Week 252 January 26, 2019

For the past two weeks Loren and I experienced unexpected troubles. At the beginning of this week I made lemonade, twice. I’m happy to say nothing untoward occurred since… 


One evening I noticed Loren’s sister’s enormous gorgeous homegrown calla lilies and just had to take this photo.


Loren noticed a concert announcement in a newspaper, and that same evening we drove to Fremont to attend. It was a one man show of folk repertoire, featuring works from his career-long inspirations from and collaborations with Pete Seeger, a memorable evening including some opportunities for sing-alongs. 


Another evening we had dinner with Loren’s Godson, and it was meaningful as always to spend time with this young man. I regret not thinking to pull out my camera…

We also spent a day in San Francisco this week. We took BART and UBER’d from the station to Golden Gate Park to visit the Botanical Garden. It was a beautiful day weather-wise to be out and about, and we exclaimed that again and again during our afternoon.

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The featured showings at the garden was the host of Magnolia trees in bloom. The peak of their blossoms are throughout this and the coming week. 

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It was mesmerizing to look at the carpets formed of Magnolia petals all around.


Rhododendrons and other flowering plant species were coming into bloom too.

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We were also able to reminisce here about our visits to Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch and Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, for example easily picking out Banksia, Cycad, and Wollemi Pine species,

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In the late afternoon we met two friends for an early dinner. Again, I regret not thinking to take a photo, before the four of us went to Grace Cathedral to see another friend’s annual Movement Arts Festival. We were impressed to see how much it has grown in popularity and participation since our last time attending

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A very impressive event, and we continue to be proud of our friend for founding it, as it touches the lives of so many artists and those who appreciate the arts.

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Week 220 June 16, 2018

Sorry this is late, I was sure I had clicked on the Publish icon on Saturday… Oh, the jet lag.

We spent our last few days in Australia at the beginning of this week, soaking up sighting more of the incredible wildlife at our mountain cabin respite. The unbelievable bright coloring of one – female or male I know not, of a pair of small birds was most hard to capture as they repeatedly flitted around our car picking off the bugs. I finally was able to catch an image of the actual brilliance, as it was reflected in the car’s mirror! Can you see it? You can click on the image to enlarge it…

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We returned to Cairns for our last two nights, but had not realized how far that is from Yungaburra – our meeting point for the evening and the following early morning tour to Atherton Tablelands to view more flora and fauna. We wanted to see a platypus, among others, for example. Not only was our drive to Yungaburra more than an hour, it was on a long, curvy mountainous road. We enjoyed the ride, but along the way became less and less confident of our success, as sadly the weather had turned inclement. On our own there we managed to visit the Curtain Fig Tree – a most unique formation from the various other Strangler Figs that we had seen in the Daintree, then after a light meal, our guide confirmed by phone that it was unlikely we would see much else. All was well as we were not looking forward to two round trips over that mountain anyway… 


So we acknowledged our disappointment and enjoyed listening to a classical music station on our much earlier than planned return ride in the dark back to Cairns. And, we did see a little wildlife crossing the road visible by our bright headlights in the dark – a few different small creatures who might have been white tailed rats, mice or some form of marsupial… The closest we came to seeing the nocturnal wombat in all of our time in Australia was of images on road warning signs. I understand that they are about the size and shape of a pig or a hog, but it seems their face is more like that of a cat.

The next day in the wee hours we were up for our flight from Cairns to Sydney where we would have a brief layover before flying on to San Francisco. However, on awakening, we had a text advising us that our second flight was delayed for four hours. We were thankful that the message had not been about our first flight! Flying into Sydney in the early morning offered more and different views of the Harbor Bridge, which made the Opera House seem absolutely teeny from this angle, and, nearby downtown skyscrapers. 

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The airline provided vouchers to spend however we liked inside the airport eateries or shops to compensate for our delay. But, what would you do with four unexpected hours back in Sydney? Loren chose to stay inside the airport, while I chose to see the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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Before my return train to the airport I was rewarded with another different view of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Distance can make such a difference in perception of the sizes of things!

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We flew on QANTAS whose tagline is Spirit of Australia and with its creative kangaroo logo displayed on the tail fin. Onboard I watched Quest a newly released documentary about a family in North Philadelphia doing their best to make a positive difference in their community. I appreciated learning how Quest’s mother had taught him, “Instead of doing something destructive, do something constructive.” 


