Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Altitude Flowers, Spectacular Views and Knocking Knees

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Altitude Flowers, Spectacular Views and Knocking Knees

Schmocken, Beatenberg, Niederhorn

Location – Switzerland

I opened the outside blinds that cover the room windows this morning and learned that the Interlaken weather Gods had received our message. The clouds had lifted and we had a spectacular view of the Eiger mountain face and some of the other “Top Of Europe” mountain peaks. It was going to be another good day here in Switzerland.

Despite making the most of the very comfortable bedding we did manage to extract ourselves from under the doona (duvet) around 8.30am and prepare for the day’s activities. I even managed to have a shave before venturing down to breakfast!

This morning’s window view was very special given that the clouds had lifted over the Alps. We enjoyed the view and the substantial breakfast we managed to consume – not a bad thing given that we were not going to have lunch today (of course we didn’t know it whilst sitting at breakfast).

We departed the hotel around 10.30am and covered the short walk to the Niederhorn cable car terminus in around 8 minutes. Hotel Gloria is so very well placed here in Beatenburg.

The weather continued to improve as the morning passed and by the time we arrived at the cable car terminal the day was shaping up nicely.

See You Thun

Our accommodation in Beatenburg came with a voucher that gave us 15% discount on the cable car trip so our one way trip to the top of the mountain was quite cheap.

Being a Sunday meant that the cable cars were running quite regularly so it wasn’t long before we were boarding the gondola and heading up the steep mountain cable car track.

The view from the very smooth gondola improved with each passing cable car tower and we both enjoyed the spectacular scenery that opened up below us.

We reached the top of Niederhorn in around 12 minutes and exited the gondola to a cool but sunny day. The gentle breeze and relatively thin mountain air were the reason we packed our warm weather gear for today’s outdoor activities.

Despite it being a Sunday, the number of people on the mountain was low so we did not have to compete for viewing space at any stage. Indeed, there would have to be a very large number of people on the mountain to stop one achieving time to take a very good look at the spectacular 360 degree views that are on offer from Niederhorn.

We took our time to walk around the area near the cable car terminus and we enjoyed the wonderful views on offer. The sun continued to warm the mountains and this mean that the cloud base continued to rise. More and more of the alps began to reveal themselves as the morning turned into afternoon and we enjoyed capturing the sights on offer.

From Niederhorn you take in 360 degree views for miles around. Views of lakes, mountains, valleys and distance towns are available from this 6000′ plus mountain top and all of the sights are spectacular.

All Paths Lead To?

In winter Niederhorn is a ski paradise. In summer it is a hiker and paraglider paradise. Indeed, it seemed that for every hiker on the mountain there was a least one or more paragliders. The Princess and I enjoyed spending time watching the paragliding fanatics prepare their rigs, don their warm flight suits and helmets and then negotiate the fickle winds before launching themselves off the slopes of Niederhorn.

We didn’t count the number of paragliders in the air over the Interlaken region but, suffice to say, there were dozens of them. The brightly colored wings stood out against the white snowcapped mountains and green forests and filled the sky like prehistoric flocks of birds soaring above some prey below.

We opted to hike back down to Schmocken so, after spending time near the summit of Niederhorn we made our way along the well trodden hiking paths to the village way below.

Our progress was slow because we couldn’t take more than a few steps before stopping to photograph another beautiful scene or some beautiful spring wildflowers that were blooming on the exposed parts of the mountain.

We were also fortunate to see some of the mountain’s wild goats albeit that they were not too keen to stick around for photos.

The number of hikers crossing the mountain’s hiking paths thinned out as we moved further down the mountain – all of them taking one of many different routes that are available on the mountain. Young and old alike venture out here in Switzerland and make the most of the excellent hiking available here. Some people are in a hurry and some, like us are just taking in the many distant views and natural beauty on offer.

Our trip back down the mountain took around 5 hours (from the time we left the cable car terminus area) and the “quoted ” time is around 2 hours 30 minutes. However, we were not in a hurry and the sun doesn’t set here until around 9.00pm at this time of the year.

