Japan hot springs

Japan Unzen hot springsUnzen, Japan, has a spectacular, winding trail through a series of hot springs up the side of a volcano. It is an awesome walk through(on a path) these hot springs up the gentle slope of the mountain. I gasped at the beauty of it all the way. The walkway is made either of wooden slats or stone and gravel with lookout points at strategic places.

Japan Unzen hot springs  Japan Unzen Hot Springs

There are signposts warning not to touch the scalding water. As you pass by the smokier areas, try not to breath in…the sulphur smell is awful.

Japan Unzen Hot Springs  Japan Unzen Hot Springs

The path leads through the lush forest as you go from one hot spot to another. It is breathtaking, in more ways than one.

Japan Hot Springs  Japan Hot Springs

HONGKONG camera 596  HONGKONG camera 604 Unzen Japan  japan Unzen

This marvel is on the island of Kyushu, just a few hours drive from Nagasaki. The drive takes you through magnificent forests of pine and cedar and young bamboo, in the Unzen Amakusa National Park, one of the first national parks in Japan. On the way, we stopped at the town of Obama Onsen(hot springs), a town, established in the year of 713 as a hot spring resort. It has a hot spring in the town center with pots where you can cook your own food or buy some eggs and make yourself a snack. It also has the “Hot Foot 105“, at 105 meters the longest hot spring water footbath. The foot soaking(ashiyu) is along an ocean view promenade beside Tachibana Bay. There are also hotels with ensuite hot spring baths.

obama Onsen japan  Obama onsen

obama onsen japan Obama onsen

If hot water is not your cup of tea, but you do like a hot cup of tea,

try the beguiling pastry shop next to the square. It has yummy pastries Obama onsen, Japan

with an upstairs terrace with tables and a view to admire for hours.

obama Onsen

©bbunce

 

 

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Hong-Kong-Food

It is not easy to find a place to eat in Hong Kong.

Peninsula Hotel HK

Peninsula Hotel HK

I’m sure there are numerous excellent restaurants but most restaurants are not open to the sidewalks. By that I mean that the entrance is not visible. Often there is just a sign on a placard and an arrow leading up a few flights of stairs or down a narrow alley way. I don’t like to wander off the main drag when I am alone, so that makes finding a place difficult. On my first night in Hong Kong, I had dinner at one of  the hotel specialty restaurants: the Chinese dining room. It was noodles with nuts and mixed mushrooms. Simple and simply delicious. This plate, with Perrier water and dessert cost me 183.60 HK$. That is approximately 26 US$,(divide by 7) which I consider reasonable for this healthy meal.HONGKONG camera 007

Whenever I was going out later in the day, I would have a simple soup, sandwich and tea ”special” in the hotel lounge. The price was 96.80HK$.

I always travel with breakfast included and this is a great way to ensure starting the day off with a good, hearty meal. The breakfast at the Kimberley Hotel was varied and included eggs, ham, breads and pastries and fruit as well as Asian dishes. I tried congee,(cooked rice ceral) and liked it well enough. A hotel buffet is also a free and easy way to try new dishes.

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Luckily, several of my meals were included in group day trips I took. One tour was to Lantau island and lunch was at the Po Lin monastery. It was vegetarian, of course, and full of flavour. The group at my table went at the food so quickly that by the time I took a picture, half was gone. This is a good sign.

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I also don’t like to go out alone at night so I will often have my larger meal at lunch time. It is also cheaper to eat in nicer places at midday. One day I went walking in downtown Hong Kong Island and had lunch at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel: crab soup, pasta Bolognese, bread and tea. The decor was sleek and modern, a contrast with the traditional Asian decors often seen.

 

The price was approximately 24US$.Hong Kong

Another wonderful midday treat I had was High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel. Yes, there is always a lineup because they only take reservations for the overnight guests, but you are serenaded by a string quartet and there is lots to look at. It is a stunning lobby, very Victorian looking. It is not cheap at 400HK$ but it is a meal and an event all rolled into one. On the tray are delicious little cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon on cream cheese, prosciutto and a mini vol au vent. Then, the second layer on the tray has the wonderful scones, with cream and jam. If you have room for more food, there are 4 delightful little cakes on the top tier. Eat slowly, sip slowly and savour the food, the moment and the tea.

