Archive | October, 2011

Four Days

29 Oct

We haven’t been able to post much in the last few weeks due to the total mania that has taken over our lives in preparation for our departure…which is in four days. FOUR. DAYS.  It’s hectic to say the least.

Two weeks ago we dropped our cats off with some amazingly fabulous friends in NYC who have taken on the task of cat-sitting for, you know, a year.  No biggie.  We were so very sad to leave them, but we’re also very grateful that they are in such a good home.

A week ago we packed our car to the brim with the last of our belongings and headed back to Colorado, which is where our stuff will live while we are away.

In the last 3 days we’ve somehow mostly conquered our giant to-do list.  I am truly amazed by this, mostly because every time we crossed something off we ended up adding at least one or two more items.  I was in a total panic for a few days, but somehow we’ve come through to the other side and only a few things remain, including getting a travel wedding band.

I have gone back and forth about whether to take my ring or not, but in the end I’ve decided I need to have a cheap travel one.  My tendency to lose things is incredible, and I would really be heartbroken to lose that ring.  I have child-size fingers, so I assume I’ll have to shop at Claire’s, which means I have to go to the mall….which means I might need to eat a hot pretzel.  And maybe an Orange Julius.

We have pretty much packed, so that’s good.  I say pretty much because my one pair of hiking pants, and my one dress are still in my mom’s basement, covered in pins, ready to be altered.  Nothing says procrastination like waiting until the last minute to make sure major items of your wardrobe actually fit!

Four days.  Must go take some deep cleansing breaths now…

Famous Justin

21 Oct

Typically we have been almost the only Westerners everywhere we go.  We see people on tours at the major sites, but with the exception of Yangshou we are often the only Western people on the streets or in the restaurants, which means we get stared at a lot.

Actually, Justin seems to be quite famous here, people keep coming up and asking to have their picture taken with him, though they seem to want nothing to do with the rest of us.   Often, once one person asks for a photo it opens up the floodgates and we occasionally end up with a line of people waiting for their turn for a photo.  Every time it happens I also take a photo – we are going to make a whole album dedicated to these pictures.

People seem to be mostly fascinated with his hair (curly is certainly an oddity here) and he has been asked multiple times, and mostly by men, if it’s real.  Another interesting behavior is that people, again, mostly men, want to pose with their arms linked though his.  It’s as if they want to appear to be great friends.  This was an altogether unanticipated phenomenon, but a highly amusing one.

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Time To Move On

19 Oct

It seems like just a few days ago that we were packing up our apartment and driving out of NYC, yet here we are, at the end of our 4 months in Vermont.   In exactly two weeks we’ll be on our kick-off flight to Peru for the first leg of our round-the-world trip.

I’ve had the pleasure of living in many different places over the last 15 years, so I’ve had a lot of practice at saying goodbye to people and places I’ve fallen in love with.  This time it’s different.  This time I have to say goodbye to our home in Vermont, a place that holds some of my most cherished memories.

We spent summers here when I was a child.  In college we invited friends up and had rambunctious weekend festivities.  It was our escape from the grime and the noise of New York.  It is where we were married.  This home feels more like ‘home’ to me than any other house I’ve lived in.  We’ve always had a hard time packing up to leave after being here, but this time is different.  This time we are leaving for good.  The house is for sale, and by the time we return it very probably will belong to someone else.  Saying goodbye sucks.

Just the other day So Many Places wrote this post about the odd combination of paralyzing doubt and manic excitement that comes with this type of journey.  It could not have more perfectly summed up how I’ve felt over these past months, and especially the last few weeks, as we make all the preparations for this journey.

It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but it’s also terrifying.   There are adventures to be had, beautiful scenery to witness, and interesting people to meet.  In order to do this we have to let go of the sense of control we normally have.  We had to find a temporary home for our kitties.  We had to give up our notion of what adult life is like.  We had to embrace a huge amount of change, and change is hard.

The thing is, without change, well, nothing actually changes.  So, tonight we will spend some time remembering the joy we’ve experienced here, and tomorrow we’ll welcome the next step.

Bamboo!

14 Oct

Just outside of Hangzhou is one of the many bamboo forests where they filmed part of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Now, we’ve seen bamboo all over China, but this place is something else entirely.  It’s a whole forest with the biggest bamboo I’ve ever seen, and virtually no other trees or plants.