On our way back down we passed by a farm house and spent time talking with the manager of the small but productive farm. He was managing the farm on behalf of a large Swiss co-op and he was happy to answer the many questions we had for him. This “large” farm (with about 30 head of dairy cows and 12 pigs) produced cream, milk, cheese and ham for Alp. It seems that 30 head of dairy cows in these parts is a substantial farm indeed.

As we descended the mountain the tree line was obvious and we left the wide open grass fields and prolific wildflowers and entered into darker pine forests with lush undergrowth.

The hiking paths we took crossed wet open areas before re-entering small forests and they also meandered around steep drop offs and under towering overhangs. Very spectacular.

Despite having a map, the signs on the trail didn’t really indicate that we were heading in the right direction but we were content with enjoying the beautiful views that were offered from our high vantage point.

We eventually left the higher areas of the wooded landscape and descended toward one of the many villages located below us.

Our knees were not happy with us as we made our way down into one of the villages. Indeed, if we had to hike downhill for much longer we would have had to have made a stop and give the knees a break.

Around 5.15pm we arrived in one of the small villages in the Beatenberg area (so small that we couldn’t find it on a map) and went in search of a bus stop. The buses here run every hour and, as it turned out, the next one was due through this town around 5.29pm.

Delicate Mountain Dwellers

Like a Swiss watch, the bus rolled into town and stopped to pick us up. Our accommodation voucher allows us to travel for free on the buses in the Beatenburg area so, on boarding, we showed the friendly driver our voucher and took our first comfortable seat since dining at breakfast! Our knees, backs and bums were very thankful indeed.

The bus stopped a few meters from Hotel Gloria so after a short walk we were back “home” and ready for a late afternoon treat. We did not eat lunch however we did have a banana and some trail mix – not bad going for over 5 hours of hiking.

The friendly staff at Gloria welcomed us when we walked through the door and were happy to serve us a nice hot latte and a delightful plum and apple slice. Like all the food here at Gloria, the slice was excellent.

We drank our coffee outside on the balcony overlooking the alps – a nice way to finish our day of outdoor activity here in the Jungfrau area.

When we returned to the room I ran The Princess a warm bubble bath and she happily lowered herself into the deep bathtub. Indeed, as I took some time to update our website, I didn’t hear a sound from her from around 20 minutes. She definitely enjoyed relaxing after the long day of hiking.

When The Princess had had her fill of relaxing I too spent time giving my muscles a treat in the warm water.

We made an 8.00pm reservation in the restaurant for dinner so after our long baths we changed into some non-hiking gear and made our way down for another sumptuous feed. The Princess dined on a beautifully prepared piece of salmon and I rapidly downed a lovely Thai green curry. Despite not having lunch we could not finish the ample meals that Bernhard and his team prepared for us.

Bernhard came out of the kitchen and spent time talking to us about our day and giving us some more tips on other attractions in and around Interlaken. Indeed, tomorrow (our last day here) we will follow Bernhard’s suggestion of taking a paddle steamer trip on the lake and visit an beautiful old hotel that is located near a waterfall. We will let you know how it goes in tomorrow’s blog.

Until tomorrow – Ciao!

Reclining Beauty
[Map]
Cheese Protector
[Map]
Minimal Fencing
[Map]
Mountain Smiles
[Map]
Winging Above The Eiger
[Map]
Tread Carefully
[Map]

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Seeing The Boden At Bregenz

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Seeing The Boden At Bregenz

Bregenz, Egg

Location – Austria

We had quite a sleepless night last night because The Princess was up most of the night coughing. She contracted a bug over the past week and it came to a bit of head over the past 24 hours. Today was the day to find a doctor and sort it out before it worsened.

The weather was rather inclement when we woke up so we were not in a particular hurry to depart the hotel (other than finding a doctor) so we took our time to ready ourselves before heading down for something to eat.

We enjoyed a very nice breakfast in the hotel’s dining room – a comprehensive “spread” that provided us with a good start to the day.

The daughter of one of the owners (Anna Marie) introduced herself while we were eating breakfast and we really enjoyed talking with her about her background and learning more about the local area. She is a perfect host and we appreciated the time she took to help us learn more about the region.

