Category Archives: Travel


I took 10 days at the end of December 2023 to go to Antarctica. I had no idea what to expect, other than penguins. I had a friend ask me what it was like, and he had done a stint in the Peace Corps in Namibia. I said, “Do you remember what it felt like when you got back from Africa?”

He said, “Yeah.”

I said, “It was like that.”

He said, “I totally get it.”

Having said that, I will try to share a few impressions.

Here is what I have to say about Antarctica. It is an incredibly beautiful place, unlike any place I’ve ever been. There is ocean, massive amounts of water, full of life – from the penguins porpoising through the water to the whales surfacing to breathe to the petrels flying above. Unseen to our eye is the phytoplankton and krill, which everything else in Antarctica eats. Literally every other animal eats krill. Side note, go watch Happy Feet 2 just for the krill subplot.

Antarctica 2023

There are towering mountains, covered with glaciers and ice, icebergs of all shapes, and very little color. The landscape is incredibly monochromatic, whites and shades of gray and black, with washes of blue in the sky and ice. The gentoo penguins have bright orange beaks, and I found some lichen but there is nothing that grows on the ground – other than moss. No trees, no bushes, no grass. It is wild beyond imagining, so vast, so incomprehensible.

Gentoo penguin

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sky, ever changing. Sometimes blue, sometimes gray and full of clouds, and on one day it snowed all day. The weather was on our side. We were very lucky. There was a group two trips before us who started their time on the boat a day late and had to return to the continent a day early. It was summer there, and the sun set at 12:30 a.m. and rose at 2:30 a.m. I felt outside of time, suspended in this special place.


I know folks have a lot of questions, many around the logistics, so I have described them below.


Wednesday: left Seattle early in the morning.

Flew Seattle -> Miami -> Santiago -> Punta Arenas. This took ~30 hours

Thursday: arrived Punta Arenas 

Friday: day in Punta Arenas.

Saturday: took a 2 hour flight from Punta Arenas to Frei Station in the southern Shetland Islands. Got on a zodiac to the boat. Spent the afternoon getting various briefings about safety and what to expect.

Transit the Bransfield Strait overnight


Morning excursion: D’Hainaut Island, Mikkelsen Harbour

Afternoon excursion: zodiac cruise Cierva Cove

Monday: transit the Lemaire Channel

Morning excursion: Petermann Island

Afternoon excursion: Pleneau Island


Morning excursion: Neko Harbor (continental touch!)

Afternoon excursion: Cuverville Island

Transit the Bransfield Strait (12-foot swells thank you ZOFRAN)


Morning excursion: Deception Island (active volcano!!)

Afternoon excursion: Half Moon Island (chinstrap penguin chicks)

Thursday: reversed back. Got off ship and on zodiac from ship to shore at 8:00 a.m., waited for ~90 mins for plane to arrive, then flew back to Punta Arenas where we spent the night.

Friday: started return journey home. Punta Arenas -> Santiago -> Atlanta -> Seattle.

Saturday: arrived back in Seattle

click on the picture below to go to the full album (there are also some videos in there)


What I brought:

  • 2 pairs of fleece leggings
  • Rubber/waterproof pants
  • Heavy parka
  • Neck gaiter
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Warm wool socks (to wear with boots)
  • Long sleeve cotton shirts (if you sweat a lot I do not recommend cotton for a base layer)
  • 3 Smartwool tops
  • 1 lightweight wool/cashmere sweater
  • 1 heavy cashmere sweater
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Hand/body lotion
  • Camera
  • Phone
  • Binoculars
  • Plug adapters
  • Antinausea medication (we brought Zofran)

Depending on what operator you go with, you may have the option to rent things. The operator we took provided the boots. My sister also rented pants and a backpack. Our operator provided hiking sticks at every excursion.

Additionally, on our trip all of the expedition team were allowed and encouraged to intermingle with the guests, sitting with us at meals, etc. This is not the case on every boat. It’s worth finding out what the policy is. It made for a very intimate experience for us.

Let me know what questions you have! I will try to answer them for you.

