Moving on from Cotacachi to Quito

Things are falling into place in a timely manner. We’ve been in Cotacachi for two months, and it feels like we are about done with it at least for now. It would be a good enough place to stay. As I’ve written before, it’s pleasant, quiet most of the time and never truly rowdy, has nearly everything you need and is near cities with everything you need, is fairly gringo-ized but not too bad, and is very pretty. Hey, who has this every day to look at out the window…

IMG_8442

…and walks like this at lakes in volcanoes 30 minutes away?

IMG_8413

But we are in search mode for the best place to settle down, or what passes for settled down for us. This means we really need to look around at what else Ecuador has to offer. We decided our next stop is Quito. It’s the next notable location going south, and it’s the capital and second largest city. (Guayaquil is the largest) We’ve been there a few times doing residence visa stuff. We have an idea what to expect there, but obviously there is much more to learn. We know there is plenty to do. It’s a matter of finding the right combination of peace and quiet and enough to keep us amused. There are areas around Quito that might be good places to live. We’ll have to check them out. Initially, we are only renting an apartment in a modern area of downtown for two weeks. As the weeks progress, we will decide what to do next.

As for things falling into place goes, our residence visa applications have been approved. The government has our passports and we should be able to pick up our cedulas, which is Ecuador’s green card, in less than two weeks. So we won’t have to make a trip back to Quito if we decide to leave after two weeks. The other thing is my new computer I just bought in the US failed after only three weeks. I sent it to the service center in the US (There isn’t a Lenovo service center in Ecuador), and it just got back to me. So I don’t have to come back to Cotacachi to get it. Bottom line, it feels like the right time to go, the timing things are good, and Quito is a must see destination.

We have been doing a lot of nothing here. We walk around, go to the nearby towns, hang around the markets, and read a lot. One thing about my computer being on the fritz, I’ve read more than usual, like, about 8 books. Notable activities included going to that volcanic lake. We went with a Swiss couple and her kid. It was rainy and cold, especially on the way back in the pick up truck which is public transportation to places like this

IMG_8425

IMG_8427

We went to nearby Imantag…

IMG_8444

… to go to the bullfights with a woman, Lee, who is living in another apartment in our building.

IMG_8446

We stuck around for a couple of hours watching the town amateurs challenge the bulls, without hurting them. Some famous matador going to perform a real bullfight, but the amateurs took so long, it was hot, and people who sat on the fence blocked out view, so we left before that part.

This was done to live music.

IMG_8458

IMG_8470

IMG_8472

IMG_8476

IMG_8471

IMG_8468

The guy in yellow got the prize for being the bravest. He paid for it, though. The bulls roughed him up, especially one time when he got pinned against the fence and the bull drove one horn into his left kidney area and pushed in hard while rubbing it up and down. That dude was hurtin’…

IMG_8481

… but he got the yellow robe, complete with flowers from a pretty girl who seemed to really appreciate his effort. I think he was peeing blood after this.

IMG_8480

IMG_8483

Last week we went to the Intag Valley and around the town of Apuela. It’s west of here about two hours (55 km on that road). We’ve just been going anywhere to get out of town. It’s nice there. It’s the premier coffee growing area of northern Ecuador. We’ve done the coffee tour thing, but we went to a roaster for the heck of it, and bought some coffee there where it’s cheaper than in Cotacachi.

IMG_8492

IMG_8496

IMG_8493

Intag Valley is worth it just for the scenery. Ecuador is like that, beautiful everythere. The place we stayed, a few km out of Apuela, is at a hot spring. The pool area wasn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing, but it was comfortable.

IMG_8488

IMG_8485

IMG_8484

IMG_8490

Out last outing was to Cayambe, about an hour toward Quito. Not much to say. It was friendly, sort of cute, and not a gringo to be seen.