After breakfast we asked Anna Marie (the hotel manager) where the nearest doctor was and she directed us to the Ganthaler clinic just on the edge of town. We sorted ourselves out and headed off for an “walk in” appointment.

The waiting room was full when we arrived (around 11.30) so we didn’t get into see the doctor until close to 12.30. The staff spoke excellent English and we were processed very efficiently once we were called into see the doctor.

Plated Entry

Dr Ganthaler, an emergency medical specialist, was very thorough with his examination of The Princess. He took some blood and, before long, we learned that she had a serious bacterial infection in her body (probably in the lung cavities). Within about 15 minutes The Princess was having an intravenous injection of antibiotic and some steroid treatment. The doctor didn’t want to take any chances with the bug and was determined to get it under control quickly. The Princess spent about 30 minutes in the treatment room under the expert care of Arthur (the specialist paramedic) and then Dr Ganthaler. The treatment was completed around 1.30pm and we left the very well appointed clinic with a bag full of antibiotics and some natural remedies too. The Princess was feeling 100% better after the injection of antibiotic and steroids and we headed off to Bregenz for lunch.

The drive into Bregenz takes around 45 minutes and the road into the small city winds its way through some beautiful little towns and alongside of towering mountains. The low clouds were hugging the tall mountains and rising from the lush green valleys and this made the scenery appear very mystical.

We stopped in the small town of Egg (that’s right – Egg) for an early afternoon coffee and a locally baked delight before continue our drive into Bregenz. Shortly after leaving Egg we saw a sign for the town of Hard and we were wondering if this is where Hard boiled Eggs originated from!

Our wonderful talking GPS made light work of guiding us into the city center and to an undercover parking area that was conveniently located near the main plaza of the old town.

It was raining lightly as we exited the car park and started our walk around the historic streets of Bregenz – an Austrian city located on the Bodensee (or, in English, Lake Constance). It has some lovely historic buildings and a beautiful water front.

Despite the light rain we persisted with our photography and video efforts and managed to get some reasonable photos between the showers.

After a short stroll through the city’s outdoor malls we made our way down to the Boden See shorefront and took in the misty views of the lake across to the German side of the lake. We were able to sense the beauty of the lake and enjoyed strolling along the treelined pathway.

It was around 3.30pm when we decided to eat lunch and we chose a lovely restaurant located on the waterfront. We chose to eat inside Wortshaus Amsee even though there was very good outdoor covers – The Princess didn’t need to sit in the cool air today!

We chose a tuna fish salad and a cream of tomato soup for lunch and, even though that choice sounded rather plain, the servings were certainly not. The tuna was mixed with a delightful balsamic vinegar dressing and full of black olives. The soup was full of croutons that melted in our mouths. Mmmmm. Another gastronomic feast that was complimented by the wonderful waitresses that helped us to learn some more German – “E Zut Deer Wreck Nung” (not the German spelling but it is how is sounds to us). It should translate to: “I would like the bill please”. Any advise from the German readers would be appreciated!

Wounded Warrior

Our waterfront stroll continued after lunch. As we walked a short distance to the sight of the spectacular Bregenzer Festspiele water stage we thought our eyes were deceiving us when we saw three naked men swimming in the Bodensee. It took us a few glances to realise that they were indeed naked. Two things that were surprising about this scene – 1. It must have been very cold in the water and 2. No one seemed to be too concerned about three grown men “mooning” in the shallow water beside the busy waterfront pathway. I guess there wasn’t too much to look at because their combined anatomies must have been rather shriveled up in the cold water!!

We approached the very impressive Bregenzer Festspiele stage and readied our cameras and videos with a view to capture this wonderful sight. We learned that the stages change every two years and, during summer, are the pride of the Bregenzer Festspiele.

The festival has been running since 1946 and, as it turned out, we met an elderly gentleman that had worked on the festival as a stage hand when he was 18. This lovely Swiss man and his wife were visiting Bregenz to check out the construction of this year’s stage (a new one). He shared the story of the Bregenz Festspeile and explained the theme of this year’s production – an opera about one of the main characters responsible for the French revolution.

