I'm a sucker for a chihuahua
In the Belém district, Lisbon, Portugal. March 2013.

Last week, I noticed a dear friend linked here and realized how much time elapsed and how I should do something about that. I decided to save my next post for the one-year mark.

One year ago today, I was deep in preparation for a potential move to London. We were waiting on visas and approvals and getting lives in order to step away from Seattle for 6 months. I feared all that work would be for naught and braced myself for disappointment, but I shouldn’t have. Everything panned out as hoped.

Actually, better than hoped — I fell completely head over heels in love with London. Before we left, I thought it would be just another big city and I’d get my fill, have an adventure, and we’d be done with it. I intended to cover it online, but early on, realized I wanted to devote less time to sitting behind a screen and more time taking advantage of the good luck to be there. I saw it as the Study Abroad experience I pined for as a young adult, but never got to have in college. I set out to make myself an expert and explore everything. My strategy worked out. I’ve never been as content with where I was living and what I was doing on a daily basis. With just C & I in our tiny yet mind-boggingly expensive flat, I felt at home. I never took for granted that my local bus took me past Whitehall, Westminster, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, straight to Trafalgar Square. I remember walking the 3 blocks home from Pimlico station one blustery London January day, fighting the wind but realizing how alive my mind finally felt and how happy I was, just existing. In a January, in London! There was no S.A.D. this Winter. It was a charmed time and I’m grateful I was able to be appreciative while the getting was good.

*clap* *clap*
In Camden Locks Market. It made me want to drop my bags and clap. I should’ve bought this, as I never saw it again.

With our visas finished and work projects handled, we returned to Seattle on Easter Sunday. I’m totally upfront about this: I fretted & braced myself to come down from that high. Resettlement went easier than I expected thanks to good friends. Mother Nature seriously cooperated with Seattle this year, making up for all those prior cold & lame Summers. Well done, PacNW. You’re alright.

Sometimes, an image will float by and I feel like I miss England like someone cut a piece out of my heart. But if I learned nothing else there, it’s that there will always be London. And like life in general, there will probably never be enough time there for me. So, I’m just getting on with it.

I don't know how I feel about this fortune. More details, please.

This August finds me in another stage of preparation — we are expecting a baby girl in early December. Just like last year, I’m full of lists and plans and looking around at how I can take advantage of remaining free time and how I can prepare for change. This hasn’t been without a few speed bumps. (The day after a hospital visit, I took the fortune picture just above this paragraph. I was not sure what to make of it.) But we can talk about that later.

I miss writing online, outside of social media. While I suspect the ship has sailed for blogging styles of the past, at least, the parts I’ve loved in the past — I haven’t closed the book completely yet. In the last 18 months, I’ve experienced so many adventures. I have had a ball. I flip through photos on my hard drive, tracking down tips to pass along to friends traveling to places I’ve been, and I get excited all over again. I still can’t believe I’ve been able to see so much. I still want to share it somewhere, where I’m not limited to 140 characters or sketchy FB user agreements. I hope to pull it off somehow. I hope some friends will stick around while I muddle through the creative process.

In the meantime, I hope you’ve been well.

 

Sunset, Golden Gardens. #letspretendthishappened
Last night, Golden Gardens, Seattle

Hey y’all!

How ya goin? (That’s a little Aussie for you.)

As you can see, my posting here lapsed as I was trying to figure out what to do in the wake of returning from an epic journey. I’m still not 100% sure how I’m going to relay the adventure, but I decided to move forward with the original spirit of this site and post a highlight a day. You should see posts appearing below this one, as I catch up. I’ll start with Australia and China…

Wish me luck as I sort the year-so-far out.

 

Bondi Beach
Before my trip, a Seattle concierge told me he’d lived in Sydney in college and if there’s one thing I must do in the area, it was the Bondi Beach to Coogee Walk. This is a 6 KM coastal cliffwalk from popular Bondi that takes you past Tamarama, Bronte Beach, and gives you great views of Gordon’s Bay. We used our hop-on/off bus to get us out there and back, but we trekked the footpath length on our own biped power.

Today really taught me how great Sydney-siders have it. Mr. T & I couldn’t think of another international city with such close proximity to sparkling beaches and pleasant weather. We were thrilled with all this sunshine!

Bondi
Bondi Beach Street Art

Gordon's Bay
Walking past Gordon’s Bay

Tamarama Beach
Tamarama Beach

We refueled midway at The Bogey Hole Cafe (mostly unmemorable). Except, I did find the Door to Narnia nearby:
I found the door to Narnia!