IMG_8505

IMG_8504

That’s it for now. Next stop, Quito. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Ecuador Green Cards in the works

IMG_8362

Well, it’s in the hands of the gods now. It took a couple of weeks for Myung’s police report to come from Korea, but all the paperwork for our residence visas is turned in. All in all, though a bit expensive, the process has been more or less painless. We saw all over the net how you have to go to your home country to get apostilled police report, birth certificate, marriage certificate, government pension verification and some other stuff which didn’t apply to us, fortunately. Turns out, though, with the help of an Ecuadoran facilitator with an office in the US, I could get everything through her and with the help of my friend, Mary, back in Oakland. (Boy, I don’t know what I’d do without her!) Ecuador changed the rule about birth certificates, so passports are adequate. Best of all, the Korean embassy in Quito can obtain Korean police reports and the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry will apostille those coming from the embassy. That was the last thing to get done, as the facilitator who has offices in Cuenca, Ecuador and Danbury, Connecticut, did all the American stuff. Myung put in for her police report a couple of weeks ago, and the day before yesterday we went back to Quito, picked it up, and took it to the Foreign Ministry where they apostilled it on the spot. We sent it to Cuenca via Servientrega (Ecuador’s FedEx/UPS/DHL), the office got it, and now we just wait about six weeks.

This is the best thing for us. I could oversimplify and say we are tired of traveling. There’s more to it, though. I don’t know about tired. It’s more like the comforts of home are attractive to us, especially Myung. She’d like to collect kitchen stuff, supplies we don’t have to time so they run out when we are leaving town, look forward to having those things next month she enjoyed this month, and so on. She might even try to do business again, though she’ll have to get way better at Spanish. I’m looking forward to cheap socialized medicine (which is high quality here) and the many other benefits Ecuadorans enjoy. It gets even better for those over 65. Living here is inexpensive, so we don’t have to count pennies. It’s modern enough and you can buy mostly whatever you want. It’s beautiful, really beautiful. And the people we’ve encountered so far are among the nicest, happiest we’ve seen anywhere.

It’s not like we’re about to get stationary. We do have to remain in Ecuador nine months out of twelve for the first two years, but as small as Ecuador is, it’s very diverse. there’s the mountainous central area where we live, There’s tropical beach, there’s the sophisticated capital, Quito, and the bigger port city of Guayaquil, and there’s the jungle headwaters of the Amazon. Oh, and let’s not forget the Galapagos Islands. That there is bit of a pricey excursion, but one of the benefits of being over 65 with a green card is you get half price everything including accommodations and travel. Maybe we’ll go there after awhile.

About the only potential problem is Myung is having a problem with her throat in the high dry climate. We could go down lower in elevation, but then it’d be hot here, right exactly on the equator, and I’m loving the absence of mosquitoes. It’s been nagging her ever since she got to Latin America, as we’ve been tending to stay in the cool mountains ever since Mexico, Antigua, and so on. She went to an American-trained ear, nose and throat doctor at the best medical center in Quito. The doc actually specializes in reconstructive surgery, but I think Myung’s in good hands. If that doesn’t work out though, we can always leave. As I’ve said before, we wouldn’t mind living in northern California-like central Chile. That would be more expensive, but not as unforgiving as the US.

Other than that, we’ve been having a real domestic life in Cotacachi. A big day is going to one of the two cities nearby. We only took care of visa business in Quito (Myung did find fish sauce. Woohoo!), so there’s nothing else to say about that yet. I guess it’s photo time.

Mostly we have people and food pics. Cotacachi isn’t as photogenic and Antigua was, by any stretch of the imagination. Here’s a picture of the front of the church, with the big Jesus on the steeple.

IMG_8257

Here are some people pics. They are mostly, if not all, from the Otavalo Saturday market

IMG_8260

IMG_8277

IMG_8278

IMG_8281

IMG_8283

IMG_8285

IMG_8287

IMG_8290

IMG_8292

IMG_8298

IMG_8357

That Saturday was All Souls Day. I didn’t go that time. I should have, as the cemetery was packed with people remembering their family and friends. I simply uploaded the whole batch of photos Myung took. Glance at them, or whatever.