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O Canada

Every story should have conflict. Every character should want something. And every story should have change: whether it’s the reader’s understanding or the character who evolves.

Day One: I fly across the continent, hop in a car and drive for a few more hours. After dinner I puke spectacularly and particularly all over my pants. I toss them in the tub and make them a problem for tomorrow.

Day Two: I want to wash my jeans. I wasn’t planning on doing any laundry, let alone the second day of my trip. I also want my head to stop hurting and to sleep for more than six hours a night. I am exhausted, I can’t think clearly, my stomach is tetchy, and I want to deal with the soiled pants before they become even more of a problem. Turns out there wasn’t any time to do laundry on Day Two.

Day Three: In the morning I go out on a whale watching boat, in my lightweight capris because my soiled jeans are sitting in a plastic bag. Fortunately it was fairly warm and I had a warm sweater and vest, but the jeans were still dirty.

In addition to being preoccupied with how to do laundry in a small town that doesn’t seem to have an actual grocery store or a laundromat, I choose to pull out my incredibly rusty French to accomplish this task. The night before we go whale watching, I ask a man at the hotel if they take laundry. He tells me no, there’s only an industrial washer which would ruin clothes. I ask if there’s a laundromat. He tells me yes, but gives me the wrong directions. Or maybe they were the right directions but I misunderstood. At least I know there is a public place I can do the wash. One foot in front of the other.

In the afternoon, I look for laundry detergent. I find a “convenience store” which has hand soap and dish soap, but no laundry detergent. I decide to go to the tourist information center, where I get confirmation for the location of the laundry machines. The woman I talk to is surprised I can’t find laundry detergent. She calls the grocery store and confirms they have Tide. I realize I may have missed the grocery store. She asks me for my zip code and her co-worker is surprised I’m from Seattle and speak French.

I cross the street and find the washer and dryer inside a tiny building we’ve passed 20 times. I didn’t know what it was for, but over the course of our stay it becomes apparent that many people know it is public toilets and a place to get potable water. Fortunately for me, there is someone else doing laundry. I confirm how much it will cost to wash and dry. A dollar and a half. Just like the washers in my apartment building. Finally we are getting somewhere. I understand how to operate a coin-op machine. Just keep in mind I am in a foreign country.

Enter the one dollar bill. Canadian. I ask my mom for the cash she brought so I can buy laundry detergent and get change for the washer and dryer. She gives me a ten, a five, and two ones. I walk up the street to the actual grocery store this time. I wander through, delighted with the options, until I find the laundry detergent, and even find unscented Tide pods! I march triumphantly up to the register and the clerk rings up my purchase. The total is just under $12, so I pull out the 10 and two ones. 

Canada - one dollar

The clerk asks me to wait a minute, she has to talk to her manager. The manager comes over and holds the bills up. I am used to this in the US, for large bills, but not ones. I keep asking if they are “trop vielle” – too old. My French is not good enough to understand what is going on, but she tells me I can take the bills to the bank next Wednesday. Finally someone in the line asks what is going on and explains to me that the bills are worth more than $1. I take them back and give the clerk the $5 and the $10. I want to make sure I have enough quarters to use the machines. She gives me my change all in coins and it looks like there are enough quarters for a load of laundry.

I go back to the hotel and tell my mom what happened at the store. Then I get online and do a bit of research. For those of you waiting for the big reveal, Canada stopped printing $1 bills in 1989. OY. Then I look at the change and realize I don’t have enough quarters. I should have twelve, but I don’t. I go to the gift shop and ask the woman to give me four quarters for a $1 coin.

Now I have the laundry detergent and the coins, so we take the dirty wash to the “laundromat.” I am still very out of it and try to make sense of the slots in the machine. There are only 3 slots for coins, but it costs $1.50. I cannot figure out how to fit six quarters into 3 slots. Finally I go outside and ask the woman who was doing the laundry before me. Between my terrible French and her English, the light dawns. I am supposed to use the $1 COIN. Mystery solved! I somehow have two $1 coins even with all my quarter hunting, so I can do the wash.