The Bregenz tour continued after we left very impressive waterfront although we quickly realised that we had seen the highlights of the town. With the rain increasing and the highlights of Bregenz covered we returned to the shopping centre where our car was parked. We planned to relax with a bit of retail therapy however, the shops were closing (it was approaching 6.00pm) so we returned to the car and set off for our accommodation in Au.

On the drive out of Bregenz we stopped off at a small shopping village on the outskirts of town and bought some fruit, salami and cheese and fresh rolls for tonight’s light dinner.

The trip back to Au took us around 40 minutes (it always seems quicker to drive a road again after driving it for the first time) and we arrived back at Hotel Alpenrose around 7.30pm. Anna Marie was still working the front desk when we walked into the hotel (a long day indeed for her) and was most interested in how our day went and, of course, how The Princess was feeling. Staying in a family run hotel makes you feel like you are a part of the family – particularly here in Austria where the people are so very friendly and welcoming. A wonderful country on so many levels!

We are planning an early evening tonight. The Princess is feeling 200% now and she is looking forward to a solid sleep tonight.

Tomorrow we are aiming to visit the tiny nation of Liechtenstein and the Swiss town of St Gallen so we want to have a reasonably early start. Early starts mean early finishes and this is tonight’s plan.

We look forward to reporting on tomorrow’s activities when we return from our three country tour tomorrow evening.

Smoken In Bregenz
[Map]
Waiting For Summer
[Map]
The Death Of A Revolutionary
[Map]
Bregenz Water Dragon
[Map]
Spring Goslings
[Map]
Scrambled, Fried or Boiled?
[Map]

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Plan B, Pretentious Clothes, Plane Ride, Precarious Driving and Princess’ Pictures

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Plan B, Pretentious Clothes, Plane Ride, Precarious Driving and Princess’ Pictures

Cernobbio

Location – Italy

We are using our iPad for our alarm and the chime is set to “church bells”. Well, this morning we woke to the constant sound of church bells ringing and thought it would reset to a sleep mode. However, the bells kept ringing. Eventually I opened the iPad to turn off the alarm only to find that it wasn’t chiming at all. The culprit was the chapel’s bells in the street next to our hotel. We learned later that they were sounding “market day” here in Cernobbio. A beautiful way to wake to another day here in Italy!

Unfortunately, for those selling their wares at the market, today is rather inclement and we gather that this will keep the crowds down. The Princess and I are up for the challenge though so we are about to don our rain jackets and borrow the hotel “brollies” and go in search of some local produce. When in Rome ( or in this case Cernobbio) do as the Romans would do – attend the local markets.

Retail Therapy

Happy to report that we ended up about as wet as the ducks that call Lake Como home. All the hotel umbrellas were gone when we went downstairs so we braved the heavy downpour with our rain jackets. Our top part stayed dry but our feet and pants were not so lucky. However, it was nice to support the local farmers and to see some of their wonderful produce.

The rain seemed like it was going to set in for the day so we decided to bring Plan B into action (we didn’t actually have a Plan A) and spend some time indoors at the Fox Town outlet stores just over the border in Switzerland. We packed our passports and brushed off the wallet and headed back out into the rain.

I left The Princess in the hotel whilst I found the chivalry in me and walked to the parking spot and picked up the car. 1 x happy Princess!

I typed the Fox Town address into the GPS and pushed “drive to” and before long we were on our way to Switzerland – our first visit to this country.

The short drive took about 20 minutes and we didn’t get asked for our passports as we crossed the border. We arrived in Fox Town just after it opened and spent a couple of hours wandering around the cavernous interior of this “high end” outlet store on steroids.

The Princess did purchase a beautiful top in one of the stores but we both agreed that whilst the colors were quite spectacular neither of us were taken by the “Euro” look. However, we did have a lot of fun picking out some outfits and shoes that we would be proud to wear to an swinging 60′s party!