IMG_8299

IMG_8300

IMG_8302

IMG_8303

IMG_8307

IMG_8308

IMG_8309

IMG_8310

IMG_8312

IMG_8313

IMG_8314

IMG_8315

IMG_8319

IMG_8320

IMG_8321

IMG_8322

IMG_8323

IMG_8324

IMG_8325

IMG_8326

That’s going to do it for now. I hope all you Americans have a Happy Thanksgiving. And as always, be well, all of you.

IMG_8337

IMG_8336

IMG_8339

Posted in Travel | 2 Comments

Cotacachi, Otavalo, Ecuador

Hello from Cotacachi, Ecuador.

We got over the border from Colombia, no sweat. I like countries with 5 minute immigration processes. The first place we went, about two hours south, was Cotacachi. We came here because it’s the first place interesting to us going south and because I wanted to meet the editors of International Living, who live here. That was interesting and informative. Now, we’re plannning to stay here a month.

Cotacachi is very comfortable for us. It’s rapidly becoming an expat destination, complete with the kinds of stores and other ammenities we like to have around us. If you can’t find something here, which is still often the case because it hasn’t gone full gringo yet, there’s a bigger city, Otavalo, about 20 minutes away and an even bigger one, Ibarra, about 30 minutes away. Cotacachi is cute, quiet, friendly, inexpensive, and at high altitude so it’s cool all the time and no mosquitoes

Most of the people we know who read this blog know we were considering obtaining residence visas in Ecuador if we liked it. As time goes on, we need less and less to keep moving. Also, we basically get it about Latin America, having just spent a year in Central America and having traveled in South America before. We decided we know all we need to know to go ahead and get Ecuadorean green cards. We started the process a few days ago and, cross our fingers, hope it gets done before our 90 day tourist visas expire. We hired a facilitator or shepherd the paperwork through. One false move and the government denies you. Almost everybody hires such a facilitator. She has almost all the documents she needs from  me, only needing our marriage certificate and half her fee to get stated. That’s in the mail. All she needs from Myung is her apostilled Korean police report. Her sister is on that. Hopefully it will get to Connecticut, where the facilitator’s US office is, late next week. Then it’s sit and wait.

Our immediate plan is to stay here in Cotacachi for a month. We stayed a few days in a really nice hostel, but it was $35/day. That adds up too quickly for us, so we moved to a furnished apartment. We didn’t look around long, taking the first place that appealed to us. It’s practically the town’s best penthouse, with 360 degree views. Here are pics in three directions. The last is of Cotacachi Volcano.

IMG_8199IMG_8194IMG_8202

You see the cloud cover at 2 o’clock this afternoon? Typical of high mountains, the weather changes every hour. An hour before, it was hailing.

IMG_8228

It’s almost a studio. The kitchen is separate. Here’s the living room, with Myung in her typical position of comfort for reading or using the computer…

IMG_8201

… and of me in my position of comfort…

IMG_8236

… and in the other direction…

IMG_8234

IMG_8237

Oh wait! I just published this, but there’s a rainbow out. Gotta include this…

IMG_8240

IMG_8241

IMG_8242

Now, THERE’S real time blogging!

One of the first things you notice in Ecuador is there are many indigenous people around. I’m told they actually have power in Ecuador, instead of being second-class citizens like in most countries. In these pictures around the Otavalo Saturday market, you’ll see the indigenous look, but you really do see it all over. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are seen commonly in the modernized areas of Quito.

By the way, note the sun and dry conditions a half hour before the hail storm.

IMG_8216

IMG_8212

Here are a couple of postcard-type pics of central Otavalo.

IMG_8225

IMG_8205

I’m sure there will be a lot more to come about this area. There’s all kinds of natural beauty to explore. As we get to know the place, stuff to talk about will come up. For now, that’s going to do it.

Be well, all of you.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Popayan and Sylvia, Colombia

We had gotten kind of used to getting quickly around and through the little Central American countries. Colombia is big, though, and we endured two days of bus travel to get to Popayan. After Popayan it was another day to Pasto and three hours to the Ecuador border. It was still worth it. Buses are cheap in Colombia, and we saved a bundle.