Canada - coin slot

High on our triumph of getting the washing machine going, we head down the hill to bakery for a treat.

A coda: several days later I want to do another load of laundry in the same town. This time I know the drill. I ask the woman at the hotel desk if I can get two $1 coins for a $2 coin. She says she can do that. I explain to her that in English we call the $1 coin a “loonie” because it has a loon on it, and the $2 coin a “toonie” because it’s two dollars. As I walk away, I hear her whispering: “looney, toonie. Loonie. Toonie.” As far as I know she’s still muttering it to herself.

A few days later we are Montreal and I find a bank. I go in and ask if I can exchange the bills. The bank manager helps me. He takes the bills and inspects them, then says, “They aren’t worth that much.” He asks if I want two $1 coins or a $2 coin. I tell him I’ll take the $2 coin. I ask about getting more than face value for the bills, and he said if I sold them on the private market I probably could, but that sounds much harder than trying to get my soiled jeans washed in a coin-op laundry in a small town in Quebec.

I put the toonie in my pocket and walk out of the bank.

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Hermes and the Tyger

In the spring of 2001, my girlfriend took a trip to France. At the end of her visit, she called me from Paris and asked if there was anything I wanted. I told her I didn’t want anything, but she kept bugging me, so I told her to get me an Hermes scarf.

One thing you should probably know at this point. In French, Hermes is pronounced differently than in English. English speakers are more apt to say something like “her mees”; but in French, it is pronounced like “air mez” or “air may.” I explained to my girlfriend this difference, so if she asked someone, they would understand her. In my experience, not using the French accent on a word means that no one will understand you, even if the word is essentially the same, like “vegetarian” (true story). On the flip side, I couldn’t understand a French speaker saying Richard Chamberlin’s name to me, so I have complete sympathy for pronunciation.

Back to the scarf. I really didn’t want anything, and I told her to get an Hermes scarf because a) I knew they were super expensive and when she saw the price she would balk; and b) I find their scarves aren’t really to my taste.

It was J’s last day in Paris, and it was a hot day. She wore a tank top and shorts and carried a backpack. Nothing terribly glam. She and our friend went to Le Bon Marche, a department store. J searched the store, trying to find an Hermes scarf, but had no luck. She is fiercely independent and doesn’t like asking for help, but finally reached the point where she had to.

She found a saleswoman and asked her if she spoke English. The woman said she did a little. J stumbled through her request, her self-consciousness over the pronunciation adding more stress. J murmured to the saleswoman, “I’m looking for a scarf. We say ‘Her-meez’ but I think you say ‘Air-mez’.”

The saleswoman didn’t understand what she said, so she asked her to write it down. J did, and when the saleswoman turned the paper around to read it, her demeanor changed entirely. Where she had been brusque before, now she was solicitous and friendly. She said, “Oh no, we don’t carry those here. But let me go ask someone else and I’ll find out where you can get them.” It turned out that the Hermes store was closed by the time J got there. I was spared her spending any money on a scarf I probably wouldn’t like, and even better, we got this fantastic story!

Which brings me to March 2015. Last year my mom gave me money for my birthday to buy an Hermes scarf, in part motivated by this story. In the pit of my stomach I was sure I wasn’t going to find any scarves I actually liked. I looked at their website, but it was so awful and I couldn’t figure out what they might look like. I kept putting off going to a store. I really wanted to go with my mom, so we could share the experience, but our only chance to do that was last summer, and there ended up not being any time.

Last week I made plans to meet up with my friend Lauren, who lives on the Eastside, because I had something I wanted to give her. I decided to combine meeting her with a shopping trip, since there’s an Hermes store over there. Saturday was a cold and dreary day. I headed out in the rain and dodged the raindrops. Since I don’t have a car, I took the bus over.