Lakeside Luncheon

The weather had lifted quite a bit by the time we exited the mall so we decided to head back toward Como and find a place to have lunch. As we approached the now familiar western shoreline of Lake Como we remembered a place that we walked past on the day we arrived. It is called N’Joy and is located right on the waterfront near Como. It seemed like we were the only people that were eating at this time of the day so we selected a waterfront table for two and settled in for a delightful mid afternoon meal.

Italian Delight

We shared a sumptuous saffron cream sauce gnocchi and some excellent bruschetta and complimented it with another delightfully refreshing white Italian wine. We both agree that this is a lifestyle we could very easily become accustomed to.

On leaving the restaurant we learned how to ask for the bill in Italian (but have now forgotten) and set off in the direction of the Como seaplane base.

While sitting at lunch I decided that the weather was perfect for taking a flight in a seaplane. Cool temperatures, light winds, smooth water and not many people meant that today was the day to go flying.

Scenery From A Seaplane

Our trusty “surfer dude” GPS guy negotiated the tight backstreets perfectly and before long we were talking to the friendly aero club staff about taking a flight. As predicted, there was no line up so we confirmed a “slot time” and returned to the hotel to pick up the video camera.

We didn’t have to wait too long for the plane to arrive back at the dock from the previous flight. Pietro, our pilot, introduced himself and escorted us to the Cessna 172 floating at the dock and “saddled” us up for our first seaplane ride.

Pietro, an experienced seaplane pilot, fired up the engine and taxied out to the takeoff area just off the shores of Como. He made sure the other planes were clear of the departure path, made his ATC call (in Italian) then opened up the throttle. It took a while for the little plane to “get up on the step” but when it did the ride became very smooth. We lifted clear of the water and into the afternoon sky and started a smooth climb over the lake and north toward Bellagio.

Seeing the lake and the lakeside villages from the air was beautiful. Having a bird’s eye view of some of the incredible villas and stunning mountains gave us a new appreciation of just how spectacular this place is. I took a lot of video while The Princess snapped away from the back seat. However, we took plenty of time to get out from behind the cameras and take in the views from the cockpit. What a great experience.

Over The Lake

Our return flight to Bellagio took around 30 minutes and fortunately, the prevailing winds meant that we had to approach over the city of Como before lining up for a landing to the north. Seeing the city from the air was a real bonus.

Our first water landing was very smooth and our smiles said it all – a fantastic flight over one of the world’s most beautiful places on a smooth and clear afternoon. “Bravo” Pietro!

Mountain Driving – Craziness

While were were dining at N’Joy we looked up to a mountaintop on the eastern shore of the lake directly opposite where we were dining and saw a tower/lookout. We asked the waiter the name of the place and he told us it was St Maurizo. We decided that we would pay a visit to this place if we could find our way up there.

The GPS map didn’t show us the exact location however we saved a place that looked close and “asked” surfer dude to take us there. Well, what an experience. In the manually geared Ford we negotiated our way up the precarious one-way roads and avoided banging car bits with the expert local drivers that seem to be in training for the Monaco F1! We now completely understand why they drive around in tiny little cars of all makes and models – because you can’t get past anything else!

I am happy to report that we found St Maurizo despite having reservations about our sanity. In reality, we couldn’t turn around anywhere so we just had to keep going.

The view from the lookout at St Maurizo was spectacular. This “lighthouse” tower is named after A. Volta – the renowned Italian inventor of the battery. We looked down over the lake and all the way to the west and north west into Switzerland and right down to our hotel. We watched the seaplanes take off and land way below us and enjoyed the late afternoon sun rays piercing the clouds and illuminating the rolling hills that define the landscape to the south of Como. Another “wow” moment or two.

The trip back down the mountain was no less exciting however, we knew what to expect this time around so we were not so surprised when we had to back up at some of the impossible U turns and let other traffic through.

Shopping For Dinner

When we arrived back in Como we decided to pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy on our hotel balcony. We settled on a Carrefour supermarket and had fun working out the names of things to buy. Of course we couldn’t just buy some wine, so we circumnavigated the store in search of a variety of food and other items before being asked to hurry up because the store was closing!