We left Sydney to arrive in San Francisco on the same date but a day later, because of crossing the International dateline. In other words, we left on Monday, June 11 at 5pm, flew for 13 hours to arrive in San Francisco on Monday, June 11 at noon. It was fun but strange to experience the same day twice after seeing the sun set on the first one. Though this week has been more than a bit of a challenge with jet lag and waking up ready to start the day in the middle of the night. The day we arrived, we visited Loren’s Mom and sister have spent time with them each day since, visiting and, helping in ways we can.

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While we missed watching with her the four sweep games that our Golden State Warriors played to win their third recent championship over Cleveland, we were in time to enjoy together their victory parade through an exuberant crowd in Oakland the next day. Even though she has already told me twice this week, “You need to continue to travel while you are able,” in making our difficult decision to come home for the time being, I believe that our regret at not being here now would outweigh our regret at giving up our dream, which we hope to have the fortune to resume at a later date.

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In saying we are home, I must clarify that we are not disturbing the tenant who lives in our house. We have rented an AirBnB which is a 10 minute drive from Loren’s Mom’s home. This one is likely the most unique of our home stays, in that it is large enough to offer 9 comfortable bedrooms, where the owners request stays on a minimum of a month. That led me to want to learn the meaning of the term: boarding house. We are not at one because it does not include our meals. So it is more like a rooming house, or a lodging house. And our housemates are quiet and friendly. 

We are enjoying this time to visit family and friends, and see familiar flora and fauna. Yes, those are deer below, seen on the street of our AirBnB. And, I was tickled to spot an image of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia on a delivery vehicle in the Bay Area traffic, which would have been foreign to me had we not been to Spain last summer. This is one example of a host of things I have learned abroad. I would be finished with this thought, except that I must comment more on the local traffic. It can be horrendous, sometimes requiring finding alternative routes unless one should want to sit still for hours… Enough said, except today I noticed the lettering on a route directional sign that I read with great interest: Fast, until I realized it was simply a faded sign pointing out East.

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This coming week Loren and I are looking forward to visiting with some of the members of my family in California before I fly to New York mid-week for a very special someone’s High School graduation. I will conclude with another inquisitive observation based on our travels – how come American supermarkets refrigerate eggs while the rest of the world sells them from room temperature shelves? 


Week 214 May 5, 2018

At the start of this week, Loren and I flew the short distance from Sydney – in the state of New South Wales, to a western outskirt airport near Melbourne, in the state of Victoria. We rented a car to be able to drive part of the Great Ocean Road. We stopped first to see Aireys Islet, where we took a short boardwalk stroll around a small pond, finding a shag and several swamp hens on the way. 

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Then we took a longer walk to the lighthouse and beach. 

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Once back in the car, we enjoyed how the Great Ocean Road winds its way along though Great Otway National Park. And, this is where we saw our first ‘roos! I say it that way because we are unsure if they were kangaroos or wallaroos. The only difference is in their size, and we have nothing with which to compare these first ones. At least they made this road sign believable! Now with a little research, I think these were kangaroos.

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Then we drove on to Kennett River, where I had read has the best koala spotting opportunities of the Great Ocean Road area. Daylight was beginning to fade, nevertheless, to our delight we did indeed see our first koala there! A most pleasant couple helped us to spot it up in a eucalypts tree. They then walked away after taking a few snapshots. For some reason Loren and I stayed to quietly observe for a while longer, and the little one raised its head to look straight at us. What a treat! Once again our AirBnB accommodation was self-checkin – the third of three in Australia.


In the morning we returned to Kennett River. Our prior day’s tree nook was empty, but walking just a little ways away we saw another koala with lots of most colorful birds on the tree limbs below, with lots of tourists, some of whom were attracting the birds to land on their arms, shoulders, even heads, by holding out handfuls of seeds. We heard one tour guide explaining to a small group that we were seeing Australian King Parrots. Another variety that we saw we believe are Crimson Rosella. Sadly, it seemed the one koala was trying to climb further up, away from the noisy crowd.

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Loren and I soon hiked further on the now uphill road where few other tourists ventured. Here we found two other koalas, each sleeping undisturbed way up high in different eucalypts trees. 

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When we returned down to the first spot, the koala had found a comfortable spot to sleep again with one arm raised surprisingly, despite the continual parade of tourists still feeding the birds below. 


We continued our drive on Great Ocean Road, where part of the time we were going through lush forest. We had time enough to see the 12 Apostles although there are now only 8 left, as well as Loch Ard Gorge, and Razorback, before driving back to turn in our rental car and catch the hourlong express bus to downtown Melbourne. Here we had our first Australian face-to-face check-in with our AirBnB host. And, speaking of the parade of tourists above, it has been interesting to notice how some streets in Australia are named Pd. or Pde., as in Ave. or St. For example, we are now staying on Alexandra Parade in Melbourne.