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On my guided visit to Happy Valley and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, dinner was included in the price. It was a huge buffet with food choices ranging from roast beef to fresh fish delicacies. The dining rooms are for small groups with sliding glass doors opening onto the private balconies overlooking the track. It was magical, with the high rises in the background and the lights shining on the race. If you go to Hong Kong, don’t miss it.HONGKONG camera 105 HONGKONG camera 114

Another of my favourite meals was at the Dim Sum Restaurant at the Golden Mile Holiday Inn. I had read a good review and the hotel was within walking distance, so I decided to have a look. Again, the restaurant is not visible from the street. Walk into the entrance of the Holiday Inn, go down the escalators to the basement and walk to the end of the corridor. There it is. I thought is would be deserted but it was bustling with the noon hour crowd of well heeled ladies and lots of businessmen. I was lucky to have a nice table off to the side. The waiter suggested the combo plate and I took his advice and sipped tea and ate peanuts while I waited. I soon had a plate with four beautiful, fresh dim sum. The fillings were abalone, shrimp, lobster and vegetarian. One dim sum had gold shavings on top. .This is supposed to bring me good fortune for the New Year. The price was 168HK$.

Hong Kong Dim Sum The one on the right facing you has the gold flecks. They had no particular taste but I hope they bring me particularly good luck.

©bbunce

 

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Hong-Kong

Hong Kong was all that I thought it would be: high rises everywhere,noisy and crowded.

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I expected the towering skyscrapers. I was certain Hong Kong would be a busy city. What did surprise me was how clean Hong Kong is. There are street cleaners everywhere. imageFood and beverages are forbidden in the Hong Kong Metro system. I did not notice people walking on the streets with coffee cups or donuts in their hands. This would actually be dangerous because of the large crowds. I was there during the week of Chinese New Year, so the crowds were thick, and everywhere. These were the crowds waiting in line, at either end, for the Victoria Peak Tram. I was disappointed in that ride. The trees are so overgrown, there is not much to see. And, if you get a foggy or rainy day like I did, there is even less to see., other than the crowds.HONGKONG camera 032

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Nathan Avenue, in Kowloon, is a shopping paradise. There are designer stores for purses, shoes and jewellery amidst hawkers for fake Rolexes and handmade suits! The jewellery store windows are golden,showy and extravagent. There are approximately 3 such stores for every block, on either side of the street. It is too lavish to believe. And every store was filled with buying customers.

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It is not the only place to shop, though, as it seems Hong Kong is based on either huge upscale malls or junk outdoor markets. Harbour City is a multi-level building with 450 shops, mostly designer. There are also 3 hotels, 50 restaurants and 2 cinemas. http://www.discoverhongkong.com/us/shop/where-to-shop/malls-and-department-stores/harbour-city.jsp#  I went at the beginning of February and the entrance was decked out in hearts and pink balloons. It was pretty and exhuberant, a nice touch in such a large city.

HONGKONG camera 186 HONGKONG camera 183

If you want to get away from shopping, I suggest having high tea at the Peninsula Hotel. http://hongkong.peninsula.com/en/default

Tea is served in the beautiful lobby, with a string quartet playing in the balcony. They don’t take reservations unless you are a guest, so you have to queue. The line is indoors, but there is music to listen to and ornate ceiling to examine while you wait. HONGKONG camera 188It is an oasis of calm and the sandwiches, scones and cakes will substitute for dinner. Worth the wait and the cost.

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HONGKONG camera 191 It was nice to sip my tea and dream of colonial times, with neither shops nor hawkers. I eyed my new jade ring as I lifted a sandwich to my lips. I should buy earrings to match, I thought.

©bbunce2014

 

 

 

 

 

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Amsterdam

Five things to do in Amsterdam:

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Amsterdam is a “wander around” type of city, with streets intercepting canals and one district following another on the other side of any given bridge.

