Translation:
Shirl: Thoughts & Shots
Rowan: Paroxysms
Thursday
May102012

Where, oh Where, have our plucky travelers been? Lovely Lisbon!

You may have wondered whether we have been in Paris for over a month. Uh, nope, we have been enjoyng some new places, although we will always have Paris. From mid-April to mid-May, we were in Portugal, mostly in Lisbon and also in its little neighboring beach-side town, Estoril.

We haven't added Journey entries, although the Daily Snapshots and the On the Path readings continue every day... We always are wondering whether to blog about where we have been, plan where we are going, or just be where we are. So we have been being where we are. :)

We spent a very restful and relaxing month on the third European (fourth American) floor in Lisbon at the light blue apartment shown here (we had the apartment that looks to the river):

with the incredible view of the Tagus and its ever-changing maritime characters, like this sweet green spinnaker:

This sweet place belongs to Cesar, who also makes puppets!

We took a great day-long walk in the Alfama (ancient) section of Lisbon with Isabelle, who books Cesar's apartment and was our hostess. She even opened her home to let us use the internet in her private kitchen. Here is Isabelle with her daughter, Lisa, and Rowan. Thanks so much for your incredible hospitality, Isabelle! We all love our Macs!

On our tour with Isabelle, we saw the symbol of Lisbon everywhere. See the two birds?

and saw the great old palace with the king who protected himself with a big giant yellow palace in the great big square.

Lisbon is known worldwide for its beautiful tile work, which is everywhere. Here is a very interesting piece we saw on our tour with Isabelle in the Baixa-Chiado section of Lisbon. This tile work is inside the restaurant Cervejaria Trinidade, which used to be a convent for nuns:

And everywhere, Lisbon is a mixture of old and new. Here, we bought a 48-hour pass on the Hop On-Hop Off bus, which made for nice tours of different parts of Lisbon on very rainy days. Here you can see two contrasting buildings in the business district, which we saw from the front seat of the top story of the bus, through its rainy windshield. :)

And here is one of the other types of vehicles, beautifully restored, that tours the Alfama, and is also part of Lisbon's Hop On, Hop Off bus system:

And now, two more examples of Lisbon's beautiful street art, seen in the theater district:

They have absolutely beautiful graffiti! It was a beautiful, soulful, artistic month in a sweet, inexpensive, and friendly city, as shown in the following link from the American national newspaper USA Today, which appeared on May 10, our last full day there! Portugal: Beautiful, soulful, affordable

Tuesday
Apr102012

Bonjour, Encore, Notre Cher Paris

What a change we encountered after landing in our dear Paris from Kuala Lumpur on March 29th.  All of a sudden, the food was familiar, the language was one we had spoken and could understand.  The first stop was a Brioche Dorée, where we got good espresso, a chocolate muffin, another type of pastry, a chocolat chaud, and a  French brioche!!!  The city is full of great friends of ours from our many visits, and it has resources right around the corner - a Presse where Shirl could ger daily fix - the International Herald Tribune, and a great hair salon, St. Ange, where Shirl could get her hair done - Yeah, Dominique!  The thirteen days we spent there were fabulous and full - it felt like a full-body immersion in culture; old, classical architecture; and our "home away from home."

First of all in a wonderful apartment in the Ninth Arrondisssement with a real dining room,

a huge cozy bedroom that could be completely darkened for sleeping late,

a real washer *and dryer* (WOWIE),

great places in the living room and office to relax and to work,

and the sweet welcoming breakfast already in the apartment for us to eat after we slept off a 13 1/2 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur!

This time, on our visit, we saw lots of art - the Helmut Newton photographic exhibit at the Grand Palais - Life size nudes!  No photography allowed!  And the Drawing Now at the Carrousel at the Louvre - photography allowed, with works like this one, by Omar Ba,

and spent lots of time with good friends Julie and Fab, learning Julie's special kind of yoga, having brunch, walking the city for hours on end (see photos here), and playing the Transformation Game,

We met new friends like Victoria, who writes a blog called the Franco-American Flophouse (click here to visit the flophouse) and had lots of fun times on art safaris in the neighborhoods (go here for photos), on our first Bateau Mouche boat cruise on the Seine at sunset (go here for photos) and in the great Metro.  All you need is here, the guy and the condoms!  In the subway, with Bob Dylan looking on!

Monday
Apr022012

Miles and Miles of Milestones

Over the last month or so, we have passed a number of milestones, and we have moved on from Japan/Australia/Asia to Europe.  March 5-8 was our last trip to Singapore, the hub of our travels, where we have been four times and really have loved.  We have a great friend in Singapore, Bel, who we met up with again this trip.  We met Bel in Boracay (here she is on the top of the world in Boracay looking over the Phillippines), and she was the greatest hostess for our Singapore trips - miss ya, Bel! 

