September 30, 2007

Hapuna Beach

Sunset at Hapuna Beach, Big Island of Hawaii courtesy of SK.

September 29, 2007

A Day in Vienna

I absolutely loved Vienna. Austria itself is beautiful with old world architecture, incredible art and music throughout. However, Vienna is a city that captures you. I walked the streets with ease. The beautiful parks, the concert halls, the city's buildings are amazing. They post informative plaques telling where Strauss or Mozart lived during a particular period in his life.

My top five things to do in Wien

  1. Listen to Mozart
  2. Stop into Cafe Central then eat wiener schnitzel for dinner
  3. Tour the Kunsthistorisches Museum
  4. Visit St. Stephan's Church
  5. Drop in during the morning exercises of the famous Lipizzaner Horses

The Museum of Fine Arts, Kunsthistorisches built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the imperial family. With its vast array of eminent works and the largest Bruegel collection in the world, it is considered one of the most eminent museums in the world. Numerous major art works of European art history, among them Raphael’s "Madonna in the Meadow," Vermeer’s "The Allegory of Painting," the Infanta paintings by Velazquez, masterworks by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Titian and Tintoretto...

What a lovely day in a beautiful city and if you have money or the time left, pick up a piece of Reidel glass. This wine glass company is from Austria and has the most beautiful pieces...and definitely worth carrying home on the plane.

September 28, 2007

Backyard Flowers

September 27, 2007

September 26, 2007

September 25, 2007

September 24, 2007

Winter Getaway

Yosemite in the winter is divine.

September 23, 2007

September 22, 2007

Prehistoric Fish

When did salmon begin to look so frightening? It sure makes a good visual imagery though for the toughness of Alaskan wilderness. These photos were taken in Alaska not long ago by Tavern Guy, showing the big fish in all its glory.

September 21, 2007

September 20, 2007

September 19, 2007

American Landscape

Outside the lower 48 states, here is lovely Soldotna, Alaska...

September 18, 2007

Japanese Subways


This happens all the time during commute hours, especially at the busier stations like Shibuya, Shinjuku or Tokyo stations. Often the guys have big square plywood boards that they use to push people with into the car. It is amazing to see and feel. I have been in there getting squashed. Think about when it is summer and the heat and humidity are out of this world. Mildew smells and sweaty faces everywhere. And just try considering what it is like to have to get off the train! Sumimasen!!

Basque Country

Jai-Alai (IPA: [haɪ alaɪ] in English and [haɪ ɑ laɪ] in Basque) means "Merry Festival" in the Basque language. As a typical element of Florida, scenes of the Miami Jai Alai appeared in the title sequence of the TV series Miami Vice. Another interesting fact for the kids, Mr. Burns of The Simpsons plays Jai alai after he gets a blood transfusion from Bart.

Whether forty years ago or today, sports bring people together. I was at the Basque Cultural Center recently and you couldn't get a seat for the finals of the pelota games. These were paid seats and a sport I had never seen or heard of before. Amazing but there were many who I spoke with that followed the sport closely. Some had traveled to the area from places like Venezuela and Mexico to be at the matches.

Pelota in Spanish, pilota in Basque and Catalan, or pelote in French (from Latin pila) is a name for a variety of court sports played with a ball using one's hand, a racket, a wooden bat (pala), or a basket propulsor, against a wall (frontón in Spanish, frontoi in Basque, frontó in Catalan) or, more traditionally, with two teams face to face separated by a line on the ground or a net.

September 17, 2007


The fun part of getaways is discovering watering holes that are out of the way. This saloon was a cool stopping point during a long fishing trip.

September 16, 2007


clipped from
This advertisement says it all...some of us are just not meant to camp. I am one of them. You've heard the saying, "camping for me is a hotel room without room service."

But don't forget, ask me anything about hotels and resorts. I'm your resource.

September 15, 2007

Monterey Harbor

Photo credit: S.F. Castellanos

September 14, 2007

September 13, 2007

Travel Tip #12

I love Japanese bath tablets like this brand. You can find them in Japanese stores, if you live in a town like I do with a Japantown. Otherwise you can find them in every drugstore in Japan. They are great to pack in your luggage. When you arrive, it is nice to have a hot soak and these tablets fizz up and scent the water. Lovely. This particular type smells like evergreen trees.