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I would love to go back to Amsterdam for a few weeks to take the time to do this, slowly, instead of rushing from point A to point B. Unfortunately, most of you are like me, with limited travel time and a desire to squeeze as much as possible into a short time frame. So, if you have just a few days in Amsterdam, here are my ideas of special places to visit.

1. Museum place:

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Museum Place is a large green space spanning several city blocks, with an outdoor area for concerts, paths for cycling and walking and lawns for picnics. At one end is the national museum, the Rijksmuseum (with a large collection of the old masters), the Van Gogh musuem, the Stedelijk museum and the Concertgebouw(concert hall). I advise you to make reservations for the museums ahead of time as there are always large lineups. It is easy to do online. http://collector.amsterdam.ticketbar.eu/en/

0072_IMG_1191This is the amazing Rijksmuseum. Plan to spend a good half day or more. The luncheon area is small so either be patient or find a small café outside of the museum.

2. Flower markets:

0055_IMG_1212Tulips are symbolic  of Holland but these are not the only flowers around. Stores and outdoor markets of all kinds feature an overwhelming abundance of blooms. The most impressive is the Floating Flower market and I’m sorry to say that I missed it. However, there are numerous places with flowers and tulips galore. You can even buy bulbs and seeds to bring home. Here is a link to the many markets available: http://www.amsterdam.info/markets/

3. Red Light District: This area is not particularly  interesting except for the obvious reasons: the numerous girls posing in the windows. I went with a guide, thinking it might be dangerous but it is completely safe during the day. I don’t know about night-time atmosphere and safety.

This “window-shopping” area is made up of several small pedestrian streets, almost alleyways, lined with small buildings each having one large window and one door at street level. The girls pose in the windows dressed in their skimpiest lingerie. When I was there, some girls flirted with the pedestrians; some looked pretty bored. What surprised me was that 2 girls had the same outfit on; I think I was the only one who noticed or cared.  So much for fashion originality!

Those interested, in the girl not the lingerie, stop, look and approach the door. I suppose there is some sort of negotiation that goes on and then, the customer goes in and the window curtain is pulled. The show is over, at least for the outsiders. By the way, don’t take pictures.

This is Albert, my guide, whom I highly recommend. He is knowledgeable and interesting and is flexible in the type of tour he gives. When he meets you, he asks you what your preferences are.  Private guide:Albert Walet ab4services@gmail.com

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4. Boat excursion:

0129_DSC05812  Amsterdam is a city built around water so the logical way to visit is by boat. There are many boat excursions along the canals and it is impossible to miss an opportunity to take one or two. This overview of Amsterdam from the water is relaxing, efficient and intimate. The houseboats which line several canals are a unique part of the canal city and are now prime pieces of real estate. Some offer bed and breakfast so do a search if this is something that interests you. Here are a few pictures:

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Here is a link to more information on the 165 canals of Amsterdam. http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/experience/what-to-do/activities-and-excursions/canal-cruising

5. Apple cake: The best apple cake, or pie, I have ever had was in Amsterdam, at a corner café called Winkel 43. This cake looks like a pie but is piled high like a cake and is served with whipped cream. Delicious is an understatement. Winkel’s is a small place, in a lovely old house, and the turnover is quick, the service efficient. There are indoor and outdoor places to sit and the waiters run back and forth all day. This dessert, or main meal as I called it, is fabulous. Walk or bike to get there as you will have many calories to burn. The bus and tram routes in Amsterdam can get you almost anywhere, and there is a stop not too far from this little gem, so hop on, hop off and walk. There are also plenty of spots for bicycle parking! Check the website for directions. http://www.winkel43.nl/

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Where to stay: I stayed at a great Bed and Breakfast, “The Collector”, which is on a trolley route and within walking distance to a large grocery store and museumplatz. Breakfast is serve-yourself with an abundance of cheeses, breads, fruit, meats, jams, and fresh eggs from the hens in the backyard. There were fresh flowers in the room everyday! Wonderful place!   http://www.the-collector.nl/

0050_IMG_1218 0134_DSC05807 ©bbunce

 

 

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korean temple stay

I have been looking back on some of my memorable travel times and one of my most challenging and disappointing was my “temple stay” in Korea. A “temple stay” is available at various Buddhist temples throughout Korea. These stays are for Koreans and westerners alike. They are intended as a way to understand Buddhism and a time for meditation and prayer.  When I signed up for a “temple stay”, I had visions of being on a mountaintop, with a view and perhaps a little lake, spending the day walking, reading and meditating. Not so. I was disappointed to find myself in a small compound with chunky gravel in the yards and a view of rooftops and backyards.

