Friday, May 12, 2017

April Breakdown


20170417_192029
April had been one busy month. Three weeks of it were spent touring the Kingdom of Morocco and beautiful Lisbon, Portugal.

This would be the first time we joined a large tour group. You know the ones who get shuttled from one spot to another in air-conditioned bus?

There are some countries that are best suited for the tour group way and I believe in my heart of hearts Morocco is one of them. There are so many beautiful spots to see, and places to go to are far from each other. We have seen and experienced so much in our 11 days there.

You would have to read my narrative about the trip in my other blog to get the most of the experience, because in that blog I tend to post a lot of photos.

Among the cities we visited were Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Erfoud, Ouarzazate, Essaouira.

Some notes about the trip:

THE FOOD: Moroccan food is not new to me; in fact there is a very nice Moroccan restaurant near where I live and we’ve been there and ate the food. But I learned in Morocco when you order tagine, any kind of tagine, it DOES NOT come with couscous like it does anywhere in the United States I assume, because it does in California. And when you are craving for couscous, wait until Friday. We’ve been told few times that they only served couscous on Fridays. And this from different restaurants and different cities.

THE CITIES: If you only take a photo of the street and no landmark, you’d guess the photo is from anywhere else but Morocco. However, Morocco is modern and the infrastructure in the cities is modern. You’d really think you are somewhere else. Also, aside from Casablanca, which is the biggest city, the cities are very clean. Everywhere else is clean. When we mentioned this to our tour manager, who was with us the entire way, he told us that there are street cleaners all day long, in 3 shifts, no wonder it is so clean.

THE SHOPPING: We did very little shopping even though we went to souks in every city we went to. The vendors are not pushy and the selection of rugs, ceramics, etc is incredible. I simply did not have any shopping money when I was there.

ARCHITECTURE: I love tiles and tilework and this is one country that is abundant with that. My eyes feasted on incredible tiles in riads, schools, old buildings, mosques, etc.

THE ROADS: Wide city roads with mini park in between the roads. I really like that feel when people have open space in the middle of the road for rest and relaxation and for kids to play in.

THE RUINS: I was blindsided when I saw the ruins here. Who would have thought that I would see ruins here? But they are magnificent particularly in Volubilis. Incredible.

THE MOUNTAINS: The mountains are so beautiful and another special bonus for me. I did not really pay attention to the itinerary thus I was again blindsided by the mountains. Some parts of the scenery reminded me so much of California and the agricultural lands and the orchards are nice to look at.

THE DESERT: What else can you say about the Sahara? It’s huge, it’s incredible. I would do this trip again just to be able to see the desert again and marvel at the different hues of the sand.

THE TOUR GROUP: There are 36 of us, all from US and Canada. I’m guessing the age ranges from 35-70. We did not mingle as one large group, but we were all cordial. Everyone is respectful and friendly and kind. We eventually found a small circle of people we regularly go to dinner with. What a fun group. I also liked our tour manager so much; he’s awesome and all the local tour guides we had.

After the tour was over, my husband and a couple that traveled with us in Morocco as well flew to Lisbon to spend a few days there? They opted to stay for 2 days and we had 3 1/2 days there.

It was their first time in Lisbon and on the first day we tried to show them around as much as we could. On the second day, we explored the city on our own. They went walking around and were pleased with how their day went. We opted to take the Hop On Hop Off bus to sightsee. The reason behind this choice is we wanted to see the sights we missed on our first visit in the city in 2014 and we accomplished that goal. There was an impressive looking church that we spotted late in the day in 2014 and we knew that we could not stop there because it was late. This time we especially stopped there first to see the interior. We were not disappointed; even though it wasn’t as glistening in gilded designs as the other churches. The ticket we purchased for the bus tour enabled us to take the historic #28 tram around the city. Oh boy, this was one wonderful trip. The tram is used by locals, but popular with tourists as well. We also walked where we used to stay and I was disappointed that the restaurant where we used to eat breakfast no longer exists. I was told by a wait staff in next door restaurant that the restaurant business is tough and staying open is difficult to accomplish. We met up with our friends for dinner and a short walk around before stopping for a little nightcap.