We followed our morning of walking with a visit to yesterday’s find in Chinatown’s Eating World: Gumshara Ramen. This was the thickest, fattiest broth I’ve ever come across, but that ramen sure was memorably delicious. The chef onsite offered to thin it down to our preferences. While I’m not scared of fat like I was way back in my teen years, I did need to go back once to him to balance the broth. Then, it was perfect.

Gumshara Ramen

Gumshara Ramen on Urbanspoon

More to come for March 14th: Sydney Harbour Bridge walk.

 

Aussie Pie at Cafe de Wheels
An old family friend relocated to Sydney a decade ago. In her advice, she suggested we take a hop-on/hop-off bus tour around the city to familiarize ourselves with the hoods. We were jet-lagged and this sounded easy, so we went for it. Plus, one of the routes would be a massive logistics help and time-saver for reaching Bondi Beach (tomorrow).

Today, we rode the entire main route with a few detours. This ride itself took hours longer than they advertise, but as suggested, it gave us the overview we needed to approach the rest of our week-and-a-half in and around Sydney. It was much easier to sort out public transport after today.

We took our first detour at Woolloomooloo for Harry’s Cafe de Wheels for Aussie Pies (pictured above). We ordered Harry’s Tiger: the house special with beef pie served with mushy peas, mash & gravy. Great lunch! And they had their food truck-style dining going long before American hipsters did.

Harry's Cafe de Wheels on Urbanspoon

Shiok, Sydney Chinatown

Later, we took another detour at Chinatown for laksa at Eating World’s food court’s Singapore Shiok. Mr. T seriously loved his laksa and asked if we could just eat this from here on out. The portions were so large, we only needed to share one bowl. It was a delicious, cheap meal — so budget-friendly yet satisfying for poor Americans suffering from sad exchange rates.

(I emphasize this rate situation a lot, but after expecting the Euro or the ruble to make me feel poorest, it was a shock to discover the most disadvantageous rates would be in Australia! You get what you pay for though, and the place is so lovely while being functional and overwhelmingly friendly that it’s worth every penny. Aussies give US Southerners a run for their hospitality trophies.)

Singapore Shiok!* on Urbanspoon

After a disco nap, we ventured out to Pocket Bar and Shady Pines Saloon. These two bars are within a short walk from each other in Darlinghurst.

Pocket Bar - Sydney
At Pocket, as basil was in season, it needed to show up in my glass. On par with the best cocktail spots in the US.
Pocket Bar on Urbanspoon

Shady Pines Saloon
At Shady Pines Saloon, we were greeted by steers. This place is an amazing slice of Texas situated in central-ish Sydney. We ordered a House Special, before we wrapped up our night:
Shady Pines' Special
Shady Pines Saloon on Urbanspoon

More photos from Sydney: here.

 

With Mr. at the Opera House
Mr. T arrived to meet me today! I showed him my extensive learnings of the gardens the day before, with a special stop above the Opera House and harbor/harbour.

Malay Chinese Takeaway

We also found his favorite dish–laksa–at Malay-Chinese Takeaway. It’s an excellent yet delicious choice for Americans suffering from a poor exchange rate.

Malay Chinese Takeaway on Urbanspoon

Stitch Bar

We settled our evening at Stitch. Try the Little Miss Sunshine, if you can, at Stitch. Right up my alley with ginger, chili, rum, lime, and vanilla sugar.

Stitch on Urbanspoon

More photos from Sydney: here.

 

More in the trees
For my first day in Sydney, I spent extra time in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Highly recommended, easy to access from The Rocks and CBD, free, and boasts waterfront and wildlife views. This place will make you fall in love with the city.

More photos from Sydney: here.

 

Note to self: stop here for craft time on the layover to Beijing

Things that are grueling: 3 flights in a row to Australia, with two hours separating each leg. Grueling is worthwhile for a select few journeys, and today was one of those.

I started my trek on Alaska Airlines before dawn and switched over to Korean Air in SFO. Did you know that in the domestic terminals at SFO, there are no screens indicating where you should go if you next leg is international? I was not expecting to be disoriented so soon, before I’d ever left the country. I was saving these feelings for Beijing.

In much the same way I approach my life, I just kept moving and asking questions of anyone who held a vague sense of authority or intelligence despite also knowing the answer may never come.