Hermes store

Bellevue is very different from Seattle, even though it’s separated by a small body of water. The Hermes store is in a high-end/designer shopping center. Everything there is so foreign from my daily life. It’s hard for me not to be super judgmental about all of it. I arrived at the store around 3:30, expecting that it wouldn’t have many customers. How wrong I was. The small space at the entrance was filled with women who surrounded the scarf case. They were throwing scarves in the air, one after the other, gesturing and talking loudly. In retrospect there were probably about five women, but it felt like twenty! I stood in front of the case amidst the melee for a good five minutes, hoping that a salesperson would appear out of the fray, but none did. I finally went over to a young man standing to the side who wore a suit. He seemed to be a cross between a security person and concierge, and I asked him if he could help me find a salesperson. He welcome me to the store and then apologized profusely for me having to wait.

A salesperson was procured and began helping me. She started by asking me if I wanted a classic scarf, etc. etc. I asked her about the size, because I don’t understand centimeters. Then she took me back to the case and asked me about colors and what I was looking for, what colors I liked, etc. I told her pinks and reds, even though before I got to the store I was thinking I wanted something with blues and greens. I don’t know why I didn’t just say that. I was so overwhelmed by the frenzy! She pulled out one scarf and tied it around my neck. I looked in the mirror and didn’t feel anything. I pointed out another scarf that had a cheetah on it, with bright pink splashes. The saleswoman said, “Let me get that before it gets snatched out from under us,” but that also produced a meh reaction when I looked in the mirror. You can torture yourself by trying to figure it out on their site. I can’t even find the scarf I ended up buying.

While I was feeling meh and overwhelmed and starting to get a little fed up with the whole thing, the saleswoman came back with something totally different. No pink or red at all. It had a giant tiger with a green background and these bright, lush orange lilies.

Hermes scarf

Some people know I’m not a fan of green. I don’t really wear it that much. I don’t gravitate toward it. I will pass it over for pretty much any other color. But I have a thing for lilies, and so I decided why the hell not? She tied it on, and I looked at the mirror, and something in me sang out. I told her, “This is the one.” She showed me five different ways to wear it and was super willing to show me other scarves, but I just knew. This was it. No matter what else I saw, it wouldn’t please me.

Hermes scarf

She rang me up and I left the store, feeling completely triumphant. When I got home, I posted a few pictures of the details on the scarf, including the one above. And when I was taking the pictures, I saw that it has the line from William Blake’s poem: “Tyger tyger burning bright in the forest of the night” … which you can just make out here:

Hermes scarf: tyger tyger

That line also has a special resonance for me (and possibly for many people), and was such a delightful surprise. On top of that, a friend posted this lovely piece about the symbolism of the tiger:

The confidence of the tiger is contentment. Contentment comes from discernment, the virtue of touching our feet to the earth of every moment. As we slow down and consider our thoughts, words, and actions with the question, “Will this bring happiness or pain?”, we become like tigers who carefully observe the landscape before pouncing. In looking at what to cultivate and what to discard, we are remembering our precious human life and deciding to use it well.

And that perfectly sums up the theme of the work I did with my therapist, so now this scarf has become a talisman for me, too!

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Why I broke up with RadioLab

I posted last week about the podcasts I love. Many people responded that they loved RL. I used to be in that camp. I haven’t talked that much about why I broke up with them, but I did mention it. One of my friends asked me why, so here is my response.

Part I:

In the fall of 2012 I was walking to meet a friend for lunch and listening to the episode “The Fact of the Matter.” Then the segment Yellow Rain came on. I remember hearing Robert Krulwich interrogate Eng Yang and his niece, Kao Kalia Yang, and I was on the verge of tears at his questioning.

Shortly after the episode aired, Ms. Yang wrote a response, specifically about how she and her uncle had agreed to participate because they believed they would finally get to tell their story and be believed. Instead, they were badgered and not taken seriously, diminished. I urge you to listen to the episode and then read Ms. Yang’s response. She had a further follow-up.

Part II:

In March 2012, This American Life produced an entire episode retracting the Mike Daisy Foxconn story. At the time I thought it was overkill. Why was Ira bending over backwards? I didn’t understand.