Korea temple    Korea Temple

The temple, however, was beautiful, with walls of golden Buddhas, large and small. There was no charge for the stay but there was a box in the temple for a voluntary contribution.

Korea Temple Korea temple

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January is cold in Korea and the small heater did not provide me relief. I was too cold to sit on the floor for the meditations so I sat on a bench at the back, wrapping my jacket tightly around me. I was so cold that I could think of nothing else. The dampness went through my coat and mitts and scarf.

Come bedtime, I was shown to the female residence, called the “empty mind house”. I don’t know why it was called like this and whether this was favourable or not and  I didn’t know how to ask. The dorm was simple but I was happy to snuggle on my western style bed under a thick comforter. Books were forbidden but I had snuck one in and read until they clapped for lights out. (I can’t believe that I, a mature adult, did this. But I did. I need a book before bedtime.) My only company was a Korean lady who did not speak English so I went to sleep quickly: no chatting. The school boys in the room next door(often classes are brought here for several days of instruction) laughed and hooted for a while but I fell asleep regardless.

Korea temple  Korea Temple

At 3:30 in the morning, there was a knock on the doors to wake all of the guests for morning prayers and bows. Many bows. I could not move. I ignored the call and slept until I was once more awakened, a few hours later.  I was told that breakfast was ready. I threw on my coat, gathered my bathroom necessities, and walked across the grounds to the shower and toilet house. It was cold and damp but the shower was nice and hot.

Korea Temple

I got ready as quickly as I could and ran to the dining hall. Imagine my embarassement when I saw everyone, including the young boys, sitting quietly waiting for me before they eating. I rushed through the buffet, taking note of the instructions to be sure to take only what I could eat. One must finish the plate of food taken. I sheepishly slinked to my place, sat down and the signal was given for everyone to begin. I was the oldest one there and apparently the least disciplined. My imaginary bubble of this experience had really burst.

After breakfast, I gathered my belongings, and took the shuttle van to the train station. I was disappointed in a way. I had not lived my romantic view of this experience. I did, however, discover a new appreciation for the discipline of these Korean children and adults. If you go, let me know, and we’ll share thoughts.

Here is a link to an article I had written for Transitions magazine. I kept it positive, not wanting to discourage anyone from living this experience.

http://www.transitionsabroad.com/publications/magazine/0611/stay_at_a_south_korean_temple.shtml

©bbunce

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packing

Fighting with luggage is not a pleasant part of a trip. There is an easy remedy: pack light.

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The idea of packing light leaves me feeling insecure because I like to have choices. I tremble to think that I might have to wear something by default. But, I had suffered with my heavy suitcase on the steep sidewalk stairs of Dubrovnik and I vowed that this would not happen again.

So, I decided that I would pack light for my next trip.

  • I read blogs
  • I downloaded lists and
  • I examined every piece of clothing for its possible inclusion 

Eventually, I had a carry-on size suitcase, which I checked in because I also had a backpack and a travel purse. A backpack is not very elegant but it does leave your hands free to hold on to escalators, open doors, manipulate documents etc. I could have brought less but I had packed for the possibility of cold weather and it happened to be warm and sunny every day. That’s okay: I was ready.

The first steps to packing light are the 3 steps I took: read, list and examine. There is lots of information in travel books and on the internet. Start there and then apply this information to your own needs.

Next, you have to fix your priorities. Note what you plan to do. Are you going to go out to fancy restaurants? Are you planning to spend your time on the beach? Will you be doing lots of hiking?