Have you tried Lush bath bombs? You can buy those individually wrapped...just a thought. A nice warm, smell good thought. After a flight or time in the car. Or you can always try Mr. Bubble....

September 12, 2007

Postcards: The White House

Photo credit: S.F. Castellanos

September 11, 2007

American Landscape: War

These images were taken in Washington D.C. and I felt today was an appropriate day to share them. Going to our nation's capital and walking to all of the memorials is a trip we all should make once. I'm glad I did. We should acknowledge the sacrifice of others and embrace the concept of ending conflict & war.

Rice near the Narita Airport in Japan

Rice gleams in the afternoon sun during harvesting in Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture. A total of 375 terraced rice fields occupy the area. In early September, owners of the paddies, many of whom live in the Tokyo metropolitan area, harvest the rice with local farmers. Due to the prevalence of combine harvesters, it is becoming less common for rice to be hung out to dry, but the practice has been maintained in Kamogawa. If the fine weather continues, the rice is likely to be threshed this weekend. (Mainichi)

Did you know that this area close to the international airport is also home to rice paddies?

September 10, 2007

Inspirational Moment: Julia Child

I have been to France a couple of times. It was fine. My travels and experiences there were interesting and mostly enjoyable however, I wish I had read this book before I ever stepped foot in the country. I loved this book! It is such a great retelling of her life, her outlook and just one of the best reads ever. Julia is hilarious. She is independent. She is smart. She gives any of us who have lived overseas, a sense of adventure and solidarity. She is courageous and resourceful. I loved her even more after reading this story. My friends are still circulating my copy of the book. Thank goodness I had the hardback...

My Life in France, was written by Julia's grandnephew with her detailed storytelling

With Julia Child's death in 2004 at age 91, her grandnephew Prud'homme (The Cell Game) completed this playful memoir of the famous chef's first, formative sojourn in France with her new husband, Paul Child, in 1949. The couple met during WWII in Ceylon, working for the OSS, and soon after moved to Paris, where Paul worked for the U.S. Information Service. Child describes herself as a "rather loud and unserious Californian," 36, six-foot-two and without a word of French, while Paul was 10 years older, an urbane, well-traveled Bostonian. Startled to find the French amenable and the food delicious, Child enrolled at the Cordon Bleu and toiled with increasing zeal under the rigorous tutelage of éminence grise Chef Bugnard. "Jackdaw Julie," as Paul called her, collected every manner of culinary tool and perfected the recipes in her little kitchen on rue de l'Université ("Roo de Loo"). She went on to start an informal school with sister gourmandes Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, who were already at work on a French cookbook for American readers, although it took Child's know-how to transform the tome—after nine years, many title changes and three publishers—into the bestselling Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961). This is a valuable record of gorgeous meals in bygone Parisian restaurants, and the secret arts of a culinary genius.

September 9, 2007

Postcards: Kilauea, Kauai

Kilauea Lighthouse on the island of Kauai, Hawaii....

Help preserve this incredible landmark...

Dedicated in 1913 the Kilauea Lighthouse served as a pivotal navigation aid for ships on the Orient run.

Today, it is one of Kauai's most visited sights with more than 500,000 annual visitors.

Time and the harsh tropic marine environment have taken their toll on these historic buildings. The result is a site now in critical condition.

Migratory birds such as the Pacific golden plover, seabirds such as the Laysan Albatross, and Hawai`i's State Bird (the Nēnē) are some of the wildlife that use this refuge...which we saw during our visit in May! So cute!

Photo credits: S.F. Castellanos

A Day on the Island of Bali

If I had only a day on Bali, in Indonesia I would immediately hire a driver upon my arrival in Denpasar. They can be very reasonable and take you around without any troubles. Get a Bali kopi (delicious coffee) maybe a snack of pork satay and start your day by skipping past Nusa Dua, the over priced and tourist spot that isn't the best of Bali.