Part III:

sunset behind the mekong

I’d spent the winter of 2011 in SE Asia. I visited Laos. I learned not only about the Hmong people, but how Laos got the worst of it during the Vietnam War era. Everyone was carpet bombing the fuck out of them. They have more unexploded ordinances than any other country in SE Asia and it would take centuries to clear all the bombs if anyone was doing any actual clearing. This was not something I’d learned in high school or college history classes.

Part IV:

So after having traveled to Laos and hearing TAL’s retraction, I expected a similar level of respect from Radioplab. Instead, their response disheartened me. They weren’t interested in facts, or the truth, as they said. They had destroyed my trust. Why couldn’t they believe the Yangs? I wrote an email to the show, telling them they had broken my trust. They never responded to my email. They dug in, got defensive, and didn’t see how they’d harmed the Yangs.


I had learned some fantastic things from Radkoplab, but I’m still heartbroken about the treatment of the Yangs. On a piece about facts and truth, they couldn’t see their own errors or admit they had fucked up and done harm. I’ve tried to listen a few times since the fall of 2012, and each time I just get really sad and also don’t know what to believe from their story. I can learn about the things they cover in other places.

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The &^*#@ Spring Rolls

As many of you know, I spent the winter of 2011 traveling around SE Asia. I started in Thailand, where I spent 6 weeks. My mom met up with me at the end of that time in Chiang Rai, which is in the far north of Thailand and is part of the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet.

I had learned from a friend that I could take the slow boat down the Mekong, starting in Thailand and ending in Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site and city in Laos. My mom was up for the adventure, so once she landed in Thailand there was no time to get settled. We just picked up the next day and headed out for the boat.

My mother is an intrepid traveler. She doesn’t need all the creature comforts, and neither do I. My basic requirements are a room in a building, and indoor plumbing. I definitely had some adventures with discomfort while I was traveling through Thailand, mostly involving mosquitoes and other insects in my rooms. But my mom didn’t care about insects. She was worried about rats. She’d read stories about the town where we would be staying – Pak Beng – being infested with rats. She didn’t want to take any chances, so I made sure to book a room in advance that had high ratings and most importantly, NO RATS.

The only rat we saw in Pak Beng ended up being a stuffed toy belonging to a child in the hotel where we stayed.

Toy rat

But on to the meat of this particular story. In non-English speaking countries where they depend heavily on tourist dollars, I’ve encountered quite a range of facility with English, particularly in the service sectors. Most people stick to the few scripts that lubricate their business. Their English is far better than my ability to speak their languages, and for that I’m always always always grateful.

I give you this background so you will understand what happened next. Our boat pulled into Pak Beng late in the afternoon. Pak Beng exists for the sole reason of providing lodging and respite to the people riding the boats down the river. We checked in to our hotel, keeping an eye out for rats, and then went to find a place for dinner. Each spot looked the same, so I have no idea how we picked the place we did. It was filled with people, as they all were. We got a table and a young and exuberant fellow took our order. We were famished. There hadn’t been much to eat on the boat, so we were looking forward to a full dinner. After we placed our order we waited. And waited. AND WAITED …

I didn’t blame the waiter, there were large tables that were rowdy and needed more attention. But I finally got desperate and got the waiter’s attention to ask about our order. He was bopping around the restaurant amongst the tables and he glanced at me, his memory jogged. “Oh yes! Your fucking spring rolls!” he exclaimed, full of delight. My mom and I, despite our hunger, broke into laughter at the incongruity of his language with the situation and emotion.

To this day his response makes me laugh.

Here’s my mother the next morning, clutching her bag of bananas, before we boarded for the second day:

Pak Beng

The wooden benches on day 2:

wooden benches

You can see a few more pictures here.

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52 Photos: Luang Prabang

The prompt this week was somewhere you visited. As many of you know, I’ve been a lot of places. Picking one was hard.

I decided to go with Luang Prabang in Laos, because I’ve talked about visiting Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, but not Laos, which was the fourth country in my tour of SE Asia.

I visited temples:

Wat Xieng Thong

that had disco elephants as decoration …

mosaic elephant

I drank bale fruit tea:

bale fruit tea

and BeerLao, the champagne of beers (or so I was told).


