surprise on this visit. If we’d been shown the five photos a year ago, we would not have guessed San Jose. The discovery of new old places throws us off-balance. What seemed predictable before, just took on a new look. We sometimes have to wonder, “Where are we?”

 

April 2015

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17 years sailing the world

We headed to Los Osos to stay with our friend, Henriette. We gathered around her little wood-burning stove in the late afternoon to talk about her travels and ours. Our almost 2-year trip around the world paled in comparison with Henriette’s 17-year trip sailing around the world with her husband.

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We studied the map for places they had sailed – among them Fiji, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Indonesia, Mauritius, and around the Cape of Good Hope. So many places over so many years…

We three continued our travel conversation the next morning when we met – for the first time – Marsha (of the blog, Marsha’s Bungalow) and her husband, Stanley, at the local Back Bay Cafe. We have read each other’s blogs, and, when we realized we were not far away from each other, we planned to meet. Oh, what a conversation we had! Five world travelers asking questions, telling tales, dreaming of future trips… We agreed a pleasant morning on the café’s patio wasn’t long enough, and we’ll all have to meet again.

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After saying goodbye to Marsha and Stanley, we drove with Henriette to Montaña de Oro for a walk on the bluff – wildflowers on one side of us….

….and a view of the ocean and cliffs on the other side of us.

….and a view of the ocean and cliffs on the other side of us.

Back at Henriette’s house, we said our farewells to her and the family menagerie.

Her dog, Scooby

Her dog, Scooby

Her cat, Deena

Her Manx cat, Deena

One of her two llamas, Mochamba and Diano

One of her two llamas, Mochamba and Diano

We hope to return next year for a visit with Henriette; there were so many more stories to hear about from her 17 years at sea. And we want to hear more of Marsha and Stanley’s travel stories. The perfect plan? Next year all five of us will head for the café in Los Osos with the sunny patio and pick up our conversation about travel right where we left off.

A quiet corner in Henriette’s house

A quiet corner in Henriette’s house

 

March 2015

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Spring Migration

The last two winters we have followed the birds to warmer climes.   Then, just like the birds, when spring arrived, we started to slowly move north. Our migration this spring began with a scenic 2-hour drive from Pasadena to Santa Barbara. First stop along the way was Seaward Village Fish and Chips in Ventura. So good!

 

After lunch we walked one block down to the beach in Ventura.  With shoes off and feet in the sizzling sand, we walked by the colorful buildings to the Pacific Ocean.

After lunch we walked one block down to the beach in Ventura. With shoes off and feet in the sizzling sand, we walked by the colorful buildings to the Pacific Ocean.

Even in March, families frolicked in the water and lounged under umbrellas.

Even in March, families frolicked in the water and lounged under umbrellas.

The willet was as cautious as we in committing to dipping into the cold ocean water.

The willet was as cautious as we in committing to dipping into the cold ocean water.

We drove to the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge in Santa Barbara with high expectations for what we’d see. Yes, we spotted nine bird species, but our best find was discovered looking down.

Holes dotted the grassy area by the lake. We wondered what animal made those holes when – a moment later - a little head popped up from a hole, only to disappear a second later. We kept very still. Waited. There it was again. Patience. Soon the whole head appeared and looked around. A gopher!

Holes dotted the grassy area by the lake. We wondered what animal made those holes when – a moment later – a little head popped up from a hole, only to disappear a second later. We kept very still. Waited. There it was again. Patience. Soon the whole head appeared and looked around. A gopher!

In late afternoon, we checked in to a lovely AirBnB, a private room in a home, close to the central shopping area.

We enjoyed the art on the walls of our bedroom.

We enjoyed the art on the walls of our AirBnB bedroom.

On our walk to dinner, we strolled through Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, a favorite spot in Santa Barbara. It’s hard to walk through the garden without stopping to appreciate the trees, flowers, and birds.

On our walk to dinner, we strolled through Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, a favorite spot in Santa Barbara. It’s hard to walk through the garden without stopping to appreciate the trees, flowers, and birds.

After dinner we started our walk back, barely lit by the most amazing moon – in its Waxing Crescent Phase.

After dinner we started our walk back, barely lit by the most amazing moon – in its Waxing Crescent Phase.

We started our migration north at a slow pace with so many worthwhile stops we wanted to make. We wonder if birds feel the same as they make stops at long-loved lakes and head for favorite fields? It’s sometimes hard to move on.

 

March 2015

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The extravagance of time when traveling

We take our time when we travel. When we visit a place, we often stay for 3 or 4 weeks in an AirBnb. We probably see the same sites as a traveler who has one week and packs it all in. Instead of packing it all in, we take our time. It’s an extravagance of time (we know!), and we’re grateful for the slow pace. Does anyone else visiting the Los Angeles area so enjoy the Huntington Gardens that they return a week later? Truly, it’s a luxury of time.

Our friend, Claire, picked us up, and we spent a beautiful day at the gardens. She’s a member and was able to act as our guide.

Huntington Garden w Clare Gorfininckel

Joe and Claire looking to see where the flax seeds are in the flowering flax plant.

The desert garden is lush – showing just how well cactus can do with a bit more water than they get in their native environment.

The desert garden is lush – showing just how well cactus can do with a bit more water than they get in their native environment.

The Zen Garden is just a small part of the Japanese Garden.

The Zen Garden is just a small part of the Japanese Garden.

What a wonderful garden! We enjoyed lunch and saw all we could that day with Claire, but it wasn’t enough. We wanted to revisit some areas for closer inspection and see a few areas that we had missed on the first visit. So, the next week we went back.

Orchid in the greenhouse

Orchid in the greenhouse

Visited the Chinese garden and enjoyed the pavilions, water features, plantings, rock formations, and these stone paths.

Visited the Chinese garden and enjoyed the pavilions, water features, plantings, rock formations, and these stone paths.

Just before we got back to the visitor center, we’d put away cameras in anticipation of gelato. Then we saw this plant and out came our cameras. Those colors!

Just before we got back to the visitor center, we’d put away cameras in anticipation of gelato. Then we saw this plant and out came our cameras. Those colors!

The first day at Huntington Garden was great, and the second one was as well. Who could tire of a garden like this? We’re so glad we had luxury of two days to spend exploring the garden. Extravagant use of time, right?

 

March 2015

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