Yes, yes, Italy again.

In less than a year I made another trip back to Italy with my companion to spend 10 days seeing some new things, have some new experiences and also make good on my intention return to Cinque Terre and to hike the Vernazza trail.  The first few days were spent in Milan which was the host city for the Expo (otherwise known as the World’s Fair). This was really exciting for me.  We grew up hearing about the fair in St. Louis and Seattle but I could never quite get a grasp on what it was all about.  Granted…2010 is not 1904 or 1962 but still…it’s was on the bucket list.

We both arrived early afternoon and I did my best to regulate my sleep on the plane (I’m a really good sleeper).  I was so pumped to be in Italy again that there was no jet lag. I tried Airbnb for the first time and found the cutest apartment around the corner from the Express airport train, on a sweet tree lined residential street with cafes and shops.  Of course, perfect environment for the café hack, eh?


We settled in quick and got out quick.  We only had 3 days in Milan and 2 of them would be spent at the Expo.  It would be unfortunate to come all the way to Milan and not see the Duemo so off we went.


Later that evening we went for a walk at the Castello Sforzesco.  It became our evening stroll.



The next two days were at the Expo.  I’m not sure how to put it into words; I’ll leave it to Wikipedia .  I will say that they had some architecturally beautiful exhibits. It was really hot during the day and around 8pm on the dot the mosquitos woke up and were swarming   I suppose that is what one expects in June.  It was still worth the visit.

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We left Milan, rented a car and head west to spend four days Cinque Terre. Our apartment was in Montorosso al Mare, one of the few cities were one could park a car.  For 4 days I was in heaven.  Days we lounged at the sea, hiked, explored the other villages such as Manarola and Vernazza, at night we sat outside in the plaza drinking Aperol and just being Italian.  I’m a traveler and there is just no place like Cinque Terre.  I don’t know how to put the feeling into words…every night we would go to the plaza and there were so many children running around, young adults gathered in groups at a café and bars, old people sitting in small groups and the only time I saw people with their face in the phone was a group of about a dozen teenagers sitting on the stairs by the sea.  It really is my happy place.

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Vernazza view near the end of the trail.


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2 hours later, the end of the trail in Vernazza.


A swim in Manarola


My favorite part of the day. Evenings in the plaza.

For our last few days we headed up northeast and stayed near Lake Guarda.  This was another new experience for me as I had yet to see the lakes.  We stayed at the Hotel Villa Maria .  It was a nice property with a great pool.  There are little villas with kitchens that one can reserve.  We just stayed in a regular hotel room which was really quite large and included a sitting area. The Décor was a bit kitschy but I think they were just trying to fit in with the theme of being a “villa.” It was very European in that breakfast was provided…but you must bring your own pool towel or “rent” one for 5 Euros.

We spent time in Desenzano strolling, took the Ferry to Sirmione (which I LOVED and totally want to go back and stay.)





Sirmione. That pool in the lake is where Hot Spring water pools.


We even spent a day driving around the entire lake including at stop at Monte Baldo for a hike.


Hiking with sheep


One person was sleeping in the grass while the other read a book. It reminded me of the novel A Room with a View.


This is the north end of the lake where the sportif gather to camp, mountain bike and windsurf. Many non-Italians on holiday.


On our last day, we checked out and headed out to Lake Iseo to spend our last day relaxing in the sun. I think I was so bummed out that the holiday was over that I didn’t take pictures.

Due to early morning flights our last night was at a hotel at the airport.  The Moxy is owned by Marriott and designed as a traveler’s hotel, likely those who just needed an overnight stay and/or traveling along. It was very modern and had a very nice social atmosphere.  We covered a lot of territory in our 10 days and it ended very melancholic as the next morning, my companion and I returned to our home countries.   As the saying goes, don’t cry that it’s over, smile that it happened.


In and out of Seattle in 33 hours

My sister needed a date to her friends wedding so I tagged along.   It went by in a flash.  Besides the wedding, we had a few hours to see the Chihuly exhibit and do a bit of shopping.  I love Seattle.  I could totally live here. It has lots of art, good food, local goods and not as techie overkill as San Francisco.

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Honestly, I could have been happy hanging at the hotel.  Any time with a sister is a vacation, don’t cha think?

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Shanghai, China, a worthwhile visit.

