Monday, July 24, 2017

Paris (July 7 - July 25)

Continuing our adventure that started in Singapore, moved to Copenhagen, on to Hamburg and now, on to Paris...

Our AirBnB was located about halfway between Sacré-Coeur and the Louvre. Great location.


The entrance to 18 Rue Cadet

Inside our AirBnB (1)

Inside our AirBnB (2)

View from our window

Observations on Paris:
  • Rue Cadet was a good place to stay, as it was about equidistant from many of the sites we want to see.
  • Pastries are wonderful
  • A large cup of coffee isn't (see photo below). If you want a large coffee, order an Americano or better still go to Starbucks or McDonalds
  • Good city for walking
  • Crowded with tourists
  • Most French beer is bland
  • People speak English and most restaurants have menus we could read (one exception)
  • Transportation is good. Bus and subway fares are ride-based, not distance-based
  • Mostly we ate in Cafes, Bistros and Brasseries - but food choices were generally similar in each. Spend more, eat better - the 2 places we ate that cost over $60/each were very good. Others, just okay. Exception is bakeries!

Large coffee - untouched

Large coffee - not easy to hold with the tiny handle

Friday, July 7, 2017

Hamburg (July 5 - July 7)

Continuing the adventure that started in Singapore, stopped in Copenhagen, and now in Hamburg, Germany...

After arriving, Pat and I went to our hotel, Centro Hotel Boutique 56, across the street from the station; Jenny's family had and hour to look around before boarding a train to Berlin and the start of their adventure, traveling through Europe.

Our room at the hotel was at the front, facing the station. No air conditioning, so the windows had to be left open all night. Less than ideal, as the street noise (cars, police and the restaurant below our window) PLUS no lift!

Ever stop somewhere where you probably shouldn't have? Although we had wanted to visit Hamburg to see the Miniatur Wunderland, this was not when we should have done it. The city was preparing for the G20 meeting the coming weekend.

Our friends, Jim and Mary Jane, had visited the Miniatur Wunderland, a couple of years ago and recommended it to us. This is a fantastic model train - bills itself as the largest model railroad in the world. I have no problem believing them! As the brochure points out, there are:
  • 1,040 locomotives
  • 280 moving cars and trucks
  • 385,000 lights
  • 260,000 figurines
  • flight simulation of Knuffingen Airport
  • 15,400 meters of track (9.6 miles)
  • controlled by 50 computers
  • 9 areas 
Make sure to click on these photos to see a larger version and all their details:

The old wharehouse where the Miniatur
Wunderland is located







A concert being held in a large stadium

Look at the detail of the crowd at the concert

On the beach


The little white flags are visitors'
wishes for a better world

An invitation to leave a flag
with a comment on world peace

A Switzerland area

Busy sea port

Keeping an eye on operations

Some of the control cabinets

One of the many workshops

Monday, July 3, 2017

Copenhagen (June 30 - July 5)

After a 4 hour layover in Bangkok, our flight from Singapore arrived in Copenhagen at about 7:30 PM. Pat and I took a cab to our AirBnB. The driver was not one of the better ones we've had: seemed to have trouble using his GPS and had to reload it several times - each time I had to look up the address again. He had to pull over three times to reset his GPS, promising that he was not charging for these delays.

When we finally got to our AirBnB we met the owner who showed us her apartment and explained about the creaky floors and the neighbor below. We would be here until July 5. Our host is a painter so we got to enjoy some of her work. Pat especially liked the piece hung over the bed.

View from our AirBnB

Pat liked the paintings by the owner

Observations on Copenhagen:
  • Definitely cooler than Singapore
  • Very flat
  • Lots of bicycles being ridden all the time, even in the rain
  • Lots of rain
  • Bike lanes on all the main roads
  • Bike lanes were referred to, by one of our walking-tour guides, as "kill zones" - cars will often stop for you, but not bikes!
  • The neighborhood we stayed in was rather generic, almost industrial looking, but safe with convenient stores and a bus stop
  • Bus transportation was good - fares base on the ride, not the distance; therefore, it cost the same to ride one stop or 10 stops.
  • Parks had lots of things for children 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Unexpected India (1-4 June 2017)

When Ray and I flew back to Singapore to visit Jenny et al we didn't plan on any additional trips until we leave at the end of June for our next adventure. But an opportunity arose shortly before we left the US. Jenny had a work trip to New Delhi the week after we arrived in Singapore.

She asked me if I wanted to join her at the end of the work week for a few days of mother/daughter adventure. I had just enough time to apply and wait the 7 working days to get my India visa (I had 4 days to spare).

I flew into New Delhi on Thursday morning, getting into town a bit before noon. I had booked a food tour through Viator before I left to start things off until Jenny was done with her work meetings.

The tour's meeting point was a Metro stop near the Delhi University. The Metro maps online were not very helpful, their interactive map was still being developed, so I really had know idea about distances. It turned out to be a 1+ hour ride from our hotel. I had read the Metro was easy to navigate so I got directions from the hotel to the closest station stop Guru Bronacharya.

It took me about 10 minutes to walk to it and another 15 minutes to find the ATM machine and an additional 10 minutes to buy a token for the ride. I went through security at least 3 times before I had everything I needed to board the train.

It indeed is easy to navigate and the very first train car is reserved for women only. There are loads of pink signs pointing to the first car. I felt comfortable there but I was the only non-Indian person in the car. The colors of the saris and the pajamas worn by the younger women were vibrant and exciting. I would say only about 30% wore western clothing.