Then, take out the appropriate clothing for your trip and lay it out in piles according to tops, bottoms, dresses, sleep and intimate wear. Add a sweater and a jacket and the footwear. This visual will probably tell you that you have too much. SO:

  • Start eliminating.
  • Choose clothing which will dry overnight, which can serve more than one purpose and which you like.
  • The general idea is to have 2 bottoms of each kind, several tops to go with each kind of bottom and 3 underwear/pairs of socks. For women, a few dresses are handy.
  • Pick clothing items which are wrinkle free, which cross match each other and which will be appropriate for your particular trip.
  • Wear the heaviest shoes and clothing for travelling.
  • Cosmetics and personal care items should be  transferred into small containers.
  • Buy travel size of as much as you can.
  • The key word is minimize.
  • Be ruthless.

It really is liberating to have light luggage.  Trains, high shelves, cobblestones and indoor and outdoor steps are no longer enemies. Just remember to leave a little room for souvenirs and the possible perfect buy. No matter how disciplined I am, I know I will fall in love with some Christmas tree ornements or plates or a great blouse. Keep a little wiggle room in your bag. Shopping is, after all, part of the fun!

Here are a few links to sites that are a big help:

http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/pack-light.htm

http://www.onebag.com/

http://theplaidsuitcase.com/packing-tips/vacation-travel-packing-tips.html

 ©barbarabunce
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Amish Country

The Amish people intrigue by their unique way of life and their counties make a great travel destination.

Amish

It is easy and pleasant to visit Amish country in Pennsylvania. The countryside is made up of tidy farms and gentle landscapes. If you go, buy a map of the county, which includes the numerous back roads where the Amish live. Often, farms have stands where there are fruit, vegetables, breads or preserves for sale. If no one is there to serve you, don’t worry; there will be a sign saying that they use the honor system: leave the money in the jar. What a beautiful way to live.

Amish countryThe Amish are friendly and agreeable in the shops and markets but do not try to accost anyone on the street. Especially, do not try to take pictures of them. It is not appreciated, which is understandable. They are quiet and withdrawn from the world and not looking to have pictures of themselves splashed around. Please be respectful of their privacy.Amish

There are numerous shops in the area selling handicrafts from quilts to dolls. I love the quilts! They are not cheap, so expect to pay a good price. After all, there is a lot of hand sewing involved. If you stay in a local bed and breakfast, your bed will certainly have one of the lovely quilts.

Amish

While driving along the back roads, drive slowly and keep a lookout for carriages and pedestrians. Many families walk and most ride in buggies. Cars share the road.Note the big red triangle at the back of the buggy to warn cars to slow down.

Amish

Most parking lots in public buildings and restaurants have hitching post areas for the horses and carriages.

Amish

Amish

I know this horse and buggy looks bucolic and romantic but there are aspects that are not so glamorous. Take a look at the  Wachovia Bank parking lot and the hitching post area. Not so pretty.

Amish

Regardless of the horse mess, Amish country is a wonderful vacation choice. Scenery is lovely, shopping is  unique, people are interesting and the food in the numerous restaurants is plain and good.

©barbarabunce

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St.Martin

St. Martin: beaches, food and wavesL'Hoste hotel St. Martin
I’ve just spent 2 wonderful, relaxing weeks in St. Martin and I must tell you that I love this island. It is safe and friendly with soft, rolling landscapes and lots of sandy coves and bays.

I stayed at a small hotel on Orient Bay, one of the longest beaches on the island. There are no high rise hotels, just small hotels set back from the beach behind the trees and shrubs. Some areas are busier than others, so it goes from exuberant to almost isolated.

St. MartinAt one end of the beach is a quiet condo complex which sits on the low hill. Look at that powdery sand!St. MartinAt the other end is an all-inclusive beach hotel with a large area for nude sun-bathing, predominantly male. As you walk along in that direction, you encounter a group of large rocks which divide the beach and a sign which informs you that you are entering a naturist zone. It’s up to you whether continue or not. Everyone is permitted. Remember that this is French island, so, elsewhere, topless is common. And, “No”, ladies and gentlemen,, I have no “peopled”pictures to support this statement. St. MartinIt is easy to get around the island, either by rental car, reasonably priced taxis or privately owned buses called “Jittneys”. These are vans with a sign in the dashboard window. To ride a “Jittney”, you stand on the highway and flag it down. Ask if it is going to your destination because, regardless of what the sign says, the driver is often willing to go a bit out of his way. The local people are very friendly and helpful. The fare is only 2 U.S.$, quite a bargain.
From Orient Bay it is a 10-minute walk, or short ride, up the semi-private road to the highway and from there you can go to any major destination. It is a short ride of 5 minutes to Grand Case, a small town with many boutiques and restaurants. It comes awake later in the day, so go late afternoon to do the shops, which have very good quality clothing from Europe; then stop at one of the many bars and restaurants for food and drink.