They left the following day to spend a couple of days in Barcelona; we went walking around the neighborhood some more and also signed up for a half day tour of Sintra. That is one incredible experience as well.

On our last day in Lisbon, we went for another round of exploration on foot and made sure that we had paella negra for lunch. In the afternoon, we caught our plane to Casablanca where we stayed for one night.

In Casablanca, we arrived late in the afternoon. We were staying in a riad near the airport. The shuttle was late. We had been waiting outside the airport for a long time, until a local asked if he could help. The hubs told him we were waiting for the shuttle. After inquiring what hotel, etc, the kind local dialed the number and told them where we are and that we were waiting for a ride.

The riad is cute; the owners – French and Moroccan couple – were very friendly, and so were their cats and dog. The room is nice too, but we were there for a very short time. Only a few hours to sleep before we got up at 3:30 am the following morning and banged the door to get someone take us to the airport.

I don’t know if this covers the entire month of April, but it is one incredible month. I think I would love to start booking travels in April when the weather is so fine and the flowers are abloom.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

March Breakdown

IMGP2575

March is a transition month. Historically personally March is a quiet month. Nothing happens in my March. Mom's birthday is historically the highlight of this month. Of course this 2017 version is no different than all the other March that passed. There was a wonderful bonus to Mom's birthday this year. We finally got to meet my cousins face to face. I knew of their existence. I love their parents and while we have had relationships with their parents, we never really knew them. It was such a pity that we never connected before this year. We have such a close blood relationship. Not only are our dads brothers, they look so much alike that there is no denying they are brothers. So two of my cousins came, two girls and a cousin-in-law - the wife of their brother. They live in Texas and have jumped on the plane for a short weekend visit to the city by the bay. Great timing too because they chose the weekend when we were celebrating mom's birthday and so they were able to meet practically the entire family. The reservation for the buffet restaurant went as high as 40 people. We are a big family.

On the work front, all's well. Busy as can be. Boring sometimes. Although with the change in weather, I caught a bug. I had colds and the cough stayed on and transferred to the husband.

Went out for a night out with girlfriends on a Monday night. We needed it to just breathe. You know, life happens and we need to exhale sometimes.

Managed to go to the cinema this month for LOGAN. What a really nice movie. I hope there will be more movies that would include Wolverine even though he died in this one.

In a week's time, I will be traveling. To say that I'm excited is a bit of an understatement. I do hope that in addition to documenting the trip via notes and photos, I also make time to be IN THE MOMENT. I feel that in the past trips I was more concerned of taking photos to feed the blog than to enjoy the place in the moment I was there. That would be my goal this year. In addition, there's another country we are going to visit for a brief time. It's a return to one of my favorite cities in the world and I'm already tingling with anticipation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February Breakdown

This is looking more like a monthly breakdown blog. Anyhow, here's what has transpired in the second month of the year.

LOTS OF RAIN

The rainy stormy season continues. The sky kept pouring in wet blessings causing major flooding. Potholes, sink holes, downed trees, urban flooding, some of the things awaiting the commute. It's been great having this very wet winter but the damage has been tremendous as well. Add the strong wind gusts, oh my lordy. My house was shaking from the howling wind last night, giving me a bit of apprehension. Thankfully except for 3 Mediterranean cypress trees on the front side of the yard, we don't have any other trees that would be a major concern for falling into the house. Plus the husband says that cypress don't really fall down. Okay!

ON THE HOMEFRONT

Nothing has been accomplished. My projects remain sitting where I left them. However, I have finally made a home made face mask, the recipe of which I found online. Easy peasy and feels effective too.

The newest member of our extended family turned one several days ago and so that was exciting. She slept a good portion of the party and so people come over and touch her while she slept. Some people even left before they could get a picture with the birthday girl.