We stayed in Popayan and took a day trip to Sylvia. Popayan is mostly a historical city. It had many buildings from the 17th through 19th century, and of course newer ones, which got destroyed by an earthquake in the 1980’s. What you have now is an almost entirely reconstructed historical area. It’s nice, to be sure, but still looks a little fresh. When it gets dog-eared in about 100 years, it’ll look better.

IMG_8164

IMG_8167

IMG_8162

IMG_8171

IMG_8172

IMG_8173

Popayan has no potential as a retirement destination. WAAAY too much traffic, though they are changing some of the streets over to pedestrian senderos.

About an hour away is lovely town called Sylvia. We went there for a weekly market where many traditionally dressed indigenous people buy and sell their produce and handicrafts.

IMG_8097

IMG_8107

IMG_8103

IMG_8100

 

IMG_8100

IMG_8134

IMG_8102

IMG_8109

IMG_8132

Here’s an overview and some of the bucolic surroundings.

IMG_8119

IMG_8123

 

IMG_8122

IMG_8112

So, after that, we went to Ecuador. We’re in a northern town popular with expats and some tourists called Cotacachi. We’ve been here about 24 hours. So far so good. We’re in full getting-to-know-Ecuador mode. We’ve talked to a few expats already. Tomorrow, I’m having coffee with the couple who publish International Living magazine and website.  I’ll tell you how it’s going in the next entry.

Be well, all of you.

IMG_8115

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Bogota, Colombia

We made short work of Colombia. By “short work” I don’t mean to short change the country. It just wasn’t our intention to stay long. If you’ve been reading along, you know it cost less than half to fly there from the US than to Ecuador. We only went to Bogota and the Popayan area before entering Ecuador.

We had heard Bogota was a pit. You could tell it had some bad areas and it’s not safe to go out late at night except on the main streets, but I think the average tourist isn’t going to experience any more problems there than in any other Latin American big city. The historical center is safe till about 10 PM, I think. That’s late enough for us, as we are usually in bed about then.

We spent four days there. One of them was basically getting over the 24 hour Oakland-LAX-Fort Lauderdale-Bogota plane ride. One day was a nice, free walking tour the tourism department takes you on, then walking around on our own. Another day was going to a couple of museums, And one day was going to an attraction called the Salt Cathedral.

Bogota isn’t particularly photogenic. Maybe if you hadn’t been to a number of Latin American cities or haven’t looked at colonial architecture in my many blog entries, it would be more interesting. It has your basic grand square with a church and some old government buildings.

IMG_7944

IMG_7939

One of the best things about Bogota, is the museums are free or a dollar. One of the museums is called the Botero Museum after a famous artist of that name. Part of the good part of the museum is the museumm itself. Here’s the courtyard.

IMG_8018

That’s going to be it for this city of several million. Despite this short shrift, it is okay.

Out of town about an hour is the Salt Cathedral. Now, if you have ever been to Ellora or Ajanta in India, this is barely a roadside attraction. You can go to November, 2006 in this blog or type “Ellora” in the search box to see what I mean. Better still, google it and Ajanta. In any case, you can appreciate the effort that went into carving Christian prayer halls out of this salt mountain. Here’s a couple of pictures to give you the idea.

IMG_8057

IMG_8056

In Ellora, that herald angel would have been carved in situ from the stone the whole hall was carved out of. This one was sculpted in Italy and placed here.

That’s going to be it for Bogota. it was good to know ya. On to Popayan…

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Stockton, Yosemite and Locke, California, USA

I grew up in Stockton, spent three summers there after high school, and looked after my elderly dad and his wife there between 2000-2006. It was after that when I left for the travels documented in this blog. I always go there when I’m back in the States. My brother, Bill, and his wife, Rita, live there. Here they are at our wedding.

IMG_7033

On our way over, we stopped in Locke, an old town that used to be a Chinese settlement. The word “Locke” is an Anglicization of the Mandarin word for “Happy House”. They moved there after building the most difficult section of the first railroad across the United States in the 1860’s. There are still Chinese around there, but it is nothing like the ghetto it was.