To make matters more interesting, when we arrived at the check out, we hadn’t weighed our fruit so we had to get the assistance of another customer to weigh and mark our groceries. The store manager was not happy with us – his look said it all! The Princess did her best to cheer him up but his face seemed incapable of smiling.

Day’s End Balcony Style

We are now settled on our balcony in our room. It has just gone 10.00pm and the church bells reminded us with their beautiful sounding chimes. We have reviewed some of the photos that we took today and laughed at some of the experiences we had on this fantastic third day in Italy. What a Plan B it turned out to be.

Ciao!

Market Day and Retail Therapy
[Map]
Water Cub
[Map]
Lago Di Como From The Air
[Map]
Smooth As Silk
[Map]
On Finals To Splashdown
[Map]
Volta’s Monument
[Map]

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Location – White Rock, Canada

Thursday, April 1st, 2010
Location – White Rock, Canada

The good Aussie red wine that we consumed last night ensured that we slept well.  Indeed, we didn’t surface until around 10.00am and we could have stayed in bed longer.

However, with the weather forecast showing another hot, clear summer day in Vancouver we organised ourselves and left the hotel around midday.

White Rock (the area Gary lives in) is a wonderful town located on the Semiahoo Bay and it is very popular with the Vancouverites – particularly in summer and even more so when it is hot.

Today White Rock (http://www.whiterockonline.com/) was rather busy.  Holiday makers, school holiday kids, and “beautiful people” made up the majority of what was a substantial increase in the local population.

After parking the truck we walked along the beachfront before settling on a place for brunch – Tracycakes Bakery Cafe (http://www.tracycakesonline.com/).  We ate outdoors under an awning and soaked up the sunshine.  We each had a tasty sandwich and some nice cool drinks and enjoyed the “people watching” opportunities.

After lunch we took a short stroll along the pier before returning to the car and taking a drive around the streets of White Rock.  The town is home to some very nice real estate and it reminded me a little of where my father and sister live in Australia.

Gary was keen to spend some time with us this afternoon so we arrived at his house around 3.00pm and enjoyed some time chatting about his home renovation.  We all agreed that he could do with an air-conditioner given the fact that the temperature was hovering close to 33 degrees C.

On a previous visit to Gary’s he treated me to a feed of King Crab (http://www7.taosnet.com/platinum/data/species/crabking.html) and I had raved about it to The Princess and so she was very keen to try some while we were in Vancouver.

Gary needed to purchase some crab and other assorted goodies for tonight’s meal so we took a drive to the nearby Superstore – super being an understatement! While Gary and The Princess walked around looking for various items I walked around in amazement.  The size of this shop was something to see and I am still amazed at the thought of it.

Gary is a bit of a flight simulator fan and he recently purchased some new toys (flat screen monitors and a new control yoke) to improve his simulation.  He wanted me to help him out with some flying tips and to configure the new equipment.  Gary poured me some very nice red wine and I settled into some flying lessons and computer configuration changes.  We had a lot of fun flying a variety of aircraft types and making the new equipment work correctly.

After a couple of hours of “flying” Gary and Leah prepared the evening meal (King Crab and salad) and we all sat down to an excellent meal.  The Princess’ loved her first King Crab feast and we all agreed that we needed to do it all over again when we were back in Vancouver.

With bags to pack and a long trip to Hong Kong ahead of us tomorrow we  left Gary and Leah around 10.30pm and returned to the hotel.

A hot day by the beach complemented by an excellent seafood meal and some more Aussie red wine.  Fantastic.

We hope you are making the most of your winter or summer in your part of the world.  Life is for living and we hope you are doing just that.

Roey and The Princess

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Location – Seattle, USA

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Location – Seattle, USA

Seattle Needle

Climbing out of the very comfortable bed at the Ramada was rather difficult this morning.  However, we had slept well and our body clocks were up for the challenge of starting the day.

We dined in the room (used up the last of our supplies), showered, packed and departed the hotel around 11.15am.  We would highly recommend the Ramada in Abbotsford if you are ever need accommodation in Abbotsford.