Head toward Ubud but stop along the way at Sanur and other spots to enjoying wonderful shopping, photography and foods. There are incredible hard carved masks made from teak and other types of wood, beautiful hand dyed batik fabric and wonderful opportunities for stunning photos. The beautiful people giving offerings several times a day around the island, the majestic temples, the tiered rice fields, with oxen or the dancing!
The island of Bali probably has more traditional dances per square mile than any other real estate in the world. What was amazing from our trip was that the dance performance we caught was a shopping mall. And it was great! The best part was watching the kids sitting on the ground following the performance get caught up and pull back in fear when the demon or other scary character moved towards them during the dance....

My top five choices for a day on Bali:
  1. Shopping
  2. Dance performance, at a temple or shopping mall
  3. Ubud
  4. Pura Tanah Lot, mystical sea temple
  5. Bali Hai beer and a nice fresh fish dinner in Jimbaran

Pura Tanah Lot temple, a sea temple which is perched upon a rocky outcrop surrounding by crashing surf at high tide, is one of Bali's six most important temples. You definitely want to go when the sun is lower on the horizon because then the light is truly magical and gives you chills. The parking lot usually has a few vendors along the way to the temple but the people are very friendly and if you don't want to buy anything you won't feel pressured.

One of our best shopping experiences on Bali was here, when they vendor we were in front of said "please, I give you good price. For good luck. I need to give you good price." I loved that. This island and its people do personify the desire to balance good and evil in the world. The offerings the make daily to the gods, is an example of their desire to keep peace on Bali.

September 8, 2007

Winter Getaways

Winter getaway idea #14, the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Ski, dog sled or ride and you'll be that much closer to heaven. But don't drive you if you drink one of these....

If you cannot afford a spot or just miss out on availability in Jackson Hole, the town of Jackson isn't that far away so definitely consider alternative hotels there....bonus, the Teton's are a very short drive north.

Travel Tip # 8: Fly or Train?

Shinkansen train tickets to travel within Japan costs about the same as airline tickets.

In some cases it is more important to consider whether you are closer to a train station or a local airport. In Japan, an airport such as Narita, is a couple of hours from Tokyo. The time it can take to get out there and then through the airport and arriving at your destination, such as Kyoto can be longer than if you stayed in Tokyo and jumped on a shinkansen....

September 7, 2007

Postcards: Monster Candies

Roof Ornaments

Don't you wish more people included roof ornaments? Looking at these on the tile roof of a home in Kyoto, I was touched by their design and whimsy.

We use weather vanes to convey home themes and personalities of the owners, why not use these? They look wicked cool to me.

September 6, 2007

Postcards: Hawaiian Sunset

American Landscape: Yellowstone

Here is the north entrance to Yellowstone from Gardiner, Montana. If you get up that way, any time of the year please drive to see this majestic arch that was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt. This gateway was dedicated on April 24, 1903 and is a reminder of the great public works from this president.

Photo credit: S.F. Castellanos

September 5, 2007

Travel Tip #11

More Muji Please

This is very exciting news! Muji, one of my favorite stores in Japan is opening a 3,000 square foot store in November in Soho. More reasons to visit New York City than I can count. The location will be at 455 Broadway near Grant Street, with rumors of a Times Square location in the future as well.

In Japan I fell in love with their basic color palette of navy, beige, black and cream. It rocked my world since I had always told my friends that the world needed a "black" store...this is even better. All the many items I bought in the Tokyo stores are in these colors. One of the few times I love going into the Gap, is when they have transition clothes out, meaning the color palette for the clothes on the racks is navy, white, black or cream. This is usually between seasons....

The article in NY Magazine says the store will stock all of their housewares. Hopefully they will include all their clothes and office supplies. In Tokyo the stores had the best travel bottles (which I still have) and other hard to find necessities. Sugoi ne!

Travel Tip #2

Be Adventurous!

When you take that next European vacation, don't book every little detail ahead of time. Take care of your entry and exit flights but give yourself some free time to make itinerary changes on the fly. And the best way to go about it is to stop into an internet cafe, maybe after a few days in your initial arrival city. While you are exploring your city and the the area nearby, you are gathering important on the ground information, like the more desirable areas for hotels.