IMG_7740

IMG_7754

IMG_7737

IMG_7753

IMG_7742This building was about to collapse more than 40 years ago. How does it stay up?

IMG_7741

Stockton isn’t very photogenic. To me, the main things to do there are go to the museum and see the first Caterpillar tractors Benjamin Holt invented and built there in the 1920’s. The other thing is the Cambodian Buddhist temple. It’s been growing, little by little, for about 12 years.

IMG_7907

IMG_7905

IMG_7909

One good thing about Stockton is it’s close to a lot of things. San Francisco is a couple of hours away. Sacramento is an hour away. The Sierra Nevada mountain range is just to the east. Southeast of Stockton by a couple of hours is Yosemite National Park. Myung and I went with Bill on a day trip. At this time of the year, it isn’t very crowded, even on the valley floor. Here are some of our pictures. Note how dry it is. California is in the midst of it’s worst drought in recorded history. We would have taken pictures of the famous waterfalls, but they were bone dry.

IMG_7804

IMG_7784

IMG_7810

IMG_7847

I’ve never seen the meadows when they weren’t green. This year they are brown. The Merced River is usually a torrent. This year you could walk across on the rocks. Mirror Lake is a sand pit.

IMG_7812

IMG_7862

IMG_7893

Yup, that’s Mirror Lake.

That’s going to do it for our month in California. As always, there is so much I could have put in, so much we could have done.    Next time.

We’re in Colombia now. We spent a few days in Bogota, then went to Popayan in the south. By the day after tomorrow, we will be in Ecuador. It was always our intention to not linger in Colombia this time. It was just the cheap destination from the States. I’m sure we’ll come back. I should get a blog entry about our brief time in Colombia within a few days.

Until then, be well, all of you.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Bay Area, California

This is going to be pictures and babble about Marin County and the East Bay, both before and after the wedding.

Let’s start with Marin County, the area on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Myung had heard of Sausalito from a Korean movie, so we went there as soon as we picked up a rental car in San Rafael. Sausalito becomes more touristy all the time, but it’s a pleasant place to walk around.

IMG_6889

It’s famous for it’s houseboats, most of which are attached to the bottom and can be very luxurious.

IMG_6927

The view across the Golden Gate to San Francisco is nice.

IMG_6913

From there, it’s a couple of miles drive up to the Marin headlands, most famous for this shot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

IMG_6942

Just a couple more miles along the coast, there is Point Bonita lighthouse.
IMG_6958

IMG_6959

Looking north from there, the coastline picks up where it left off south of the urban part of the Bay Area. There’s a lot of this between just north of Los Angeles and the Oregon border.

IMG_6960

It was actually a couple weeks later when we went back to Marin and went to Green Gulch Zen Buddhist Center, Point Reyes and Mount Tamalpais.

Green Gulch is a very sweet place not that many people have visited. It’s off Hwy 1 between Mill Valley and Stinson Beach. (More on that later). The San Francisco Zen Center acquired the land as a gift from the Land’s, as in Polaroid-Land Camera, who were Buddhist. It’s turned into a Zen Center and working farm. It supports itself, in part, from the farm. As you would expect, it’s a working Zen Center, and has the feel of that.

IMG_7551

IMG_7547

IMG_7548

IMG_7564

Here’s the meditation hall. Renowned Buddhists from around the world and a lot of practitioners gather there every Sunday.

IMG_7565

Like I said, it’s a farm, too.

IMG_7555

IMG_7558

You can walk right down to Muir Beach on their property, though at this time the trail is closed during the day for creek restoration.

From there, we headed for Stinson Beach where very kind friends, Eileen and Marty, let us stay in their second home. Stinson is beautiful and popular. What a great place to chill out for a few days!

IMG_7604

One day, we took a day trip out to Point Reyes. It’s also very well known to almost everyone from Northern California.

IMG_7623

IMG_7579

IMG_7627

IMG_7630

IMG_7639

There used to be millions of tule elk in California. Now, the survivors are kept in preserves except for a couple of hundred who roam the Point Reyes area and are in a reserve on the north side. These are free range elk.