Lucky for me, I found a suitable answer to “Where do I go now?”, one I could live with to get me on my way today. It did involve checking in all over again despite having done so in SEA. (Turns out Alaska is small potatoes and their standard boarding passes are not approved in SFO’s international terminal. This was additional salt in the wound from the night before where AK wouldn’t let me check in, in advance. Hrmph.) Well, whatever, I didn’t complain since I had my eye on a prize on the other side of the TSA: the Air France lounge. I barely had enough time to read the charming coverage of rural Louisiana in the AF mag (EN FRANÇAIS), before heading off to pre-boarding.

As they closed the doors at SFO, I heard the flight attendant tell another traveler that it would be 12 hours to Seoul. WAIT, WHAT? STOP THIS TRAIN I HAVE TO GET OFF.

SFO-Seoul flight time was a detail I hadn’t cared to pay attention to before that moment. This is hilarious when you consider that I’d previewed the layout of my cabin on Google image search and watched videos of the sleeper-chair I’d have and I knew a week ahead what I’d be ordering from the in-flight menu. Bibimbap for lunch, Beef Galbi-Jim for dinner. I guess the flight time never mattered in the overall scheme of things. Then or now, really, cause it was just going to be awhile.

I’m lucky enough to be flying in front cabins for the vast majority of this grand adventure, but the constant movement took its toll nonetheless. As I slogged across Incheon’s airport, I marvelled at how sloppy & underdressed I felt for such a fancy mall.

Korea’s invested quite a bit in this airport — there was a classical singer performing with an audience in one section, and I spied several Korea Traditional Cultural Experience Centers (Naomi had told me about these!). They’ve mostly upstaged Singapore, if you ask me. And if you overlook the archaic security checkpoints where they went so far as to pull batteries out of my camera for closer inspection. Singapore’s too efficient for that nonsense.

Had I not been so exhausted and in need of recharging at the Korean lounge (can you hear the tiny violin?), I would have stopped in the Center pictured above for a little traditional Korean craft time. Crafting! Can you think of anything more soothing before a flight that doesn’t involve a prescription? Next time, Incheon.

 

Around the World route!
I’ve been quiet around here lately, since I was deep in prep for my next big thing: a trip around the world. I’m posting this from the Korean/AirFrance lounge at SFO. Next stop: Seoul, then Sydney. More to come.

Wish me luck!

 

Captain Amy's and K's Baby Q
Two friends recently welcomed their baby girl into the world. They travelled back to Seattle yesterday to introduce her to the gang up North.

 

Winning
Our friend G suggested we head out for trivia last week. We won 4th (pretty good, out of 16 teams), then tried again this week. The rounds were up and down, but in the end: FIRST PLACE!

 

I approve of such long-term projects.
The Baron and I found this picket fence wrapped with roots during our afternoon stroll. I approve of this kind of long-term project.

 

The Baron Surveys Froula Park
I don’t know if the snow ever let up today! Still not sick of it, but a snowy hike seemed like a good preventative measure.

 

Cross-country skiing through Roosie-Ravenna
Late afternoon, I caught cross-country skiers headed down the street.

We’ve had a bit of snow in the Pacific Northwest this week. (It rarely snows.) This may be my first event where I haven’t had anywhere to be — I’ve taken full advantage of it by reading, watching 30 Rock, and so on. It’s very quiet in the city right now, and that may be my favorite part.

 

Seattle Sunset
I’ve lived here nearly 12 years and have never seen a sunset like tonight’s. I was in the very back of the kitchen when I realized the front curtains were glowing.

 

I had The True Burger
My burger of the month gang visited Marjorie. I found $17 to be a bit pricey for a burger with cheese and bacon. However, this was one of my favorites of the last few years we’ve been ISO Seattle’s best burger. Worth it. Special note: they only make 10 burgers per day. When they’re done, that’s all.

We also sampled a number of other dishes — the plantain chips with guacamole/salsa, duck liver mousse, and a prawn/shrimp dish with grits. If you’re into that sort of thing, you definitely should get the mousse (it doesn’t often do much for me but I loved it). I enjoyed pretty much everything we tried which is unusual for BOM. I also left inspired to recreate their harissa ketchup at home. The chef is doing fantastic work at Marjorie.

Marjorie on Urbanspoon

 

To be laminated.
I love it when fortunes confirm the rightness of your plans.

 

Happy 2012
Happy New Year!

 

I decided today I was being unfairly hard on 2011 over the last week, and wanted to compile the highlights of the year in Flickr photos and blog entries. It was a great, albeit lengthy exercise today and certainly gave me better perspective for a momentous year.

Continue reading »

 

Bali Happy
The BaliHappy sign against tonight’s sunset was perfectly placed! Taken while en route to Sanur’s Night Market.