The kid and I are back from China!  It certainly was a very interesting and educational visit.  Unlike my past trips, this one was more difficult to blog day-by-day due to the internet restrictions encountered there.  One needs to remember that outside it’s economic boom, progressive building and manufacturing, it’s still a Communist country and therefore they limit access.  For example, pretty much anything “Google” is blocked.  Without a VPN, there was no Google searching, gmail or even Google maps functioning on my phone was very spotty at best. On a positive note, most of their phone booths are wireless hotspots so if you have an international plan in place, you can find many areas to jump online to look up where you are or where to go.

The trip started out on Air China.  I was a little worried as they really received some bad reviews online.  We didn’t seem to have any issues.  We checked in early enough, the airplane was not uncomfortable and both our bags made it without issue.


Upon arrival we were met  by a car service and brought to our hotel/apartment.  The New Harbour Service Apartment is part hotel/part residence.  I assume much like executive housing.  It wasn’t in any trendy part of town but at no time did I feel unsafe, it was only 2 blocks from a metro stop and we could easily walk to just about anything.  I thought about a hotel in a tourist area of Shanghai, however when I travel, I like a bit more space.  I especially like having a kitchen so I can save some money on meals or just enjoy the ease of having breakfast at my own place.  I reviewed this location at TripAdvisor.

Since relying on my phone for directions was spotty, we relied on a good old paper map. This I did not mind as the kid is a Boy Scout and it was a good lesson in map reading.  For the next 3 days we logged roughly 8-10 miles a day walking around the city seeing the major sites, walking every park path we came across, tasting street food and just being in awe of the cosmopolitan nature of the city. When is 13-year-old taste buds couldn’t take any more noodles we taste tested the local McDonalds and even checked out a local Pizza Hut where pizza dishes were the minority on the menu.


Yu Garden Bazzaar



Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China


Dongtai Road Antique Market


On our last two nights we “Couchsurfed” with a Shanghai family.  For many travelers, couch surfing is a way to save on lodging expense and also a chance to get to know the locals.  For me, the last part was important because I wanted my son to see how a family similar to ours lives in Shanghai. I had a chance to meet our host before our trip when she was in the Bay Area.  On the first evening she was at a class so I had the most interesting conversations with her husband about Chinese culture and rapid expansion of the Shanghai area in the last 25 years.  Another fortunate outcome is that we got to see a part of Shanghai that I didn’t know existed.


Qibao Old Town, a historic area of Qibao in the Minhang District of Shanghai, China


Walking Qibao Old Town


Jiuxing Market


Zhouzhuang Water Town


Zhouzhuang Water Town

Overall, it was a great trip.  I am please that I was able to experience and share this part of the world with my son.  It’s pretty amazing.


Tips when visiting Shanghai

-Language is a barrier.  I went equip with phrases in Chinese such as “Driver, please take me to “Hotel Name.”  It proved many times to be very useful.

-Consider using a service to obtain your visas.  For me, transportation and a half day waiting in line wasn’t worth losing a half day of work.

– Due to our late arrival, I arranged for a driver a head of time.  The taxi in Shanghai was like no line I had seen before!  Once arrived, confirm, confirm, confirm!  Even after we came out of customs, it took at least 30 minutes until our driver found us.  I was able to pay ahead of time.  Keep copies in the even you need to show your driver.

-Again, if traveling with kids considering bringing some food from home.  I brought along cereal, snack bars and Mac & Cheese.  We certainly ate the local food, but for a kid it could turn to be a bit much. We tried the pizza and it just wasn’t the same.  Since we had a kitchen it was nice to be able to cooks something easy from home. Snacks came in handy for the plane ride too.

-Skip the under river tourist tunnel. It really is kinda silly…unless you really are trying to get to one side or the other.

-Have afternoon tea the the Fairmont Peace Hotel.  It really is a treat in any part of the world and no one does it like the Fairmont.


Shanghai Spring Break

Friends stared at me like blinking penguins when I said that I was taking Ben to China for spring break.  I guess many people we are acquainted with head to the beach or go camping. Frankly, they are probably right because when I was a kid, spring break just meant a week to run around the neighborhood.  However, I’m an adventurer and he is an adventurer in the making….and neither one of us can fathom the idea of 5-7 days of just sitting on a beach.  We want to see things, learn things, eat weird things, walk the path of historical figures, and contemplate our existence in the grand scheme of the universe (ok, maybe that last one is just me).