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This week we have enjoyed catching up with a special friend who has lived in Melbourne for several years now, with her husband and son. I have known her since she hired me for a position when I was working in the computer industry. We became close from the start and have kept in touch over the years. They have just returned from a month overseas in Europe. They are also nearly done with a beautiful job of remodeling their home here, and it is fun to see how their handsome teen son has grown. 


Loren and I have also walked over to see St. Patrick’s cathedral, the Fitzroy Gardens, the Carlton Gardens, and the Melbourne Museum, so far.


We have been glad to be taking daily Bikram Yoga classes again too. The studio owners are a delightful couple from the US originally, who met in the Peace Corp., serving in the Philippines. They never returned to live in the US. Their studio, the instructors and the community are vibrant and welcoming. One evening, I went for a double – a second class on the same day, so that I could take class with a dear friend from my Bikram Yoga Teacher Training who works during the day. Loren joined us afterwards for a nice dinner out to catch up more.

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I also had a couple of firsts here this week. I have had knee pain for many years and lately it has interfered with my ability to do some of the yoga postures. So, I tried my first Bowen Technique therapy, which works on fascia and connective tissue, which I hoped would help. So far the one treatment has not improved my knee, however the process felt like the equivalent of a unique massage, so the session was not a waste by any means. The other first time activity I enjoyed was in taking a mid-morning Zumba class with my friend. We went for coffee too with a few other Zumba participants. Fun!

Week 213 April 28, 2018

Dear Family and Friends, Loren and I so appreciate your words of wisdom and support, and especially now in response to Loren’s latest poetic prose/photo email. We have so enjoyed following our passion and sharing it here for over our four full years traveling. We have been so consumed amidst our travels that I forgot to note on Week 210’s headline that Year 5 began! That has been corrected as I write. For now, we will continue our travels in Australia, taking it week by week, even day by day.

We spent our last day in Sydney at the beginning of this week visiting the Art Gallery until closing. Here we found a lovely painting of New Zealand’s Milford sound from the 1870’s. We attest that the scene has not much changed from our own recent visit there. We walked to MacQuarie Point and Mrs. MacQuaries’ Chair where we had another view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. That evening we splurged on dinner at a French restaurant where Luc the owner, a Frenchman who has lived in Australia for 5 years promised it was “The best French food in Australia.” I must say not many restaurants in the world would compare to how delicious Loren and I both found his dishes to be.

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By far, most of the population of Australia is established on the southeast coastline. The country is made up of six States: New South Wales, with its capital being Sydney; Victoria with its capital Melbourne; Tasmania, a separate island has its the capital in Hobart; South Australia’s capital is Adelaide; Western Australia which is the largest land mass has its capital at Perth; Queensland’s capital is Brisbane; and, two Territories: Australian Capitol Territory which is wholly contained within New South Wales with its capital and the capital of the entire country being in Canberra; and, Northern Territory with its capital at Darwin. We are in NSW right now.

Driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge north felt like driving from San Francisco to upscale Sausalito. We stopped briefly to see Manly, Freshwater and Curl Curl beaches while driving along the Pacific and Great Western Highways. We learned at Manly that there is such a sport as beach tennis, what a great idea, and, that surfing is popular as well at Curl Curl. 

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I have to say that when driving I have become better at not mistakenly flicking on the windshield wipers when I want the turn indicator, though this week it happened again. It is because, like the driver’s seat, these gadgets are also on the opposite sides from what I am so used to using for more than 50 years! Also, when using the car radio, Loren or I unwittingly change the station when trying to control the volume, for the same reason. On our way to our destination to stay in the Blue Mountains, we stopped at Botanic Gardens Mount Tomah, where we were again enchanted by the scenery

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and the birdlife there, until closing. We arrived at our AirBnB in darkness, but that was no problem as it, like our Sydney studio apartment had been, was self-checkin. We were told by numerous people that the wildlife in Australia in fascinating, and I agree from just our two weeks here. But, we still have not seen a kangaroo, a koala, a wallaroo, a wallaby, a wombat…  We did see a flock of huge bats flying in and out of trees overhead at dusk near the harbour in Sydney last week. While we have seen no ibis in the mountains we have seen other incredible birds.

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We went for a day hike several times this week. But excuse me, that is USA-speak. From learning of Nepal’s trekking to New Zealand’s tramping, in Australia we are now bushwalking. We went down and up the steep Golden Stairs, hardly an accurate name; along Prince Henry Cliff Walk to Bridal Veil Falls, from Leura Cascades to Gordon Falls to Princes Rock Lookout; down and back up part of Six Foot Track, though it is unclear where that name came from. Our favorite was Undercliff Track, for its dramatic cliff overhangs. All the hikes had differing viewpoints of the vast valley between limestone peaks and cliffs, surrounding ancient, untouched thick forests, that are the Blue Mountains.