IMG_7659

Oyster farming is popular around there and Tomales Bay. There was a lot of controversy over this little operation, called Drakes Bay Oysters. The government owns the land on Point Reyes, and they shut it down. Now, there is still a very minimal operation still going on. This is all of it.

IMG_7618

There is a lighthouse at the end of Point Reyes.

IMG_7688

From Stinson, where we were staying, there are two basic ways to get back to the East Bay. We went there via Hwy 1, and returned over Mount Tamalpais. there are good views from there. Here’s the look back down to Stinson.

IMG_7718

We spent most of our time in the Bay Area in the East Bay, where Oakland and Berkeley are. This is the area I lived for two decades and where I would call home if I had to call anywhere in Callifornia home. There are many photoworthy spots, but I’m just going to skip over those pictures and wind this entry up with a few pictures of “Friday Night at the Oakland Museum”. Every Friday evening, there is a street fair and free museum entry there. We went and socialized with my (now our) friends.

photo 1

IMG_7913

IMG_7927

IMG_7933

IMG_7930

IMG_7932

IMG_7931 This was sort of our send-off, as it was just before we left for Colombia. In between Marin and our last weekend in the East Bay was a few days in Stockton,  and going to Yosemite National Park. Coming up next is about that.

For me, this was a special time. Not only did Myung and I officially tie the knot, but I have never seen almost everybody I still know in one place. Despite being a confirmed expat, there is a sense of loss over leaving my past behind.. Being with them, reconnecting, enjoying their help and genuine warm feelings made me feel like Myung and I aren’t totally alone in the world. I guess it will always feel like “home” for me, no matter where we go.

I want to give special thanks to Mary, Roz and Jesus, Guiseppi and Cornelia, Lorenzo, and Eileen, who made our experience so heartwarming. They know what they did.

 

 

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

San Francisco, California

IMG_7475

I didn’t know where to start blogging about the Bay Area, nor even how much to blog, given how familiar many of you are with it. I decided to start with San Francisco itself.  I already posted one entry today, and I think I can crank this one out in pretty short order. Everyone has heard about it and seen pictures of the most famous places, so I can just post the pictures with a minimum of verbiage.

Here’s the first picture Myung took when we got off the Bay Bridge from Oakland.

IMG_7194

The first thing we did, semi-unintentionally, was walk along the waterfront by AT&T Park, home of my favorite baseball team, the Giants.

IMG_7201

How about cable car pictures? We didn’t ride on one ourselves when we were sightseeing over there.

IMG_7307

IMG_7375

How about Lombard Street? Its popular to drive down the “crookedest street in America”.

IMG_7330

IMG_7348

How about the Palace of Fine Arts?
IMG_7458

IMG_7456

How about Golden Gate Park?

IMG_7508

IMG_7538

IMG_7540

IMG_7518

…and the De Young Art Museum there…

IMG_7535

…and the Japanese Tea garden? It now costs $8 to go in there. We passed on that.

IMG_7512

How about Pier 39, the sea lions which used to be a nuisance until they became a tourist attraction, and Myung enjoying a clam chowder in a bread bowl?

IMG_7250

IMG_7273

IMG_7266

IMG_7300

That’s going to be about it for San Francisco. I’m going to spare you many pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge amd some other stuff. The last picture I want to post is one of my niece, Emily, and her daughter, Cora. They live in the City with her husband, Kenneth, and their son, Lucas. I had never seen Cora before, as Emily was still pregnant with her when I was in the States last time. We had to leave a little suddenly as we were wrapping up the visit anyway, and forgot to get a new picture of Kenneth and Lucas. Sorry, you guys.

IMG_7937

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Up the California Coast

We headed up the coast from Los Angeles. Malibu is world famous so, like good tourists, we snapped a few pictures and continued on.

IMG_6514

IMG_6517

Myung has a friend in Santa Maria, Jasmine. We visited with her and her husband and stayed the night in their home.