I watched monks collect merit contributions:

monks collecting merit contributions

and the sun set behind the Mekong river.

sunset behind the mekong

If you ever have a chance to visit Luang Prabang, I highly recommend it. It’s a special place.

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Japan: Kyoto and Hiroshima

I have a friend who’s going to Japan in December. She asked me for my advice and recommendations on where to go and what to see. She’s planning on visiting Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima. I encouraged her to spend a couple of days in Tokyo, too, if she could. I mentioned on Twitter I was writing an epic email, and a couple of people requested that I post it to my blog. So, for your delectation, I present it, edited slightly for clarity.

torii hall with lantern


Where to stay

We stayed two different places in Kyoto. The first place we stayed was a ryokan, which is the more traditional/family style inn. It was the Ryokan Shimizu.

We loved staying there. The people were so friendly and we were able to try a traditional Japanese breakfast there. It was very close to the train station, which made getting around rather easy (it’s a hub for the buses, too). We all stayed in one room (me with my parents) and slept on tatami/futons (not like futons in the US – really like pads). It was quite comfortable! They also did cultural programming every night. Calligraphy, Japanese gift wrapping with the cloth, origami … I think they had one night on kimonos!

calligraphy lesson

The other hotel was tiny and right down the street from the station. I have no idea what the name was. We had planned on going on to another town, but the typhoon stranded us, so we just walked around to various hotels until we found one that had a rate we liked :). It was commodious, but lacked any of the flavor of the ryokan.

What to see

As for what I would recommend in Kyoto, I would say go to these temples:
Northern Kyoto
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
There’s a Zen temple, Ryoanji with a stone garden next to Kinkakuji. We were underwhelmed by it, but maybe it would interest you?

Eastern Kyoto
Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
Kiyomizudera – and when you go there, make sure to pay the 100 yen to go down in the thing. You walk down some stairs and hold on to a chain of wooden balls. It gets darker and darker as you go through. It’s supposed to represent the birthing process, and you can make a wish when you get to a stone in the center.

Also, we loved walking through the Nishiki Market (or at least, my mom and I did :P).

Nishiki market

Take the train 5 minutes to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is the place with all the red torii gates (shown in the image above). Fantastic place. I think they are lit at night in the winter, adding another magical element to an already otherworldly place.

I think we spent 5 nights in Kyoto. It was really great, because it gave us time to get adjusted to the time and rest every day (my parents napped and I wrote in my journal).

My friend Yossi has a delightful restaurant, Colori Caffe, outside the tourist areas. Please go visit her and say hi from me if you do! If you want the directions, please contact me and I will send them to you. It’s very easy to get to.

Hiroshima and Miyajima

I have no idea where we stayed in Hiroshima. We used the TripAdvisor site to find a place. We didn’t book it until we were in Japan. I couldn’t tell you AT ALL! It’s so funny. It was a very pleasant place, so my takeaway is, trust the reviews on TripAdvisor :).

Miyajima is the island. You could spend the night there, or just do it as a day trip (which is what we did). I would recommend going to Miyajima after the Peace Museum. Being in Hiroshima is intense, as you can imagine. The island is a beautiful respite.

egret in red reflection

General advice/tips

As for flying in to Kyoto or Tokyo, I don’t know if there are any direct flights to Kyoto anymore (from Seattle). I think one reason we went with Tokyo was that it was more direct and cost less (even including the hotel). We stayed here. It was right outside the Tokyo Station and was a fantastic oasis in the middle of the city. The staff were super friendly and helpful.

I would recommend talking to people and ask if they’ve been to Tokyo, and what they would recommend doing there. I think we had a kind of odd/different experience. I had some friends I’d worked with at Amazon, and we met them for lunch one day. We did some shopping. We did take a day trip to Kamakura to see the giant Buddha.

OH! Also, the department stores have restaurants on the top floors that are very reasonable for eating dinner. This is true in Kyoto and Tokyo. We also ate at izakayas (bars), but they can be VERY smoky. My mom and I loved eating at them, though.