Le Pressoir Grand Case

I highly recommend “Le Pressoir” restaurant. It is five-star-quality food and service. The price is five-star, too, so I made it a special night-before-New-Year’s-Eve dinner. I recommend the lobster bisque and the fish of the day. The restaurant is in a renovated Creole house with a small veranda facing the old salt-press across the street. Reserve a place on the veranda; it is pleasant and cozy and you get to people-watch while you eat.

From Orient bay it is about a 20 minute ride to the capital of the French side: Marigot. The “Jittney” stops mid-town at the terminal and from there it is a two minute walk to the waterfront.
On Saturdays and Wednesdays, there is a lively market here with local produce,clothing and souvenirs. There was not a very good selection of fruit when I went and I was disappointed.St. MartinAt the entry to the market area is an imposing sculpture of a Creole woman. The plaque, which is broken, says it is in memory of M.Martin Lynn, designer. I could find no mention of him/her anywhere. It’s unfortunate because I like the simple, rounded lines of this piece of art and I would like to know more about it.

Saint Martin

The town looks rundown in areas, although, one block up from the waterfront is a small shopping area, with several streets of upscale shops.The shops don’t have much stock and the streets generally look neglected. I think the recession hit them hard and they have not recovered.

It’s too bad because they have a wonderful island. The area around the marina, on the other side of Marigot is more up kept and the shops and restaurants very good.The capital of the Dutch side of the island (Sint Maarten) is Philipsburg. Here, the shops and streets seem more prosperous, certainly thanks to the numerous cruise ships which deposit thousand of tourists weekly. The town consists of 4 streets running parallel along the one-mile bay. The first 2 up from the ocean are for shopping, with duty free jewels, cigars and liquor. Here is a picture of the courthouse, with a pineapple sculpture on the roof. Just look at that clear blue sky above! Isn’t it calling your name!

“The Pineapple on the building’s roof is an international symbol of welcome. Australian master shipwright Frank Gonsalves carved the pineapple in 1996, to replace the original, which blew away in a storm.”    http://www.best-stmartin.com

If you decide to go on an excursion to the neighboring island of St. Barth’s: be forewarned. It is a tough ride. This is not for the faint of heart.

Ferry to St. Bart's

This 45 minute ride includes free plastic bags for the possible, or probable, stomach heaves. Someone had told me to sit on the upper deck of the boat and look at the horizon and I would be okay. I sat, I looked and I prayed. I was told that this patch of water is where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic and so it is rough.

Rough is an understatement. The boat hits the waves head on and we go up and down and around. It is downright scary and a trip from hell.  I managed to keep my breakfast down but when we arrived, I could barely stand. I was so shaky. I went to the nearest restaurant and had tea and dry toast and gave thanks for my safe arrival. I thought of flying back but I was assured that the trip back is easier. Yes, the return was better, although one passenger was sick and that poisoned the air for the rest of us. St. Barth’s is a pretty island, with many designer shops, but not worth that miserable trip.

Apart from this side trip with side effects, I had a great vacation. I will certainly return. Reserve my chair!

L'Hoste hotel St. Martin

©bbunce


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San-Francisco-Castro

What is exciting about San-Francisco is that there are so many different districts, each with a distinct personality. The Castro district is what is also called the gay district. It is predominately gay-oriented, with great shops and places to eat. I happened to be there for the street fair and the streets were animated and crowded. From stands with hand-knit items and flower jewelry for sale to side streets with couples dancing the two step, the area was fun and lively.

This picture is taken at the very busy and award winning Cafe Flore, (www.cafeflore.com) on Market street. From cocktails to espresso to cowgirl-waiters, the cocktails, food and atmosphere are California laid-back and relaxed. It is a nice place to people watch, too. And dog watch. San-Francisco is a city with more dogs than children and they are on show everywhere.

Signs on buildings are artistic and suggestive! It is great fun!

The streets are typically hilly and the homes are Victorian- inspired. It is a large and interesting district, with wide streets, many small shops and numerous cafes.

I love Victorian homes, and many homes in San-Francisco have a Victorian look, with pretty pastels and wood lattice-work. But the most impressive area for Victorian homes is Alamo Square. (This is not in the Castro district.)This 5 hectare area sits high on a hill overlooking the city and has a central park with beautiful trees and walking trails, a tennis court and  a “doggie”  playground. The view is incredible. In the foreground is the street of what is called the Painted Ladies, or the Six Sisters. These are beautiful Victorians in various shades.

Painted Ladies Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies Painted ladies

On the other side of Alamo Square’s hill and park, is another row of charming houses. There is no view in this direction, except of the lovely architecture. Here are a few of my favorites.

San Francisco San Francisco

San Francisco

I can just imagine the nooks and crannies in this house, with quiet spots to read and write. Unfortunately, none of these homes are within my budget so I will have to daydream.

©bbunce

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San-Francisco-chinatown

 

San-Francisco ChinatownMost of us know that San Francisco has the largest Chinatown outside of China but not many of us realize how much is stuffed into this area.

It is chock full of, well, every product you can think of. As you enter the main gate entrance to Chinatown,

 San-Francisco Chinatown 

there are shiny, imposing items of all kinds on the sidewalks, in the store windows and in the stores.

        San-Francisco Chinatown

There is not a square inch that is free space, barely even the sidewalks.

It is a densely populated, densely stocked and densely visited part of San-Francisco.Chinatown SF

Chinatown San Francisco

People fill the sidewalks and trinkets,baubles,clothing and jewelry spill out from storefronts and fill display cases everywhere. It is fun, it is a challenge and it is a discovery at every step. I don’t know how I resisted the thousands of jade necklaces, bracelets and rings. They were so beautiful that I couldn’t choose. So, I came home empty handed. I guess I’ll have to go back.

In the midst of these busy streets there were a few musicians, calmly playing exotic melodies. It was a chance to stop and take in the quiet sounds of Chinatown.

For a unique experience, one must-do is a visit to the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. If you are patient and stop every now and then to ask directions, you will be treated to a special tour. Hidden in a small laneway(Ross Alley), with an entrance barely visible… so much so that I asked directions and I was standing directly in front of the door… is this “factory”. It is actually a tiny, narrow shop with several Chinese ladies working the cookie-batter machines, adding fortunes and folding cookies. There are large barrels full of fortunes and I felt like asking how much it would cost to buy a bag of good fortune. I didn’t ask because I thought the humour would be lost on the boss-man. He, a severe and watchful elderly gentleman, stands at the entrance and warns you that it is 50 cents to take a picture. You squeeze in, take a picture or two…that is an extra 50 cents each….and squeeze back out the entrance. If there is a group inside, wait in the lane until they have left so that you will have a better view. It is very, very crowded. They also have bags of unfolded cookies for sale, with no fortunes of course, and these make great snacks. They are 5$ a bag. It is a large bag, so you’ll have enough to share. It is interesting to see that these fortune cookies are both automated and hand made. However, the working environment is deplorable. The pictures I took will give you an idea of how it is. In the few minutes I was inside, I spent a few dollars in pictures and in cookies! It’s a good thing this wasn’t my hourly spending average for the day.

Chinatown SF

 Chinatown SF    Chinatown SF

  Chinatown SF

Here is a link which will give you more information on the cookie “factory”.

http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/attractions/ggfortunecookie.html

You will need a full day to visit Chinatown. It is crowded and there is lots to see. If you are in a rush, you will be frustrated. Take the time to eat the cookies, listen to the music and buy a trinket or two. Oh yes, I did buy something: a trolley ornement for my Christmas tree!

©bbunce

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