FRIENDS

Our birthday dinner group had a fabulous time at an Irish pub one Thursday night. The food was great and in large portion so the sharing was awesome, the drinks were good, but the company was incredible. Must have been one of our best dinner outings so far. We have a group of friends that go out and celebrate a birthday and this month, 2 of our friends were co-celebrant.

My dorm mate in college and her family and the two of us went on a short 3-night cruise recently. Nonstop chatting. We hope we'd be able to do something similar with a larger group when we decide to have a dorm reunion since many of us who lived in that dorm reside here now.

TRAVELS

Only the short cruise to Ensenada, Baja Mexico. Otherwise, we're staying at home and cannot even go out that much because of rain.

RANDOM

Our company got access to Hardwear Mountain, the employees store and so the minute I got the email from my company we went to their store. I'm not much into outdoors and sports and hiking, but the selection of clothing and shoes were incredible. Some caught my eye. Hubby spotted a pants that I was looking for in like forever and so he wanted to get it for me, I was on the fence about it until the very last minute. What I was sure to get was this sandals that I always thought cool, but couldn't find anything of the sort that I liked until that day so it was a good $20 purchase. I can use it for traveling and camping.

EMOTIONALLY

Still struggling to get healthy and have a good workout regimen. Husband scored a second-hand pilates machine. We will set it up tonight and I cannot wait to make full use of it. I am really unhappy about my weight and I need to have the discipline I need to cut down the weight and eat healthy and move.

MOVIES

Via redbox, I saw THE GIRL IN THE TRAIN and THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS. Love them both.

Hopefully, something exciting will come up in March and my mood will be pleasant like spring time.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January Breakdown


So here's a little breakdown of what transpired in the first month of 2017.

LOTS OF RAIN

So much rain that the 3-year-drought in NorCal has been eliminated in one winter and flooding occurred in low-lying areas affecting so many residents.


ON THE HOMEFRONT

Finally got the awning over the main door erected. Dear friend made the plans and hubby got the permit from the city and somehow also managed to find a contractor to build it. I love it, now we don’t get soaked while trying to get inside.

FRIENDS

Early in the month we hosted the now becoming an annual tradition of getting together with husband’s former co-workers. It was well attended as usual and lots of good eats. A friend brought a gigantic red bottle of wine that we made into a few batches of sangria.

A friend took us with her on her house-hunting trip. I love house-hunting and hopefully she’ll get the condo she wants at a price she is willing to pay. You know everything here is so expensive.

Went to another friend’s house for takeout Lao food and pre-trip meeting of sorts. I love her house. I was sick when she had her housewarming last year and so I didn’t get to see it, but boy it is like a house out of the pages of a magazine. Not fancy. Cozy as a matter of fact and quite in the minimalist side, but has the feel of a lived-in house and the dog is just a bonus too.

Another tradition that lives on, a New Year’s Day lunch/dinner with a couple of elderly friends of ours. This time around we took them to Troy – a Greek restaurant in Solano Avenue. The couple enjoyed the food so much especially the woman, a vegetarian, found plenty of yummy options for her on the menu.

TRAVELS

A canceled trip to Lake Tahoe for some snow fun due to inclement weather. Unfortunately the resort could only reschedule us in June – beggars can’t be choosers after all it is a voucher for a free 3-night stay. So no trips this January.


RANDOM

I was killing time at Marshall’s after work one day before meeting up with the hubby to go to a friend’s house for Lao dinner (see above) when I saw this cute little notebook with a travel motif. I was at the store for a good solid hour and was able to resist temptation on clothes and makeup and bags and other goodies, but not the notebook. I simply had to have it. I’m hiding it because I have plenty of notebooks in my drawer right now and the last thing I need is another notebook/journal. It’s not going to make the hubby happy with unnecessary purchases.

Another random thing, Vista Print was having a sale so I went and made a little postcard of Buster, my cat, 50 pieces for $4.99 + shipping. Now I am realizing that is a lot of postcard, so expect to get one from me.

EMOTIONALLY

I am not really happy with January historically, probably a down from the highs of the Holiday Season. This year though, very busy and quite stressful work-wise and no trips can make the spirit sag more than usual.