And Singapore is the home of the world-famous Sim Lim Square, one of Singapore's meccas of technology, and the place where Trixie, Rowan's new "gal," was adopted by Rowan. 

Trixie is a Samsung Galaxy Note, which was Rowan's big present for his birthday.  Here, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, our friend Vinnie teaches Rowan the *tricks* of Trixie! 

Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, you never see drawer organizers like this, in our favorite Perak Hotel in Little India in Singapore, where we stayed two of the four times we went to Singapore.  You would be surprised how happy we are to have an in-room safe and plenty of effective and efficient storage spaces.  Plus their art is great, and of course, there is a cat in the painting.  (Theme)

We went to Singapore in order to fly into Thailand for Rowan's 60th birthday on March 15th (Water Dragon baby; those only come around every sixty years - no kidding!).  If you come into Thailand over land, you can only stay for 15 days, but if you come in on a plane, you can stay 30 days!  So on March 8, we flew from Singapore to Chiang Mai, Thailand, which was *the* place in the world that Rowan chose to celebrate his big birthday, with our big group of friends we made when we were there for a month in December-January.   There was a lunch:

and an evening party:

For us, Chiang Mai was all about getting pampered with pedicures and massages.  It was one of the last places where massages are both good and incredibly affordable.  Here are our masseuses at iSiam (does eveything have to sound like Steve Jobs invented it?), with the owner's daughter, a real sweetie pie.  Massage for $12 for an hour and a half, anyone?  Wowie.  And they are really good!

And the relaxation is amazing!

Shirl also celebrated her 25th birthday on March 18th in Chiang Mai, Thailand, again with all our good friends.  Steve was responsible for getting the cakes (Thanks, Steve!)

and for the candles that couldn't be blown out!

And here is the serenity that is Koh Samui, Thailand - on the beach - with incredible massages, where we passed the half-way mark of approximately 280 days away from Twin Peaks:

Then we spent a day and a half in Kuala Lumpur at a nice bed and breakfast near the airport, Ramah Putih.  It is owned by a couple who are incredibly hospitable and drove us to the bus that takes you to the airport.  That was after Rowan found a used clothes store and was able to score a heavy shirt and two heavy coats and a pair of gloves for $30 (yes, that is $30!) for the cold that we knew would be Paris in the early spring. 

And then we were *treated* to a 13 1/2 hour flight to Paris on Air Asia, on a flight that Air Asia discontinued as of April 1, 2012 (no kidding!).  Here we are getting settled into Premium Class on March 29, which on Air Asia is 18 seats with lots of room, flat beds, reading lights, and a big bright red pillow and comforter (that is Air Asia's color).

We slept a fair amount, but who is that masked man??  A guy ready to move from Southeast Asia, get some sleep, and get to Paris, tout de suite!

We still had jet lag, but then we could sleep it off in a beautiful apartment in the 9th arrondissement in Paris.  Yeah, Paris!  Now we are ensconced in the City we love the most in the world.  Here we are having our first breakfast, when Paris was still unseasonably warm (now, not so much), on the terrace on the 7th floor. 

Aah.  Mais oui, c'est magnifique!

 

 

Monday
Mar052012

From Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi Island

For our regular readers We know it's been ages but we're on vacation! It takes work to do this blog. What, in the name of all that is holy, do you want from us??

For our new readers Welcome to another quick update to our timely travel adventures!

Shirl reading in her upper berth.On February 26th, we took a night train to the island of Langkawi for some well-deserved R&R. You already saw the train station of KL in our Feb 27th entry. Before we started our trip almost nine months ago, we thought we would be on trains all the time, going from one remote station to another, ridin' the rails, fending off robbers, and singin' the blues. Instead, we're stuck in our two-berth lockable cabin with sink and fresh linens as the train huffed and puffed along the Malaysian countryside. At one point we thought we had arrived but instead we were stopped due to flooding of the tracks where it had just rained. Our train pulls out as we barely have enough time to gather our things and get off.Turns out if they can't see the tracks because of water, they won't go forward because the ties are so old that the track could be off and derail the train. Somehow they figured out how to route around it and we continued on, arriving at the train station for the island of Langkawi a little over two hours late, but giving us some extra time to sleep right up until the conductor came through to tell us we were arriving in a few minutes. Thanks for the heads up!

After an uneventful ferry and even more un-uneventful taxi ride to our hotel called Mali Perdana, we discovered how much Shirl's hard work in snagging the best room on the end had paid off. We had a view of the water and unlike many other "on the water" resorts, this one was actually, really, on the water. Oh, and the water temperature was that of a warm bath. So we donned our suits in regular fashion and got moisturized with the goodness that can only come from the energetic meeting of a couple of frisky hydrogen molecules when putting the cosmic moves on an unassuming oxygen molecule (which science still hasn't figured out how that happens and isn't too clear about the love thing either).