China is a whole new territory for me and honestly, I’m a bit nervous.  Granted Shanghai is still pretty cosmopolitan as far as China goes but this isn’t just a country with big street names with 15 letters, this is a land of characters that I can’t even begin to decipher.  For all I know things turn out to be neatly labeled in English but I haven’t been there so I really don’t know, nor have I even cracked open the guide book.  To some extent, Ben and I are winging it and it’s kind of exciting.  There is a bit of melancholy along with this too. Some subjects I keep off social media but the one I will share is that tomorrow is my Dad’s birthday.  He would have been 89.  He was my biggest advocate and supporter of my wanderlust.  I hope in whatever energy capacity his matter exists, he’s out here with us.

I hear that China is not very USA social media friendly.  Who knows if I will be able to blog or instagram while I’m away (oh no!!!).  If not, it will certainly be a new experience for me to be unplugged from those at home, a new experience in a very exotic land (or seeing as I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, maybe not?).

Good, bad or ugly, I’m so looking forward to this adventure.  Are you?



Ok, California is cool…

Sometimes when I’m not traveling I get a little antsy. I “forget” how fortunate I am to live in an area where it is sunny and warm in one area and within 2 hours I can be in the great Sierra mountains and it’s snowing.  Sometimes a wise soul reminds me that there are many adventures still to be found here and there is a lot of traveling that can be done in my own “backyard.”    Thanks for that. 😘


Why, Kauai of course…

I’m on a roll.  Off I went again, this time a long weekend on Hawaiian island of Kauai.  For years I’ve had no problem flying from San Francisco to NYC for a quick weekend with the girls.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me to go the other direction. It turned out that this was a three day weekend with Presidents day so I decided to crash my mates holiday for three days.  Normally this would have been slightly costly to buy a ticket in under seven days, however I’ve been banking frequent flyer miles forever so it was time to cash some in.

it was a quick hour flight from Oakland to LA and then another 6 hours to Kauai. I arrived very late on Friday evening and outside of hotel lounges, it did not appear that Kauai had much of a nightlife.  So it was a quick welcome beer on a very dark beach and then off to bed.

For the next three days my mornings were filled with rooster wake-up calls followed by daily hikes (or two),waterfalls, botanical gardens and naps on the beach.  The mountains and gardens were lush and green, hikes at times were like Indiana Jones adventures as we trekked through mud and through intertwined branches and I was even lucky enough to see a few whales and sea turtles.  Thankfully my mate is quite the hiker/navigator and I had the luxury of just going along for the ride.  It gave me time to enjoy the views, meditate with my thoughts and enjoy just being there in the now.

After the third day, it was the red-eye back to Oakland and straight to work.  *sigh*  Gotta fund that travel habit.


IMG_3987 Kauai’s Hindu Monastery



Limahuli Botanical Garden


Kauai Blog gives a bit more information about those Kauai Roosters.


Aqua Kauai Beach Resort

 Although the main building is dated and in need of finding a useful direction for its vacant spaces, the newly renovated guest rooms are very nice.  The pool deck is not large but it has a sweeping view across the lawn to the beach.  While I was there it was a peaceful and quite spot to read in the sun or watch the yoga class being conducted on the lawn.



A couple of the many waterfalls of Kauai



Mahalo, Kauai!




Winter in South Lake Tahoe…..Sure wish we had snow.

Spent a wonderful long weekend in South Lake Tahoe with my camping group.  Of course, it’s winter so instead of tents we had 3 days at the beautiful Fjeldheim.  Even though we were a party of about 40 there was more than enough space for communal meals, hiking,  games, napping, and just enjoying each others company.

We ventured out to Lake Tahoe for a walk and it was invigorating to be there in winter when the campgrounds were empty and the lake alive with waves.


We even took a jaunt to the other side of the Sierra into Nevada where we witnessed a huge sandstorm that took down trees and power lines.  It made for an amazing view of the desert.


That incident caused us to detour and into  Genoa, Nevada, population 939,  which happened to be the first settlement in Nevada (you just know I love the educational aspects of my adventures). Also, where one finds the first settlement of Nevada means one finds the first BAR in Nevada.  It was pretty sweet, especially after my Christmas excursion through the state, I highly recommend Nevada for a road trip.


Sadly, although my ski gear was in the car for this winter getaway, we were plagued with warm weather (oh no, not warm weather!) and occasional rain.  We did get a short spot of snow and that made for a lovely winter hike.  IMG_3813