IMG_6538

She put on a nice Korean feed for us. Well, it was kinda mixed cuisine. At any rate, it was hecka better than the Korean restaurant in Koreatown, LA.

IMG_6526

The full day we stayed with them, they took us to nearby Avila Beach. Harford Pier there is a good place to look at seals and sea lions. We neglected to bring our camera with us, so this picture from Jasmine’s phone is all we have. Trust me, though, it was good seal viewing from three meters away.

0909141601

I was always telling Myung that the US Pacific coast is still alive with wildlife. Not quite all the birds, animals and and sea life has been eaten, like in much of the word, particularly Asia. Further up the coast, we were at I forgot which beach. There were hundreds, at least, of sea gulls and pelicans. Actually, that was about the most pelicans I’ve ever seen in one place. The photos of any quality we have is mostly sea gulls, but you’ll get the picture.

IMG_6544

IMG_6555

Myung was giddy with excitement when she could walk right out among them and capture her experience when they finally took to flight at her presence. It was a swirl of birds all around her. I wish I had a picture of her in bird tornado, her mouth open, firing away with the camera.

IMG_6551

IMG_6560

When you know a place, you know there is so much to see and do. This happened as we went up the coast. We wanted to get to the Bay Area in a couple of days, so we hit the highlights. The next highlight was Hearst Castle. Everyone from California knows this place. For those who don’t, William Randolph Hearst was a media mogul in the 20’s till the 40’s. Over a number of years in the late 20’s and 30’s, he had built a splendid estate in the hills overlooking the Pacific. Now it’s a state park.

IMG_6584

IMG_6579

On the slopes down to the ocean, he had herds of animals from around the world.
IMG_6590

Care for a swim? There was a Roman bath outside, too, but it’s a construction site right now. It was in disrepair and leaking water terribly during the drought in California at this time.

IMG_6595

You can see clips from then in a movie they show there. Hearst invited everybody who was anybody to come up. Movie stars, corporate figures, artists. royalty, you name it, all sat around together at the banquet table or pools. This is a diving platform. Picture the pretty starlets of the era taking a plunge.

IMG_6597

The photos from inside are pretty bad.

Next up the coast is the beautiful Big Sure area. It’s all nice, but this is the most famous. As you saw in the bird pictures, it was foggy and drizzly, so these aren’t exactly postcard quality.

IMG_6608

IMG_6607

Again, here is a famous spot, familiar to many if not most Californians. It’s the view from Nepenthe Inn (or is it “Lodge”?). It’s THE place to stop, sit on the deck or in the inside restaurant having a cappuccino or glass of wine and some food, and gather in the view.

IMG_6630

Here are good birds up to the left of the people.

IMG_6634

Movin’ right along, next up is Monterey (spelled differently than Monterrey, Mexico). Monterey Bay is a lovely protected area, teeming with fish seals, sea otters, birds, and everything else you might want to see but is nearly gone from many areas. The coastline is beautiful and the aquarium is world class. One could spend days there. We spent one day. Most of the pictures Myung took are of or from the aquarium.

IMG_6661

IMG_6670

IMG_6696

IMG_6755

IMG_6807

IMG_6814

IMG_6783

Forgive me for boring those of you who have been there a number of times. I like these pictures.

One of the main attractions is the sea otters. Once thought to have been hunted to extinction for their fur (They are unafraid of humans) there are now about 2700 left. The aquarium has a number of rescued otters. The thing to do at the aquarium is to watch them at feeding time.

IMG_6650

IMG_6651

They are plentiful out in the Bay. There’s a deck to look at them and the seals and sea lions frolicking in the kelp beds. This park ranger was telling me that the otter population has stopped increasing because they are getting toxoplasmosis probably from kitty litter entering the ecosystem. Amazing, if that’s the case. Kitty litter is an infinitesimal amount of the waste draining into the ocean. There’s a lesson in that, eh?

IMG_6645

Somebody with a good telephoto lens could get this picture of kayakers getting up close to a couple of otters lounging on their backs in the kelp bed. It’s a little distant for Myung’s camera.