The Japan Rail pass was fantastic. It works on any JR line – which means we were able to use it to get around Tokyo itself, as long as we stayed on the JR line. It can also be used on certain buses. If you are taking the shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and back, I think it pays for itself, but you should check the math on that. I bought mine from a place in downtown Seattle. I think I went to the office and placed my order. Came back an hour later and the vouchers were ready!


You can see the pictures I took, organized by location.

I think that’s everything I can think of for now! If you have ANY questions, or something doesn’t make sense, please feel free to ask me. Also, if you start making reservations and have difficulty, let me know. I seem to remember there were a few hiccups we had.

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52 Photos: Stairs

This week’s prompt: stairs. For you, a few staircases and a brief story. First the pictures:

The staircase in the shopping center at the JR Train Station in Kyoto:

lighting design on JR Kyoto stairs

Spiral staircase in Lisbon:

spiral stair

Dragon staircase in Chiang Mai:

dragon staircase

Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon:


Ayutthaya Staircase:

stairs to ferry

Before I start telling you this story, I have to show you a picture of something else. It’s a bicycle:

Good luck bike #2

In 2011 I spent 3 months in SE Asia. The first place I went after I got my head sorted in Bangkok was Ayutthaya. It was a great place for me to rest and sink into a new rhythm. The guesthouse where I was staying had bikes available to rent. This was my trusty steed as I ventured out from the safety of my idyllic quarters. What you can’t tell from looking at the picture is how heavy that bike was. I’d guess it weighed around 25 pounds. Nothing like my lightweight 15-pound aluminum frame bike at home.

And yes, I did carry that damn thing down those damn stairs. And back up on the other side. And then again in reverse. And I felt quite pleased with my accomplishment.

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Vive la France


On Bastille Day (or Le quatorze juillet as the French say), I mentioned something about the day online. My French/German friend Ollie told me they say joyeux or vive la France, instead of the greeting I gave. That reminded me of a very short story.

In 2006 I went to Paris for my birthday. Now that I’m une femme d’un certain age, I won’t reveal which one, but those of you playing at home probably already know. My sweetie and I had a fabulous time. We traipsed about, eating cheese and chocolate and visiting the various tourist sites. I think that’s a separate post.

The morning we left, we knew there was going to be a strike (or greve). We left for the airport early, because we weren’t certain how often the trains would be running, etc. As an American, I found this strike quite … well .. striking. People showed up to work. But they didn’t do their work. In America, they would picket outside the workplace. By doing it this way, no one else could come in and do the work, either.

Needless to say, we got all the way through and on to our flight (sans the corkscrew I had to leave behind). As we taxied to the runway, the pilot came on and gave an announcement in English. He said there was going to be a delay before we could take off. We were tired and grumpy and ready to go home. RIGHT NOW.

Then the pilot made the same announcement, but in French. Except instead of being vague, he said, “a cause du greve.” My French is middling, but I understood that! I turned to my girlfriend and said, “It’s because of the strike! Vive la revolution!

We sat back in our seats, content. We could wait.

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Where I’ve Been

faces in stone

I asked on Twitter this morning if anyone had any questions. One pal wanted to know every place I’ve traveled. Oof da. I must admit, I’ve always felt reticent to talk about where I’ve been. But I’m taking steps to share more of myself, and travel is a big piece, so I’m going to attempt to compile a full list.

I did make a list of the places I chose to travel, but this list is every place I’ve been. I’m going to stay at the country level, unless I’ve only been to one city within that country, in which case I will list both. For the United States, I’m going to try to list all the states I’ve visited.

North America

United States:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawai’i
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusets
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Wyoming

Other Countries

  • The Bahamas
  • Canada
  • Grand Cayman Island, Caymans
  • Oaxaca, Mexico
  • St. Lucia

South America

  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Ecuador


  • Budapest, Hungary
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Portugal[ref]the hyperlinks will take you the sets of pictures I’ve taken from those trips[/ref]
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Switzerland
  • UK (England, Scotland)

Middle East

  • Israel


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