More on that market down the line — first, let’s rewind to morning.

On our little artwalk
We continued our streak of catching the sunrise before a long day of doing nothing on a beach. Today’s bonus feature: our friend B joined us for a post-breakfast stroll along the boardwalk. We took him for a southern jaunt to see tourist boats and the makings of potpourri.

Sanur Beach Boats

How Potpourri is made

I’ll pass over the gajillion pictures I took from my chaise, and skip ahead to:
for lunch, we walked into town with A & B.

Roar!
Rawr!

hey, new villa for rent!
Fancy a villa?

Warung Pregina

My first Kopi Luwak
We lunched at Warung Pregina where I chose the very average Fried Duck Special. Lunch highlight: our first Kopi Luwak. Good, but as worldly Seattle-ites we were simply whelmed by our cups of the supposed most expensive coffee on the planet. B declared the one he ordered in Venice by St. Mark’s was still his priciest ever. (A cup there comes with charges for the band, the seat, and supplemental food.)

I’d like to give a shout-out to Dave Barry, for teaching me cat coffee existed in the first place, way back in ’97. I remember thinking then that this was ridiculous that anyone would ever buy such a thing but in those post-college days, I’d never had coffee before.

Warung Jawa
When I read Lonely Planet’s blurb of the local night market months ago, I knew we’d end up there for dinner. It met all of my hopes — though we were far from the only westerners, there were plenty of locals stopping in for dinner. Some of the dishes we’d been trying in the warungs were easily recognizable here, and ridiculously inexpensive by comparison.

We followed the lead of some locals and picked out some novel offerings, fashioning our own Nasi Campur. Mr. T & I visited Warung Jawa (cart pictured above) for our main meals. After a chat with the affable purveyor, we selected bites from several dishes. These plates were our best meal yet. Our total charge for dinner for two adults: $3.50.

My plate at the night market

Though I knew intellectually that the standard of living here is different, this market is where I began to GET how different Balinese local life is, away from the beachfront. I didn’t grapple with these first thoughts, my place, or how I’d feel about it until tomorrow, when we visited the countryside. Today, I was still in the bubble.

Night Market, Sanur

Night Market, Sanur

The Dessert Cart

 

On the beach, Sanur

In a break from tradition, I was up for sunrise for the second day in a row. This is so unusual for me that I found myself often referring to the sunrises as sunsets whenever we talked about our mornings.

Double Rainbow!!!!!!!
Double Rainbow!!! Before the westside cloud burn-off.

Our friends, A & B, were set to arrive mid-afternoon. We spent all morning in the sun, moving only to walk into town for lunch.

Green Leaf Organic Warung

We found Green Leaf Organic Warung by happenstance, a restaurant west of our hotel by about a 10 minute walk into Sanur. I went for the Ayam Lalapan (fried chicken!) and guess what Mr. T ordered? Nasi Campur! He’s a loyalist, that one.

Fried Chicken - Ayam Goreng Nasi Campur #3

This meal was spectacularly fresh. Happy and well-fed, we walked back to our hotel to discover our friends had arrived and set up camp on the beach. I ordered celebratory Coconut Juice, with extra limes. Like all the watermelon juice I’ve been ordering for breakfast, this made me feel particularly detoxified. And also very very full. There’s a lot in that coconut.

Coconut Milk!

We put in more beach reading time before another serendipitous find for dinner at Rasa Senang.

Beef Rendang
I would later put in good effort hunting for fantastic Beef Rendang again.

We took a post-prandial stroll to the grocery for aloe vera, lotion, and more SPF 50. Some of us are real white and burned through all our sunscreen in two days. Locals even expressed concern about my SPF strength, in between solicitations for mani/pedis. Their comments strengthened my resolve to try to stay as pale as possible and not be silly and try to tan which NEVER EVER EVER works for me.

I missed sections, as you do, so at the store I bought lotion along with the SPF. The next day I discovered a key ingredient in the English Translation of the lotion was “skin whitening.” This explains why the salesgirl giggled a lot when she escorted me to the register. Girl, I’d giggle too if I was selling that kind of body creme to the whitest lady I’d ever seen. Well, it was soothing lotion anyhow.

I couldn't stop giggling at the notion of an Irish band for tourists in Indonesia
The leprechauns playing were of Indonesian descent. I found this charmingly amusing.

Husband Daycare Center
My husband did not take up my suggestion for him to pose in front of this, even though this venture would be perfect for him. (He does not share my love of foreign grocery shopping.)

 
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