Struggling to get healthy with exercise and eating the right food and getting enough rest, that means sleep. I think I will continue the struggle; I need to buckle up and work hard on this.

MOVIES

Rogue One in the theater. I am not a fan of Star Wars but I had to go because hubby wants to see it. He’s not a crazy fan either, but he wanted to go so we went. I’d rather we went to see SING. I heard good things about it and the trailer was entertaining.

Finding Dory on Red Box. Not as entertaining as FINDING NEMO. I’m keeping an eye out of THE GIRL IN THE TRAIN. I wonder if it’s out on Red Box yet.

This is all for January. Hopefully, February will be more fun so I can blog more often.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Time For Reflection

I am having a tough time doing my year-end post over at my other blog. Usually this comes in easy. I enumerate the places I've been throughout the year and voila I got a post. This year it felt different for some reason. I cannot really pinpoint where the change is or what factors might be affecting this change in my feeling. I have traveled my fair share this year. Somehow I felt it was less than last year, although that is not true. I was hoping that by writing here, somehow, a switch will flip automatically and I'll be able to come up with something to post in the other blog.

I was sitting in front of the computer for a few hours yesterday, which was a great day to just chill after the chaos of the Holidays, but when nothing comes into my head I turned on the tv and lo and behold GAME OF THRONES is running a marathon. I hit record all and thought I'd go out for a bit to see what's on sale, although I truly was not interested. The hubby just needed to get some fresh air, so we went out.

As expected, we didn't see anything worthy. Of course we didn't hit the big stores in the mall, because...why? Anyway when we got back I was eager to continue watching my Game of Thrones, when I realized that the setting on my dvr only records up to 5 epis. OMG, I lost the first five epis. That kinda put a wrinkle on my face right there. Anyway, no harm since I have seen those episodes before.

Anyway that's not why I am posting here now, two months since the last post, I want to practice my year-end post. Sort of a dry run.

In the hopes of getting an inspiration from last year's year-end post I went and scrolled my posts and I found out that I did not do one last year because we left for Bangladesh middle of December and got back home January 9 or something.

Thus my 2016 started in Bangladesh with family and friends and being reunited with a girl I met some years ago who now is a mother yet still maintain the girlish charm.

From Bangladesh we flew to Bali for a 6 day interlude before flying back home. A wonderful time was had by us. Bali is known for beautiful beaches, but I didn't dip in the pool once and we only saw the beach once. We were chasing temples and being culture vultures, ate at local food stands where we got freebies because they want us to discover and enjoy Balinese cuisine.

In May we celebrated our anniversary in Cancun, which is not really a surprise given the fact that we both enjoy Cancun. This time around with a whole week and no itinerary to adhere to we were able to visit Xcaret, an ecological theme park. In past visits, we have tried to dismiss coming here because we thought it was a Universal Studios kind of park, but wrong we were. What an incredible place to enjoy culture and nature.

For my birthday in August, we went to Florida and had a theme park trip visiting both Universal Studios and Disney World. In addition we had a beach day at Cocoa Beach. I'm starting to like Florida, especially since the food is awesome. Had Venezuelan and Puerto Rican cuisine while there.

In the fall, we gathered up friends and had a weekend of quiet in a cabin in Alpine Meadows in the Sierras. What lovely time we had and such a beautiful cabin. We hoped to be back someday.

Now just before all the craziness of the Holidays friends emailed us of a cruise that's reasonably priced. Since I had a previously approved vacation time around the same time we said yes to a cruise. So in November we sailed the Caribbean stopping in both the British and US Virgin Islands and Bahamas. A much needed break before the chaos of Christmas preparations.

2016 was just another year in terms of travel, but the focus of the year for me was friendship. We have continued to develop the friendships we have and enjoy other people's company more. We went out to eat more, we went to each other houses to eat more and we traveled together this year. We are lucky that we have friends who become family.

May 2017 be kind to all of us. And please laugh more this year, it's good for you.