Kauai 2016

After visiting Kauai earlier this month, I can see why many say this is their favorite Hawaiian island, or choose this as their wedding venue. The island has some absolutely breathtaking scenery, and a plethora of choices if you enjoy being outdoors.

I enjoyed a lot of hiking while on the island. Here are some photos of various hiking I did.

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One of my favorite adventures was a kayak/hike to Secret Falls.

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While doing one of several sunrise strolls along a bike trail in Kapa’a , I spotted a runner and a cute potbelly big running along side him.

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If you’re in Hawaii, I highly recommend a Hawaiian LomiLomi Massage. I had a salt/scrub tandem massage combo @ Angeline Muolaulani Wellness Center in Anahola. This was a magical experience. The Hawaiian chanting/singing at the beginning set the tone for the excellent treatments I received. I would highly recommend this venue.

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I had the pleasure of visiting many beaches – here are a few:

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Thailand 2014

This year my vacation began with Asia, specifically Thailand: Bangkok and ChangMai.  Below is a snippet of some of the vacation.

Bangkok was like any other big city in that it was crowded and the traffic congestion was terrible. What else can you expect in a country of nine million people?  Most of the time when we were in a car, or tuk tuk, I would close my eyes and hope for the best.   What was really interesting to me is that Thai people do not get angry or ever experience road rage – they work things out peacefully. What a concept???  It would be nice if Americans could adopt this.

The heat was unbearable in Bangkok – worst humidity I had ever experienced 75%!  It was mandatory to take 2-3 showers a day.  Thankfully, the humidity for the rest of our vacation was bearable.

One thing that impressed me the most about Thailand is the love the country has for their King and Queen (Bhumibol Adulyadej and Sirikit).  You will find large photos of the King and Queen throughout Thailand and every Thai home has a shrine in their honor.  The King has done a lot for their country – from improving farming methods (converted opium fields to rice fields), giving lectures, leading the country through crisis and is the pillar of strength for the people

We saw many beautiful temples in Thailand.   It was an amazing experience to stand inside these gorgeous places of worship.  I appreciate the spirituality of the country.  I also appreciate the locals for their gentle, kind and helpful nature.  It is not surprising that Thailand is called “the land of 1,000 smiles.”

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At Asiatique, a large outdoor shopping mall, I had a fish foot spa for the first time.   It was complete sensory overload as I had hundreds of tiny fish nibbling all over my feet and ankles.  Thank goodness I only paid for a 30 minute session as I don’t think I could have endured any more tickle torture.

imageIn ChangMai we went to an orchid farm, an elephant sanctuary and Tiger Kingdom all in one day! The trip to Tiger Kingdom was the highlight of my day and my favorite part of our entire vacation.  Tigers have always been my favorite wild animal.   It was completely surreal to be in a cage with these magnificent animals.   Although the tigers were docile having been raised in captivity, I am glad we did this excursion after lunch!

imageimageimageimageimageimageKayaking the Chiang Dao jungle in Northern Thailand was also a treat.  The creek like river winds itself through a bamboo jungle and temperate forest.   Abundant bird life crossings, fish jumping and mysterious sounds from the forest accompanied our journey.

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Bali 2014

We spent the last 2 weeks of our vacation in Ubud, Bali.  We chose Ubud because it is the cultural center of Bali and is famous as an arts and crafts area.  To our delight, much of Ubud and nearby villages seem to consist of artist’s workshops and galleries.  Some artist compounds were quite large, 25 or more people, all family, related to one another.

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Massage, although not as abundant in Thailand, is offered throughout Bali.  It is also very inexpensive there.  The best massage I received was $5 USD for an hour by a woman named Ketut at a small spa in the heart of downtown Ubud.

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Q-ull, our 28-year Balinese driver had a great command of the English language.  He said he was given the nickname Q-ull which meant “lazy” because he used to sleep in when he was younger and didn’t like to get up early.  I enjoyed getting to know him and learning more about Balinese culture during our road trips. Οne precious story that he shared was that he gave his son an American middle name of a good friend of his from San Diego, Ca.   He said he really looked up to his friend and hoped his son would have a big heart like his friend did.  Isn’t that what we all wish our children had???

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The women of Bali were amazing – learning from a very young age to carry various items in a basket on their head.  Two things that blew me away were watching two women carry our 45 pound suitcases atop their heads up 92 stairs to our villa, and watching women putting cement in a container that was placed on their heads and carried to a construction site.

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One favorite evening in Bali was when he went to a bridging tables dinner at the upscale iconic Bridges Restaurant in Campuhan.  This dinner was a prix fix meal that we shared with four complete strangers.  We had some great conversation.  I love meeting new people.  The restaurant manager also asked us two questions.  One was tell two truths and one lie, then have others guess the lie.  The other question was what one person, alive or dead, would you like to have a conversation with.  Care to answer the latter question?

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We saw two beautiful Balinese performances.  I really enjoyed the Ramayana Ballet, which is nothing like the ballet we are used to.   It is a traditional dance telling the story of Rama and Sita (Balinese version of Romeo and Juliet).  The costumes the performers wore were beautiful and colorful.

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On a side note, on the plane ride home from Bangkok, I watched a wonderful movie: Mandela:Long Walk to Freedom which is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name.  The movie chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society.

 

Self Help Massage Tools!

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In between massage sessions, here a few tools you can use:

Here is a partial list of body tools – (self help devices that allow you to do body work (massage, acupressure) without the need of assistance).

TheraCane – An acupressure tool that loosens tight, painful muscular areas.  You use leverage and slight downward pull to create the desired pressure wherever you want.  This device is especially designed for the back of the neck, mid-back (between shoulder blades), upper back, sides of neck and shoulders.  It can even be used all over the body as a stretching aid.

The Stick – A non motorized massage device used by serious athletes to loosen trigger points (knotted up muscles).  The flexible core with the revolving spindles easily molds to various body contours.  This tool is great for the legs, especially the calves, and can be used effectively on all major muscle groups.

The Massage Stone This device was designed with the professional massage therapist in mind.  It is supposed to aid the hands, not replace them.  The stone may be used over clothing so it can be used often.  J   When heated, the Massage Stone drives the heat deep into the muscle tissues, relaxing the muscles for deeper massage.   When chilled, the stone can help reduce inflammation from a sports injury.

The Trigger Wheel – A 2” nylon wheel on a 4” handle for deep massage.  The Trigger Wheel works on trigger points and be used directly on skin or through light clothing.  It works the way a tire rolls back and forth on pavement. It is very effective in reaching specific sore spots, such as small areas in the neck, hands, wrists, arms, legs and feet.  It’s small enough you can carry it with you and use it throughout the day to keep pain at bay.

The Foot Massage A 2”x9” roller with raised knobs for foot massage, and rubber rings to protect the floor.  A super tool for tired feet. The studded knobs give you pinpoint access to the bottom of the foot.  This is used to stimulate nerve endings, reduce discomfort, and improve circulation. If your job is sedentary, use this tool on the job.

Breath Builder This device was originally designed for musicians to develop breath control; however it is excellent for anyone who desires to develop restorative deep breathing.  You blow into a tube and the pressure of your breath keeps a ping pong ball afloat in the cylinder.  It forces you to use your diaphragm muscles and to breathe correctly, with the goal of increasing your lung capacity.

The Back Revolution– This device is an inversion device which keeps your pelvis stabilized and decompresses discs and works wonders for store, stiff necks. Health professionals recommend using it for 70 seconds, 2 to 3 times a day.  Can help you control persistent back and neck pain.

The Pain Eraser 1 An exceptional hand-held tool that is firm enough for deep massage yet soft enough for more tender parts of your body, including your face.  Access arms, legs, hands, feet, back etc., easily with this high quality massage tool.  1-1/2” wide roller is made of 100% natural rubber with 36” fingers.  Great for travel.

 

Skyros, Greece 2013

Skyros is the largest island in the Sporades group of islands.  The northern half of the island has small bays, rolling farmland and pine forests, while the southern half has arid hills and rocky shoreline.

There were many stray cats on the island.  We saw the most adorable stray Momma cat with three kittens upon our arrival at  Perigiali Studios.

The pool outside our hotel. We never stepped foot into the pool. Why would you when you had a beautiful stretch of beach and the gorgeous Mediterranean 50 km away from you???

On our first day at the hotel, I was scolded by the owner Amalia for sneaking food to the Momma.  Whoops!  I felt sorry for the Momma and since since was so thin and I saw her capturing and feeding her kittens lizards.  ;-(  Ewwww

Three little stray kittens huddling to stay warm why their Momma forages for food.

During our stay, we rented a scooter to traverse the entire island.  In my opinion, renting a scooter is the best way to get around an island since it can take you to places a car might not be able to get to.

We visited two museums while on the island:

Archaelogical Museum featured several examples of Myacenanean pottery and a traditional Skyrian house interior, transported in its entirety from the benefactor’s home.

Manos Faltaits Museum, a 19th century mansion was several floors which included Skyrian costumes, embroidery, antique furniture and ceramics, daggers, cooking pots, vintage photographs and a small gift shop.

As usual in Greece, beaches were all gorgeous here.  Swimming in the clear blue Mediterranean is always a treat.

We had a lot of excellent food here, one particular inviting place with notable fare, O Pappous kai Ego (My Grandfather and Me) we dined at had a slightly different take on a Dakos salad, my new favorite Greek salad.

Dakos Salad! Yum!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naxos, Greece 2013

Naxos is the biggest island in the Cyclades.

The Castro… if you look closely you can see the silhouette of a cat in the forefront…
The path to our lodging.
Path to the cave of Zeus. We didn’t have the proper footwear the day we came here to make the 3km trip to see the cave — but here’s the path to get there.

We had the opportunity to experience a private tour of a traditional Castle residence (Venetian Museum).  The present residents are direct decendents of the Della Rocca-Barozzi families.  This castle was built by the Venetians during the 13th century and is constructed of stones.  Some photographs, furniture, clothing, jewelry, etc, of the families were displayed throughout.  An interesting tidbit of information we got from our tour – if someone were caught wearing a bracelet that not in the social class required to wear that bracelet, their hand would be cut off!  OUCH!!!

A view of Naxos from the Venetian Museum balcony.
Portara is the most famous monument in Naxos. It is a gigantic gate, a remain of the ancient temple dedicated to Apollo, which was built during the 6th century BC. It is located at the northern part of the port and can be seen from the ships which approach to Naxos.

The beaches were all stunning and virtually uninhabited since it was still low season during our visit.  Yay!  We spent a relaxing afternoon at Agios Prokopios Beach sunbathing and body surfing.  Fun, fun, fun….

Sunbathing at its best…not a soul around.
What a treat to have this entire stretch of ocean to ourselves…

We thoroughly enjoyed a Bouzouki evening in the outdoor patio of the Venetian museum.  The musicians played some traditional and modern tunes while a group of five local dancers treated us to some of their spirited dancing.  Unlimited Naxian adult beverages (wine/liquor) were provided as we were  informed drinking was part of enjoying the evening.  When in Greece …. 😉  OPA!!!!!

Hands down, he best meal we had on the island was at Lucullus, a business in operation for over 100 years.  We shared zucchini balls as an appetizer.  I had kleftiko which is a meat pie made with lamb/potatoes/carrots in a little pot while George had tender saffron/pesto chicken with proscuito, risotto and zucchini.  If you ever find yourself in Naxos, you absolutely MUST dine here!!!

Lucullus, outdoor patio

Paris 2013!!

I have returned from my 5 week vacation, relaxed, inspired and renewed.  Thankfully, time seemed to stand still while away.

To my delight, Paris is clearly a city of dog lovers.  I found that most of the dogs I encountered behaved nothing like they do in the U.S.  None of them ran up, or jumped up to greet me, even after I called out to them.  They were much more dignified in that I had to make the first overture.  Several well behaved dogs even accompanied their owners around town without a leash!  Every time I saw a dog I thought of Gracie and how much I missed her.  What a pity it isn’t more convenient to travel with your furry, four legged family members.

I think it is virtually impossible to have a bad meal in Paris.  There was wonderful food everywhere!  Of course, we just HAD to sample many fine, Parisian delicacies – fondue, crepes (the Nutella to banana ratio on crepes was rather disturbing, however…), beef bourguignon, croque madame/monsieur, French onion soup, and a myriad of different takes on chocolate!!!

Notre Dame made entirely out of chocolate

I believe a significant part of immersing yourself in another country’s culture is to sample their cuisine.

Our first dinner in Paris…

I have heard from some individuals that Parisians are very unkind to Americans.  We didn’t experience any animosity whatsoever, quite the contrary, in fact.

We enjoyed a superb jazz ensemble at Sunside Jazz Club. We also heard some delightful classical music at Sainte Chapelle. The church was the perfect backdrop to hear this style of music.

 

Sadly, we witnessed a small child being reprimanded as she rode her bike down to meet her parents outside the Sacre de Couer.   There she was cruising down the hill, cute and proud as can be, when all of a sudden her Father swept her up off her bike and spanked her repeatedly on her bottom! Whack, whack, whack, whack!!!  I don’t know what her indiscretion was, but felt the punishment couldn’t possibly fit the crime.  :-(   I think she wailed on for ten minutes out of sheer humiliation more than anything else. Who could blame her?

 

It was a rainy day, but still very beautiful…..

We did a 90 minute walking tour of Paris landmarks (Discover Walks) that was very informative.

We are 4/5 from the left

Tuileries Garden was quite impressive.  I found it interesting to find out that all of the park benches/chairs were green to match the landscape.

We witnessed two homeless men shamelessly urinating in broad daylight – one on the side of the a very expensive restaurant near Bastille Square.  The second person who chose a tree to urinate on had a devious look on his face when he realized he had an audience.  His expression was like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”, when he broke through the door,  “Here’s Johnny!”  Yikes!!!!!

We made the mistake of waiting until our last day in Paris to tour the Louvre a few hours before its closing.  We knew we couldn’t possibly see everything, since its expanse was overwhelming, but did capture a few highlights of the museum.

One of my favorite sculptures of all time…. Winged Victory of Samothrace

We covered a lot of ground, but plan to return sometime in the future….

Paris is a grand city!!  Until next time…

At the Pere LaChaise Cemetery

Exploring Mortality

The issue of death has been the topic of conversation these past few weeks so I thought I would explore this topic on my blog.

One woman shared with me this week that on her way to Sacramento from Maui via airplane a man died of a massive heart attack.  His wife, of course, was hysterical.  Yes, it is sad that he died, and unfortunate that manner in which he left this earth, but at least he was returning from vacation.

We never know when our time is up.  Life turns on a dime. I’ve always believed that you should live each day like it’s your last and that life is about experiences vs material things.

While dining with girlfriends recently, one lamented about turning 50 next year.  She commented, “I may only have 25 years left.”  To which I replied, “If you’re lucky you will have 25 years left, if not more.  You may have less.”  I will be turning 50 next year also.  I don’t really think about how much time I have left on the planet, or even think about how old I currently am.  Some days I feel younger, some days, a bit older. It doesn’t really serve any purpose to worry about how old I am, or when my time may be  up. I hope to be able to maintain my good health and be around when I am in my mid-80’s like both of my Grandmothers.

Unfortunately, my father died at 67 from lung cancer.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him. There is so much I wish he was here to witness.   I see so much of my Father in my son, Brendon.  He was an excellent role model for Brendon.  Thankfully, my father retired early, and did what he loved to do (commercial fish for salmon).  He was also fortunate enough to travel a lot with my Mom before he died.  Travel was another one of his loves, although probably something that my Mom enjoyed more.  You could tell my Father was in his element when he was near the ocean, and especially on his boat. I remember my Father stating days before he died that he was glad that was able to retire early, enjoy commercial fishing, and travel as much as he did.  If you are fortunate enough to have two parents who are alive, cherish them.   Being self employed, I have been lucky enough to carry the torch and travel with my Mother.  We have traveled to Alaska, Panama Canal, Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy, and the Southern Caribbean.

I have heard countless stories of people who died with regret, or before they got a chance to do what they really wanted to do.  Don’t waste your life waiting for the right moment or time to do things.  What are you waiting for????  No time like the present!   Explore, Travel, LIVE!!!!!

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  ~ Saint Augustine

 

 

 

 

A Moment to Yourself…..

 

Where do you get away from it all to meditate, dream, or decompress??

In the Western culture, we live in a fast paced, frenetic society.  It seems that more and more people are getting away from connecting to one another in person and having any meaningful conversation.  Connections and updates about our lives are now on Facebook or Twitter.  How long/often are you on these social networking sites?  Have you ever observed a group of people in the airport, in the grocery line, or anywhere outdoors glued to their Smartphones?  Is it any wonder so many of us feel disconnected?  It seems as though technology is becoming the death of our society. To succeed in the business world these days, you must be tied into social networking.  I prefer to network in person, but to keep up with the times, have succumbed to engaging in social networking.  It’s no wonder I prefer the European mindset of a much slower paced lifestyle with a siesta in the late afternoon.

I am on Facebook, primarily to promote my business.  I generally check in 1-2x a day during the weekday, but for never more than 5-10 minutes. Many people are Facebook stalkers, never commenting or adding anything to their page, just following what others are posting.

I make it a point to regularly connect with my good friends IN PERSON, or at least over the phone.  It is so nice to be able to share time together, for a meal, drinks or, better yet, out in nature.  Time can swiftly get away from you; all of a sudden you realize you haven’t connected with friends in six months, a year!

My favorite way to decompress is travel, whether it is local or abroad.  If I may recommend a few places that I get away regularly to relax that don’t require airplane travel:

Bodega Bay Lodge, Bodega Bay, CA: http://www.bodegabaylodge.com/specials_and_packages

Osmosis Day Spa & Sanctuary, Freestone, CA –  http://www.osmosis.com/

Stafford Retreat Cottage, Scott’s Valley, CA  – http://www.vrbo.com/418853

 

 

 

Relieve the Discomfort of Airplane Travel

 

I thought I’d share a few tips on how to cope with all the hours of sitting in a cramped little seat with the tiny fork and knife set, the tiny meal, served in the tiny dishes, with the tiny drink in the tiny cup.

When traveling, your biggest enemies are inactivity and improper posture.  The combination of them both leads to soreness/stiffness in the lower back, legs, shoulders or neck.  Here are a few helpful tips:

Use Your Pillows &  Blankets

  1. This step should help to reduce the postural strain that improper sitting places on your body.
  2. Sit with your hips back against the back of the seat to get the maximum support from the seat.
  3. Place the blanket or pillow (personally, I prefer to fold the blanket in half) between the small of your back (the curve just above your hips) and the seat back.  This will help support your lower back in its natural curve and reduce low back pain.  It is especially helpful if you are suffering from any disc related issues.
  4. Place the pillow behind your neck and keep the back of your head rested firmly against the headrest so that you can feel your neck being supported.  This helps to keep your neck in its neutral curved position and reduces neck stiffness.
  5. If you follow these steps you should feel like your upper body is fully supported in a more natural position.  You should feel less strain or discomfort in this position

Get some exercise

  1. Too much rest is not a good thing.  All that sitting without any real movement can make you achy and stiff.  The perfect solution is a bit of exercise.  Any simple exercise or movement helps increase blood flow and lubricate your joints.  Improved blood flow nourishes and oxygenates your body’s tissues and helps in waste removal, leaving you feeling healthier and more refreshed.
  2. Get up and walk around.  Use any excuse to go for a walk:  Get a glass of water; Go to the bathroom; take a tour of the cabin; see what movies everyone else is watching; or as they say in the Dead Poet’s Society, view life from a different perspective!
  3. You will probably feel pretty stiff the first time you get up.  This is a sign that you should be getting up more often!

 Choose your seat wisely

  1. Make sure you get an aisle seat.  All that getting up and walking around is never going to happen if you are stuck in the middle of a long row between 6 very close strangers.   Make it easy for yourself to get up regularly without annoying your neighbors.
  2. The aisle seat also means that you have to get up every time one of your neighbors wants out, but if you’re not big on sleeping on flights, being forced to get up is a bit of a bonus and the perfect chance to stretch out a bit.
  3. Don’t take all the aisle seats!  Leave at least one for me unless you want to see me get cranky

Use your time between flights

  1. If you have a few hour layover between flights, take the chance to walk around.  A good solid hour of walking can do wonders to reverse all the damage that sitting for 6 hours does to your body.
  2. Shop.  Not up for a brisk walk?  How about a leisurely stroll through the airport shops?

Beware Deep Vein Thrombosis

  1. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that can form in your calf.  It may feel like a bit of pain or swelling in your calf.  This is only mildly annoying, but if left untreated can result in the clot breaking free and blocking the blood supply to your heart or brain.  If you feel soreness and swelling in a calf muscle after a flight, consult your doctor.  The typical treatment is a round of blood thinners to gently break down the clot.
  2. The lower air pressure combined with inactivity and sitting increases your chances of getting deep vein thrombosis. Seniors or women using the birth control pill are especially at risk.
  3. One solution for preventing the deep vein thrombosis from forming is exercise.  It is much more difficult for a clot to form if you are moving about.  Get up and walk around every now and then to keep the blood flowing in your legs.
  4. Try calf raises.  While you are seated you can practise going up on your tippy toes and back down again.  The constant flexion and relaxation of your calf muscles act like a pump and move the blood faster through  the calf.
  5. An Aspirin a day.  Aspirin is a blood thinner in addition to being good for a variety of other ailments.  If you doctor agrees with it and believes you are healthy enough for it, take aspirin daily for 3 to 4 days before your flight.  Remember to be sure to consult with your doctor before you try this.

Additional tips

  1. The air is pretty dry in the cabin, so keep drinking water to keep yourself hydrated.
  2. Try the in flight exercises.  Most planes have neck and shoulder exercise routines available in their in flight magazines.  Try them out.  These exercises might look a little silly, but they definitely help.