But what we needed most, just hangin' and not doin' much, is what this island town is all about. After a few days it does get a little repetitive, so we found ourselves looking around for something other than decent Internet (which doesn't exist) and glomed onto the cable car as Rowan and Shirl's Big Adventure.

A bridge across the sky.When we got on, it's a gondola style car much like a ski resort, it seemed like it would provide a great view, which it did. What caught us off guard was not realizing that once we got off, it was only the first of three platforms. Two more brought us to much higher vistas and onto a semicircular bridge that spanned a lot of nothing except gave us amazing views all around.

 On March 5th we flew directly out of Langkawi back to Singapore for the fourth time, getting some things done and then making our way back to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we are now.

Wait! You've read this far? You must either be one of our diligent readers or a process server trying to figure out where we'll be next. Well, either way, here's a treat. In addition to the boat-loads of books Shirl reads, she also scans the local papers for quintessential news items of note.

And for those of you who are trying to keep up with world news, here are some tidbits from the March 3, 2012 edition of the New Straits Times, published in Singapore and obtained in Langkawi

Credit: ODDEE1.  "Japan slaps curfew on cat cafesTokyo:  Times are looking tough for Tokyo's cat cafes, where feline afficionados can drop in for tea and some time with a cat.  At most such establishments, it's the post-work rush that brings in the most cash, with tired and harried professionals dropping by on their way home to pet and play with the animals as a way of relieving stress.  ...  A revision to Japan's Animal Protection Law will slap a curfew on the pblic display of cats and dogs, forcing cat cafes to close at 8pm." 

If only we had known about these when we were in Tokyo!

and 2. "Indonesian women get husbands' pay to stop affairs:

Credit: AFP PhotoSulawesi:  Thousands of male Indonesian civil servants had their monthly pay transferred to their wives' bank accounts this week in a bid to stop men having affairs.  The Gorontalo administration on northern Sulawesi Island issued the recommendation early this year to its 3200 civil servants, saying it would help control funds usually spent on mistresses.  ...  'Men are usually unable to control their behaviour if they have too much money in their pocket,' government spokesman Rifly Katih said.  'I'm sure this will eliminate the possibility of love affairs that undermine families.'  About 90 per cent of the workers are voluntarily taking part in the initiative,' Rifly said.  'This will also empower the employees' wives to learn about household budget management . . . .'  Rifly did not know how many civil servants had cheated on their wives."

Oh, boy.

Monday
Feb272012

Our Penultimate Departure from KL

Latest additions to Rowan's Panos: The KL Train StationClass, let us review the previous lesson before the new material: Our main updates that show shots with some pithy commentary are usually behind (chronologically) from where we are at the moment. Even though we are in Langkawi, Malaysia, this entry is a catch-up from our last stop. To know where we are at any given moment, look at the right side, see "Now in " followed by a location. That is where we are right now no matter what (usually the map it shows is precisely where we are). To get back to the "top" of our blog, just click anywhere in the top banner image and you are magically transported back to the start of untethered.

Want all the latest entries in one, easy-to-view display? Then (again, on the right side), just click on "Latest Additions" to view all the new stuff! Pop quiz: How can you easily and quickly get back to the top-most of our blog after you have viewed the latest additions? You'll also notice you can now translate our blog into any of about 50 languages using the Google Translate menu (in the right column). Last but not least, Shirl has a list of books she's read (she's the literate one, Rowan just looks at pictures). Books Finished is a table of books consumed.

OK, you've slogged through our self-conscious class review, so let's have recess with some outside shots! Yay! Here we go...

KL, as Kuala Lumpur is known to locals and backpackers alike, has been a relaxing stay, filled with the usual city stuff: good food (lots!), movies (none!), sightseeing (some!). And so it is, having left KL already that we present the two tourist things we actually got around to doing: The National Art Gallery and The Menara Tower.

Shirl has already has a photo from our gallery visit. After we were told we couldn't take photos, Rowan took the next three shots and the last one was taken by Shirl:
Exterior of the art gallery. For all the images, just click on it to view larger.Rowan especially liked this piece: Meta-Art or just Self-Referential or both?Rowan also liked the playing cards conceptual art.Hello Rowan
We then went up to have lunch atop the Menara Tower, basically a telecommunications citadel and tourist trap that does give a remarkable view of the city from its rotating wheel of queasiness.  The one shot that's actually worth seeing is of our place we stayed at called The Nest Guesthouse, a not-quite-a-hostel and not-quite-a-hotel guesthouse in a not-quite-a-ghetto and well-yes-a-ghetto neighborhood.

View from Menara Tower showing KL and our little place.

View from below of the Menara Tower.

And why "penultimate departure" as the title says? We're coming back to KL to depart for Europe from there in late March, 2012. Have we mentioned we're spending the summer in Europe? Maybe not. More later.

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