Before attempting to cross the border back in to the US we value added to our share portfolio by purchasing a morning “heart starter” at Starbucks.  In this time of global downturn we figure that we need to support our own shares and the economy so why not buy where we invest!

We crossed the border at the Abbotsford/Sumas crossing (http://www.borderlineups.com/cam.php?CamID=2) – a short drive from the Ramada.

Now, because my departure card had not been taken when I last departed the US we thought the crossing was going to be a bit of a chore.  However, after the standard “grilling” we were processed efficiently and given some advice on future departure card “management” ie. I didn’t need to go through all the hassle of returning my departure card in Calgary – I could have held onto it until I finally left North America or even held onto it until I returned to Hong Kong!!  Ah – the joys of not being told this earlier.

With the crossing behind us we pointed the nose of the truck south and headed off toward Seattle.  After a couple of miles we were wondering why we had to travel so slowly and why other cars were overtaking us.  The reason?  Well, we were still traveling in km/h and they were traveling at mph!!  It didn’t take us too many miles to work it out and soon we were traveling at the correct speed!

After crossing into the US we passed through some beautiful farming country around the town of Sumas (http://cityofsumas.homestead.com/).

The Cascade mountain range (http://www.gonorthwest.com/Washington/cascades/Cascades_wa.htm) borders the area to the south east and the snow capped mountains provided a beautiful backdrop to the lush green market garden fields.  Ah – cruising America.

We joined Interstate 5 (http://www.i5washington.com/) heading south toward Seattle and opened up the valves on the V8 engine as the speed limit increased to 70 mph.  The i5 passed through some beautiful areas of spruce trees and lakes near Bellingham (http://www.bellingham.org/) and Lake Samish (http://www.bellingham.net/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=101) then opened up into sparsely vegetated land around Burlington and Everett.

Although the roads were busy (weekend traffic) we enjoyed driving on the 5 lane freeway.

We stopped off in Everett (the home of Boeing commercial aircraft company – http://www.boeing.com) for some lunch before continuing our trip to Seattle (a short 20 minute drive from Everett).

We arrived at the Embassy Suites (http://embassysuites1.hilton.com/en_US/es/hotel/SEABLES-Embassy-Suites-Seattle-Bellevue-Washington/index.do) in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue around 3.00pm and checked into our delightful room for a two night stay.  The Embassy Suites are a part of the Hilton group of hotels and this one was impressive.  Again, we would highly recommend staying here if you are visiting Seattle.

Bellevue is a lovely suburb located about 15 minutes from downtown Seattle (http://www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/) and the hotel is located close to the major arterial roads running through Seattle – a nice find.

After a short break in the room we enquired about “things to do” around Bellevue and we were told that the annual Bellevuefest (http://www.bellevuefest.org/) was being held in the nearby Bellevue mall area.  So, with information in hand we drove through the beautiful streets of Bellevue and arrived at the Bellevue Square (http://www.bellevuesquare.com/)around 10 minutes later.  We both agreed that Seattle was having a impact on us – it is a beautiful city that is so well presented and esthetically pleasing.  Definitely a place we would return to and recommend.

The artists fair was very impressive – a great collection of arts various.  The quality of the work and the diversity was something to see.  It is a good thing we don’t live in a bigger apartment because we would have come back with some really wonderful pieces.

We complimented our visit to the fair with a look around the rather large mall before we stopped off for an afternoon brew at Starbucks.  Apparently Starbucks supports the local artists. Indeed, if any employees are artists, they are allowed to present their wares in store.  Today, there was a gentleman named Larry that was displaying his photographs in the store.  Larry and his wife (Jill) spend part of the year in and around Tuscany, Italy and they combine their love of all things Italian with their passions – photography, Italian food and wine.  What a great way to live!  We spent quite a lot of time talking to Larry about his photography, Italy and his involvement in the film Madison (http://www.trulymovingpictures.org/movie-view.aspx?id=94).  You can check out Larry’s site at: http://www.fotoitaliana.com

After leaving the Bellevue mall we returned to the hotel and dined in the hotel restaurant (Cascades Grill).  We shared a lovely meal of soup and salad and enjoyed the excellent service from Lorraine.  A nice way to end the day.