IMG_6646

Here’s the street outside the aquarium.

IMG_6837

That whole area is nice, but we didn’t hang around. We did the driving loop around Pebble Beach and headed up to the Bay Area. Next entry is about being tourist there, before and after our wedding. I’m going to post this and get that one up in the next day or two. In real time, we are currently in Popoyan, Colombia. We made a two day forced march south to here from Bogota, and plan to chill here for at least a couple of days. So, I should be able to post about the rest of our time in California.

IMG_6842

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

Los Angeles, California, USA

Besides getting married in Oakland, Myung and I were total tourists for much of the month we were there. Some of the things we saw I had seen once or twice, some many times, and couple of things, never. Myung, however, had never been to the US. It was fun to take her around. It felt like a honeymoon, really, starting two weeks before we actually got married.

Bear with me while I write and show pictures of things many of you have seen many times and know all about.

We spent three days in Los Angeles. LA is a huge place with many things to see and do, though the vibe there does little for me. Our agenda was to visit with my niece, Anne, and her family, take in a Dodger baseball game, visit Koreatown, and maybe something else without lingering long.

The first thing we did was the Dodger game because the Korean player, Hyun Jin Ryu, was supposed to pitch. They changed the rotation and Zach Greinke pitched instead, but we had fun. Myung likes baseball. I have been to hundreds of games and may ballparks, but never Dodger stadium, so it was fun for me, too. Here is Greinke warming up in the bullpen before the game, and Dan Haren and Clayton Kershaw looking on, sort of. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball.

IMG_6483

IMG_6481

Here is the birdseye view of the field from the cheapo nosebleed seats we had behind the plate.

IMG_6504

That evening and again before we left, we went to Koreatown. Although it is actually quite a large area and has a genuine Korean character, it is not photoworthy. We had a respectable dinner there and looked in some stores selling Korean products. Nothing special. Myung feels the same. She’s not the type who needs to hang out with other Koreans. If someone else did, and they wanted to be in LA, that might be a place to live. Bring money if you want to buy anything from Korea there. Think 1000% markup.

The next day was the real reason we lingered in La before going north. I wanted to visit my niece, Anne, her husband, Nico, and their new son, Zachary. Here they are:

IMG_6436

IMG_6431

I really looked forward to spending some hours with them. The last time I was in the US in December 2012 was to go to their wedding. Their plate was full then, for obvious reasons. Plus, I’ve been out of the US for 8 years, except for a few months here and there, while she’s been in LA, where I never go. And even when we were both in Northern California, she was in high school, more than 20 years ago. We had a nice day, visiting in their home for a while, then walking around with the pram and going out to lunch. For a 6 week old, Zachary travels well. Suffice it to say, we enjoyed out time with them.

They live in Venice, which is a small beach town adjacent to LA. We didn’t take any pictures of them during our walk around Venice, but we have pics of Venice, one of the fun places in the LA area. It’s named Venice because of it’s vague resemblance to Venice, Italy. It has many canals and is on the sea, in this case, of course, the Pacific Ocean. Unlike Venice, Italy, the canal area is neighborhoody, though obviously not a World Heritage site.

IMG_6384

IMG_6389

IMG_6388

The seashore is definitely not like Venice, Italy. It’s a semi-fun, borderline grotesque tourist haven, for the most part. That said, you can block that out and focus toward the ocean. The beach is contiguous with more beach with different names, like Santa Monica beach to the north.

IMG_6399

IMG_6407

Off the beach is weird fun.

IMG_6405

IMG_6406

IMG_6408

The weirdest of all there is the unabashed display of narcissism at an open air body building gym. I’m told some of these cats have been showing off here for years.

IMG_6404

LA can be about it’s own brand of weird. Anne loves it there, even though she isn’t weird. Me? I prefer Bay Area weird. For those of you not familiar with the US, LA or the Bay Area, you just gotta go there for a while to know what I’m talking about.

I’m going to break up the California travelogue into three chunks. That’s going to be it for this one. Coming up maybe even later today will be our drive up the coast.

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment