Category Archives: Travel

Holland in 2012

My street
My street

It was the day after my sister’s wedding when I boarded a plane for my first solo trip. This wasn’t the original plan. But life happened and I was no longer going to a wedding in Finland. Instead I decided to visit the country where my great-grandmother emigrated from._MG_9246 As usual, I didn’t have much planned after the first few days. Thanks to the sage advice of Rick Steves, I had a great room in Amsterdam. From this corner of the world, this old city began to feel like my own.

I rented a bike and rode all over town. I stayed a couple blocks away from where Anne Frank once hid through her adolescence. On my third day, I was flagged down while riding my bike and asked why I was alone. They had seen me coming and going over the past few days. I was a regular now.  We visited and kept in touch after I returned home. Traveling alone allows you to meet people and have conversations you otherwise never would._MG_9278

Martine was a beautiful lady I met on the train heading north to the islands. Her husband, a professor, had passed away a few years before. She loved to travel, but her friends would rather stay home. So she traveled the world alone. I loved talking to her._MG_9329

I had only a faint idea of my Dutch heritage. I knew my family were called Freislanders and that they came from the islands. Not knowing which one, I picked Terschelling and had a lovely time there. This was not a big tourist destination. It seemed mostly Dutch people traveled there for holiday, but not foreigners. I inquired about my relatives at the local museum on Terschelling, but the lady there told me instantly that they did not come from that island. She knew from the name._MG_9347 It was a small island. I traversed it on bike and saw some beautiful Dutch horses on the way. She gave me the name of a website which I looked up once I got home. From there I was able to find my relatives and trace them back hundreds of years from marriage license information.

IMG_2485 Some of my favorite books are the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. In the “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, the group sails to the end of the world where the water gradually gets more and more shallow. This Wadden Sea went on endlessly shallow. A person could walk for ages and not get deeper than the knee.

The last town I visited was Delft, where the famous blue and white decorative ceramics are crafted. Here I had a fancy bathroom and a sound night’s sleep before returning home.IMG_2505

It was my first solo trip and a great, life-changing experience. I learned that I’m okay on my own. Even then I’m not alone.IMG_2481 IMG_2492

 

Motorcycles & The Grand Prix in Monte Carlo

Paris in 2000 It was raining in Paris, so we left.

 

 

 

We headed south for the coast of France and rented a couple motorcycles.  We explored Cannes, I had one of the best meals of my life in Nice. It was there I discovered Gnocchi, with my dad on his birthday.

We wound our way along the coast, through the small coastal towns of Southern France. Every time we rode around another point to see the next inlet of blue ocean and a steep coastline dotted with bright houses it took my breath away.Nice-France-for-Dads-Bday

I had learned how to ride a motorcycle earlier that year dirt biking in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I borrowed my friend Mike’s time-worn Honda to practice before leaving.

Italian’s drive a little more aggressively than drivers in the US. Similarly, my dad drives more aggressively than your average driver anywhere in the world except maybe Jeff Gordon. I did my best to keep up, but somewhere near San Remo we were passing a car on this winding coastal road as two motorcycles came at us in the oncoming lane. I was still on the center line and those two remained side-by-side. I think my bike had 125cc’s, so there wasn’t much power to get in front of the car I was passing. No room on the road! Dad had safely passed already. I avoided a head on collision bumping into the car I was passing. My foot hit the car’s front tire, I wobbled a little before regaining control. Biking-San-Remo

I was a little shaky pulling into San Remo a short time later. We may have gone a little slower after that. So there you have the story of one of my near death experiences. Next time, I’ll let dad go on ahead.

One morning, we were sitting outside eating breakfast and we heard this strange buzzing sound. It was like thousands of bees nearby. We listened for a few minutes before realizing it was the sound of Formula One engines racing through the streets of Monte Carlo. Monte-Carlo-Grand-PrixWe had passed through Monaco the day before and saw the race course being set up. But today the drivers were practicing on the course. Perfect! We returned to Monte Carlo and found seats on the last turn before these cars floored it through the iconic tunnel. It was loud. The drivers cut this corner so close each time that the banner hung there was torn to shreds by the first afternoon.

A perfect day finished with some Limoncello. Que Magnifico!

Vietnam in 2000

We spent Thanksgiving in Ho Chi Minh City with Megan who was spending four months teaching English there. Kia and I flew in to Seoul South Korea and spent the night in a Korean style room with mattresses on the heated floor before boarding a plane to Vietnam where we would spend the next couple weeks. We shopped in Korean markets which displayed cell phones with color displays as yet unheard of in the states at the time.

Megan met us at the airport with rice hats. We took a cab to her house which would be the only time we rode in an actual car for the rest of the trip. The city runs on scooters and motorcycles.

Vietnam Taxi Ride
Vietnam Taxi Ride

We had clothes custom made for us, including some silk china doll dresses. There were plenty of pre-made dresses to buy, but none of these fit my 5’10” self. We bought material at a fabric shop while playing patty cake with the local kids. Then we went to a seamstress. She took our measurements, looked at some of the pictures we brought from home, them made us awesome outfits for $8-$10 each.Silk Dresses

We toured the Mekong Delta. But before that, we got food poisoning from an upscale Chinese food restaurant serving drunken prawns. I’ve never been so sick in my life. That night president Clinton made the first visit to Vietnam from an American president since the war. The streets were going crazy in celebration and I didn’t have the strength to stand at the window and watch. Still, it was cool to hear and witness that.

The museums in Vietnam show history from a different side than we Americans are used to. We lost that war. The museums showed atrocities committed by American soldiers and the damage done to that country rather than celebrating any freedom we had hoped to bring. It was a different story in Korea where the war memorial celebrated the various countries that helped South Korea escape communism. The Vietnamese museum was the first place I’ve experienced feeling like I was on the losing side of history. Helicopters from 30 years before still littered the airfield.

new old friend
new old friend

Kia, Megan and I got head massages. They lasted for one hour. It cost $1. It felt amazing. I looked like a Qtip after with my short platinum hair sticking straight up and frizzing all over the place after. Totally worth it!

one dollar head massage
16,000 vietnam dong head massage

Taj Mahal in 2000

Dad and I had arrived in New Delhi at night. The temperature had cooled so as the cab driver drove us to our hotel room, we watched the crowded streets as thousands of people flocked to the grassy fields and park areas for late night picnics. Before dropping us off at the Ramada Inn, our taxi driver taught us to greet the people of India. “Namaste” means “all of god’s goodness be with you.” It’s a beautiful word.

We toured the carpet factory as Suresh and Sushma led us through. Sushma was quiet, but she instantly felt like my friend. The guy in charge of mixing carpet dye was ancient and worked over a large kettle of liquid to which he would add the dye later mixing it with the wool for custom rugs. “He can smell the color!” Suresh told us with conviction.

After our rug tour, they sent us a driver to take us to Agra. It was a long drive. On the way we would see many trucks overturned, presumably crashed in order to miss hitting something in the road such as a person or a cow. There were many cows and monkeys roaming about. It was fascinating. Also, people all along the road for the 230km journey were seen squatting, defecating, and carrying on in squalid living conditions. It was sad and exhausting and eye opening.

The Taj Mahal was a beautiful building constructed as a mausoleum for the wife of some big shot. It was beautiful and ornate but much smaller than I had imagined. One must take off their shoes before entering. There are millions of visitors here. Fortunately we made it through without contracting disease to our bare feet.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal 2000

There were many people on pilgrimage visiting the Taj Mahal. One couple I spoke to had come for their honeymoon. Several people asked to take pictures with me and my dad. With my short blonde hair, his guess was perhaps they thought I was Sharon Stone.

I handed out candy to a few children who were begging. This quickly turned into a throng of children surrounding us with palms open and raised, begging for more. My dad tossed the bag into the crowd and we left.

There were beautiful people there, colorful, desperate, hopeful, talented, happy people there. I don’t understand India. I don’t understand the starvation while emaciated cows roam the streets. I don’t understand the filth and poverty that so many millions of people live in, nor the abundance of others. There were so many bright smiles there…and so many lost and desperate souls.

Prague 1998

We rented a car and drove throughout Europe in the summer of 1998. It was Sheryl and me together with our moms. On this day though, we had to leave the car behind. The rental car company would not allow us to drive into the recently opened Czech Republic. So we sat down on the train, four seats facing each other in pairs, ready for a full day of adventures. It was sunny and warm and we had our backpacks supplied for a day trip to Prague.

Just before the train pulled out of the station, a very friendly young man passed by and asked Sheryl, “Can I have a sip of your water?” Sweet Sheryl had one of those tall bottles of Evian water as yet unopened. It would last her a full day in the 100+ heat. But this guy reached out his hand as she hesitantly agreed. He cracked it opened, took a swig and handed it back to her enthusiastically saying “Thanks!” She had such a look of disgusted disappointment on her face. It hadn’t occurred to her early enough to tell the vagrant who obviously hadn’t bathed in many days that “no, you cannot sip from my water bottle.”

Lesson learned: It is wholly appropriate and necessary to say “no” sometimes and often…even to very friendly people who smile though green teeth.

Prague 1998
Praha 1998