We “retired” to our bed around 11.00pm and fell asleep rather quickly.

Goodnight from NW USA.

Roey and The Princess

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Lamma Island

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Lamma Island

Lamma Island is one of the larger islands that makes up the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).  It is located a few miles to the west of Hong Kong island – a short trip by ferry.

The island is home to a quite a few expatriates and local Hong Kong Chinese.  It is also home to a very large power station and Hong Kong’s first wind farm.

The Princess and I travelled from Discovery Bay to Central (located on Hong Kong island) where we changed ferries and took the short 20 minute ferry ride to the port of Yung Shue Wan.  This small port services the largest (read very small) village on Lamma Island so the ferry was quite busy.

We arrived on Lamma just after midday and took a look around the village before settling on a place to eat lunch.  The quaint little restaurant called “The Deli Lamma” by the water had a good menu and The Princess and I settled on a lovely chicken curry and some juice.  We enjoyed sitting in the shade beside the water and watching the fishermen come and go.  The food was very tasty and we enjoyed a long, relaxed lunch before continuing our tour of the small village.

We walked through the narrow streets and took in some of the atmosphere of this quite alternative little haven.  I think a lot of the pre ‘97 expatriates have called Lamma Island their home for quite some years.  It certainly has a very laid back pace and seems like a good place for someone who wishes to check out of the mainstream Hong Kong lifestyle.  We imagine that it is quite cheap to live on Lamma (relatively speaking) and not a place you have to leave if you can etch out a living there.

You can hike from one side of Lamma to the other via a well trodden path (sealed all the way) and this was our main aim for the day.  And so, with lunch suitably settled we set of on a very leisurely pace across the island.

It was public holiday in Hong Kong so there were a lot of people on the pathway.  The sound of excited children and adults filled the air and made us feel like we were in some sort of moving street carnival.  Always fun.

The day was quite warm (considering it is late Autumn) so we made sure we kept hydrated on the way.  The path is covered by lovely think foliage in a lot of areas so we were able to keep out of the sun for quite a bit of the walk.

About half way across the island the pathway enters a small beachside area on Sai Tso Wan Bay and today it was rather packed with desperate Hong Kong locals and expatriates trying to get that last bit of tan before winter sets in.  I personally wouldn’t put my big toe in the water around Hong Kong but some people seem oblivious to the toxic content of the water around this place.  The “big ocean” concept must be fixed in their minds.  Anyway – they seemed to be enjoying themselves and that is what counts.

Close to the beachside area there was a lovely little herb garden and cafe.  The Princess and I enjoyed looking around the garden and taking in some of the wonderful local and imported herbs.  The garden is organically grown and seemed to be very popular.  We wondered what other type of herbs they grew considering Lamma is a bit of an alternative place to reside.

From the herb garden we continued on our walk along the path and toward the Picnic Bay village of Sok Kwu Wan.  The pathway wound up a slight hill before cresting.  The lookout from the top of the hill was very picturesque and we enjoyed the opportunity to take in the views of Hong Kong Island, the shipping channels and the bays around Lamma Island.  Hong Kong is quite a spectacular place to see from hiking trails.

Just before the pathway enters the Sok Kwu Wan village it passes the Tin Hau Temple.  We enjoyed taking quite a few photo’s around the temple area.  As with a lot of Asian cultural buildings it was very colourful and fascinating to photograph.

Our journey across Lamma finished at the Sok Kwu Wan village and, although the restaurants in this village looked like a wonderful place to eat we were not really hungry so we waited patiently with the crowds for the next ferry back to Hong Kong Island.

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long and before we knew it we were on our way back to Central.  The sun was setting during the ferry ride – a nice way to end our day on Lamma.

We would certainly recommend a day trip to Lamma for anyone visiting Hong Kong.  We will certainly go back and take in some of the dining available at Sok Kwu Wan and we will post a blog when we do.

We trust that you enjoyed our short report on our day trip to Lamma and we hope you enjoy the photo’s too.

Roey and The Princess

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