Recently traveling through Europe I discovered Easy Jet. It is a new airline in Europe that is a lot like Southwest. It is cheap but if you are going somewhere that requires little clothing or at least only a carry on, you are good to go. The benefit of this airline is that it is so cheap you can be in the MIDDLE of a trip and still take a quick and unexpected adventurous side-trip using Easy Jet. For example, say you are traveling in Italy, in the north and all of sudden the weather is crappy or you read about the sands of Capri. With Easy Jet you could easily and cheaply buy tickets and fly down to Sardinia, Sicily or Capri just like that. For $20.

Okay that is a little bit of an exaggeration but not by much. Remember though that Easy Jet prices climb quickly when the weight and quantity of your luggage increases. But check them out and next time just remember that a trip can be invigorated or even saved by being adventurous.

September 4, 2007

Fall Getaways: Lake Como

September or October are the perfect months to visit Italy. Few crowds and the weather is just perfect.

Postcards: Cinema

September 3, 2007

Postcards: Wild Falling Orchids

A Day In/Near Hilo

Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii is a town that feels like much of Kauai does though that is an island. Hilo does have a university and a killer farmer's market (see top five list). Given how young the Big Island is, much of it is pretty remote with the most developed areas along its beaches and coast. While Hilo is your starting point for the day, you should definitely drive to the southern most point on the Big Island and find the Green Sand Beach.

My top five list for a day in or near Hilo:
  1. Green Sand Beach: Puu Mahana
  2. Volcano Village excursion and snack in the lodge
  3. Hilo Farmers Market and downtown
  4. Akaka Falls hike
Once again I only included four things to try since this is an enormous island without freeways or shortcuts. I recommend starting your day at Puu Mahana...It is primarily located on the slopes of Mauna Loa, the world's largest and most massive active volcano on the southwestern part of the island. To get to this beach, one must either use a four wheel drive or hike six miles from South Point, Ka Lae, the southern most tip of the United States.

If you cannot find it, then continue on your way to Volcano Village. Along the way stop instead at a black sand beach that is easy to find called Punaluu. Hopefully you won't be surrounded by tourists but it is worth a stop for the black sands and sea turtles.

Photo credit: S.F. Castellanos

Volcano Village is next as you head toward Hilo, and taking the driving tour around the crater is cool with places to pull over for close up views of steam vents and crater landscape. Very moon like and amazing to see!

Once you get to Hilo, enjoy the downtown waterfront area and stop in at the Farmers Market. Pick up snacks and water for the road north to your late afternoon hike around the Akaka Falls.

September 2, 2007

Postcards: North Coast

Travel Tip #4

Purell wipes.
They come in packets and are perfect for travel everywhere. Keep some in your car's glove compartment. Tuck a few in your carry-on for the plane. No worries since they are not considered liquids. No 3-1-1 for this super easy way to keep you and your loved ones free from germs all year round.

September 1, 2007

Postcards: Tuscany

Travel Tip #3

If you ever find yourself in a hotel room where you (or someone else, or even your dog) accidentally took a leak (or other type of socially unacceptable or unexplainable accident) on fabric furniture, or other material that gives up what happened....I discovered a socially acceptable way of covering up the mistake. This works well if you are in cities such as Prague or Moscow. I would say it could be used anywhere, even at a B&B except that most B&B's I have been to have so many patterns in their furnishings hiding your accident may not be the problem.

The travel tip this time is ordering a pot of coffee. Simple. You get a pot of coffee and toss the whole thing on the chair or part of the couch or floor that has the accident. The strong smell of the black coffee along with the darkness of the stain and voila, coverage. Smell covered? Check! Discolored hotel furnishing disguised? Check! It is now an acceptable accident that won't get you a citation or worse, a night in jail. Granted you will likely have to pay a fine of some kind to the hotel but that is better than the alternative.

Where is Yukon Cornelius?

Ever thought it would be fun to go dog sledding? Loved Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Before you book tickets to the Iditarod Race, here is a unique perspective from SK our roving correspondent...

I love dogs and the snow and would definitely do it once. It seems like it would feel a little like Call of the Wild but only not so wild. Also I am sucker for Huskies and Malamutes and fuzzy big dogs in general.

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