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We encountered gentle waterfalls – it is autumn after all, and unique ferns and other foliage. We learned about bull ants which we were warned to steer clear of, and, learned that the local name for a prevalent imported tree we have at home is called eucalypts not eucalyptus here. There are more than a whopping 90 varieties of eucalypts just in this area of Australia alone. Loren learned and explained that the naming the area with blue comes from an oil off the eucalypts that mixes with dust to create the blue-tinged haze. 

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We saw more unique birds, that I apologize for not being able to name as yet, but I can tell you that the brown one has a tail nearly as long or longer than its body; the white one is as large as a duck; and, the red and blue, is remarkable for showing red, white, and blue in flight, and this one posed on the fence outside our AirBnB yard one morning long enough for me to snap its photo. 

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One evening we spent at the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual Centre for a community meditation, and returned the next day to meditate again on our own on their vast tranquil property. We visited the house and grounds of Norman Lindsay, an artist who is famous, in part for his children’s book, The Magic Pudding and also for his risqué paintings and sculptures of his century old works. And, we dropped in at the Cultural Centre where we bookended the week enjoying another artworks display as well as learning more about the terrain and history. 


We finished our week by watching our AirBnB host’s copy of Searching for Sugarman, which we again agreed is one of our most favorite movies. I will finish this post with saying how it is always fun to encounter the use of different words of the English language. This week three came up when hearing folks call others blokes and us mates, heaps of times. 


Week 212 April 21, 2018

On a final walk in Christchurch at the beginning of this week, I came across a yard decoration that caught my attention. It felt familiar, reminding me of so many family members and friends who have had similar looking adornments in their homes or on their property. So I had to snap a photo. Do you recognize yourselves by it? We miss you, yet please know that you are always with us in our hearts!


Loren and I then said our sad farewells to New Zealand. We reminisced of our most recent time in their Southern Alps from the window of our plane that flew us two hours further east. On exiting the airport in Sydney, Australia, I was tickled to recognize how – thanks to our Journey’s five months time in Italy, I easily translated the Italian phrase that greeted us through a cafe window: first of all the coffee.

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Australia is the earth’s largest island. Before its geography was known to westerners, this area was hypothesized as Terra Australis Incognita, or unknown land of the South. Its land mass is nearly the size of the contiguous United States; however, its population of about 24 million is almost half that of just the state of California, which has nearly 40 million. It seems that giu sotto or land below is still largely unknown in the world.

Loren and I are staying at an AirBnB small studio apartment in the Darlinghurst neighborhood of Surry Hills, a suburb of Sydney that feels similar to San Francisco’s Mission District neighborhood – think trendy, colorful, exuberant.


We are in walking distance to Sydney Harbour and the exceptional Opera House.


One evening we went out to see Badu Gili or water lights in the local native tongue, which is traditional imagery projected daily on the outer opera house sails. On our way we walked through the Royal Botanical Garden. This is an impressive, relaxing site and we made a note to return to spend more time here.

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We are in even closer walking distance to the Bikram yoga studio, and on our first day of attending class it was a delightful surprise to find a young woman who Bikram had nicknamed Miss Glasses from my teacher training. She was also briefly visiting this studio. The last Loren and I had seen her was in her native Miami, when she was about to leave for Australia. What a fun, small world!


We returned to the Botanic Garden another day to take a docent led tour, and our guide was quite knowledgeable and entertaining. This place provides a home to rare and ancient species, such as the Wollemi Pine, as well as exhibiting examples representative of the New South Wales state’s local variety, including the Gum, or Eucalyptus Grandis.

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In addition to the flora, this state is home to much birdlife. The first one I spotted was a familiar large ibis that we had learned the name of in Africa. This one is the Australian White. As our week continued I came to understand what a nuisance this scavenging bird can be, as they are everywhere, but, it is a unique, attractive nuisance all the same.

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Other interesting birds we have seen so far include for example the Australian Magpie, Common Myna and Masked Lapwing. The image at the top of this week’s post is called the Little Corella.

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One other big highlight this week was seeing Puccini’s opera La Bohème performed from a floating stage in the Harbour. It was touching both to read the story beforehand and to watch it performed live, and with the backdrop of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the distance from the outskirts of the stage. Wow! We feel most fortunate to be able to have – and to share here with our dear family and friends – our bountiful experiences. Thank you for following along with us on our Journey!