My tour started at 4pm with my guide Alan. He walked me through the college neighborhood and took me for a petal cab ride which was breathtakingly scary at times.

We walked and ate for 2 hours, nibbling all kinds of good stuff. At our last stop Alan wrote out a list of all I sampled.

Here are a few of the things I ate:

Shawarma Paneer
Bhel Puri

Dahi Puri - my favorite

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Singapore (May 5 - June 30)

When we left Singapore, with Jenny and family staying behind, a return trip was in our future. We finally picked May 5. Our original plan was to leave Singapore on July 5 and fly to Paris for 2 weeks. We decided to wait until June to book the flight to Paris - good thing, since our plans were changing!

Between the time we booked our flight to Singapore and actually got there, Jenny announced she quit her job and travel the world with her family! Her last day in SG was to be June 30 (a week before we were planning on leaving). The family was flying to Copenhagen to start their adventure . Since we had not booked our flight to Paris, we decided to head to Copenhagen, too.

I'm not about to give a day-by-day, or even a week-by-week, description of our visit. Except for a couple of cases that I'll describe below, it was just like "returning home", where we were comfortable with the roads, food, transportation and shops. We also reconnected with many of our friends. We even attended 2 book club meetings, as if we had never left the group.

First, some quick observations:
  • The weather is still very hot and, according to some of our friends, getting hotter.
  • Our Singaporean friends we met at Central Green Condos, who included us so generously in their lives, happily greeted our return.
  • Lee Tai Fu is still one of my favorite bar/restaurants.
  • Transportation is really convenient and good.
  • Food is wonderful, with no lack of places to eat.
  • It's hot (just in case someone forgot).

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Discovering Molas in Panama

I read about molas in our Lonely Planet guide so was on the lookout for them. Panama is different in lots of ways from many tourist destinations. They do not promote crafts and souvenirs quite the same way as most countries. So it took a trip out of Panama City to a local village market square in the Anson Valley area to find the molas I was looking for.

OK, what is a mola?

The mola or molas, forms part of the traditional outfit of a Kuna woman in Panama, two mola panels being incorporated as front and back panels in a blouse. The full costume traditionally includes a patterned wrapped skirt (saburet), a red and yellow headscarf (musue), arm and leg beads (wini), a gold nose ring (olasu) and earrings in addition to the mola blouse.

In Dulegaya, the Kuna's native language, "mola" means "shirt" or "clothing". The mola originated with the tradition of Kuna women painting their bodies with geometrical designs, using available natural colors; in later years these same designs were woven in cotton, and later still, sewn using cloth bought from the European settlers of Panama.

Molas have their origin in body painting. Only after colonization of Panama by the Spanish and contact with missionaries did the Kuna, an indigenous people of Panama and Colombia, start to transfer their traditional geometric designs on fabric, first by painting directly on the fabric and later by using the technique of reverse application. It is not known for certain when this technique was first used. It is assumed that the oldest molas are between 150 and 170 years old.

As an inspiration for their designs, the Kuna first used the geometrical patterns which have been used for body painting before. In the past 50 years, they also started to depict realistic and abstract designs of flowers, sea animals and birds.

Depending on the tradition of each island, Kuna women begin crafting of molas either after they reach puberty, some even at a much younger age.

After the attempt of the Panamanian government to "westernize" the Kuna in the beginning of the 20th century by forbidding their customs, their language and their traditional dress, a huge wave of resistance arose. This resistance movement culminated in the Kuna revolution of 1925 where, after heavy battles, the Panamanian government had to make the concession of giving the Kuna people the right to govern their own territory autonomously.

Molas are handmade using a reverse applique technique. Several layers (usually two to seven) of different-colored cloth (usually cotton) are sewn together; the design is then formed by cutting away parts of each layer. The edges of the layers are then turned under and sewn down. Often, the stitches are nearly invisible. This is achieved by using a thread the same color as the layer being sewn, sewing blind stitches, and sewing tiny stitches. The finest molas have extremely fine stitching, made using tiny needles.

So, enough of the history lesson. I bought two panels - one for me and one for Nicki my daughter-in-law in FL. I hope she doesn't see this blog before I give it to her but here is what I bought:

See below for some close up shots.

The variety of molas I examined were amazing and no matter what the skill level, they are beautiful works of art. 

We did find a temporary craft market in Panama City that had more molas but not quite as well made as these. I'm glad I found them and hope Nicki likes it as much as I do.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Panama (February 2017)

Our flight to Panama, left Charlotte on February 7. This is the first time we have ever cashed in credit card points for a flight. The only problem with this: the tickets were not up-gradable, so we were stuck in basic economy. For a 4-hour flight, it wasn't a real problem.

Our hotel reservation at the Hyatt Place Panama City/Downtown, were made through We arrived there about 11:30 PM and immediately went to bed.

The view from our room that greeted us the first morning.

February 8 (Wednesday)

For our first full day here in Panama City we did what we usually do when we get to a new place - we walk around, exploring, until we exhausted ourselves.

After a good breakfast at the hotel, we started walking toward the waterfront, with Casco Viejo (old quarter), our intended destination. Along the way, we got a great view of some interesting building, the water front and a great view of the city.

Iglesia del Carmen (just around the block from the hotel)

A pretty apartment building

The owner of this home appears to have some money

A small sampling of the buildings we passed