We hiked up to the top of one of the peaks (shocker, more stairs) and had an amazing view of the area including a small town in one of the valleys.

Village nestled in the bamboo

Part of the way up there’s a zip-line of sorts that you can take across from one peak to the other, but we got there just as they shut it down and we weren’t able to take it, which was a HUGE bummer.

The whole place looked as if it were glowing green – perhaps like if you were trapped inside of an emerald. It was roasting (as per the rest of China) but ranks among the more incredible of the natural scenery we’ve visited here.

Feeling hot hot hot...no, really, it was super hot.

 

How To Spend a Week in Acadia National Park

10 Oct

Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island in northern coastal Maine, boasts a beautiful combination of natural features.  It has mountains, lakes, forests, rocky and sandy ocean coastline all intermingling in its 47,000+ acres.

If you’re heading to the area for the first time, check out the following websites for park info http://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm

and general information about the area: http://www.acadiamagic.com/activities.html

Carriage Road in Acadia National Park

There are many ways to enjoy the scenery of the park, the most straightforward of which is to get yourself a great map, and start walking the many carriage roads and hiking trails.  There are more than 50 miles of gravel carriage roads and stone bridges that are great for walking or biking.  Hiking trails can be accessed from many of the carriage roads if you are looking for some variety in your terrain.  The ‘Around The Mountain’ carriage road is a worthwhile 12-ish mile loop that takes you through the forest, past Jordan Pond, and up around a variety of the smaller mountains including Penobscot, Sargent, and Parkman.

As for hiking trails, the mountains are small, most being less than 1,500 feet but many trails are steep and offer a worthy, if short, hike.  It is easily possible to climb multiple peaks in one day.

View from the Peak of Cadillac Mountain - towards Bar Harbor

Cadillac Mountain, at 1,532 feet, is the tallest point on the Northern Atlantic seaboard.  The summit can be reached by car off the Park Loop Drive or accessed by a number of different trails.  We opted for the Cadillac West Face Trail, which is the shortest, but steepest (and full of rock scrambling)  route to the top.  After about a mile the trail connects with the Cadillac South Ridge Trail for an easy half-mile finish to the summit.

Cautionary sign at head of the Beehive

For the adventurous types, the Beehive and Precipice Trails offer heart-pounding non-technical rock climbs up nearly vertical cliffs.  The Beehive is a great warm-up at only about a half-mile to the top and will give you a good idea as to whether or not you are up for the more challenging Precipice trail, which finishes at the summit of Champlain Mountain (1,058 ft).

If climbing iron rungs isn’t your thing, you can also take a number of other trails to reach the top, including the short and sweet Champlain North Ridge Trail, which is an easy mile (one way) hike.

If you want something very mellow, but incredibly scenic, the Jordan Pond loop is an excellent 3 mile loop around, you guessed it, Jordan Pond. Afterwards, stop at the Jordan Pond House for some delicious hot (or cold, depending on the season) chai tea and fresh popovers.

Stop for popovers and tea while you look across Jordan Pond

Another flat and mellow, if probably crowded during high season, walk is the Ocean Path.  You can park just off the park loop drive in the Otter Point parking lot, and then walk north along the coast.  It’s 1.4 miles to Thunder Hole, then another .7 miles to Sandy Beach.  There are ample places to stop for a photo op, or just to wander out onto the cliffs and enjoy the scenery.  You can easily catch one of the free park loop buses along the way to get back to your car.

One of the many views from along the Coast Path

Outside of the park itself, there are a plethora of activities to suit all tastes.  Bar Harbor is the biggest of the towns in the area.  There are many shops and restaurants, all easily within walking distance of just about anywhere in town.  One notable free activity is the walk to Bar Island, which is located just north of the town.  Bar Island Trail (starts at the end of Bridge Street) is only passable at low tide when the gravel and shell path appears and leads to the small island.  There is a little walking trail that leads to the top of the island and has great views of Bar Harbor during good weather.  You can begin walking across about two hours before low tide, and just make sure to return before the next high tide or you’ll be stuck on the island!

A lovely walk to Bar Island, even in misty weather.

Southwest Harbor, on the other side of the island, offers a quieter scene for those looking to relax without the crowds.  Red Sky is probably the best restaurant in town, with incredible meals and an ample wine selection.

There are also many companies offering kayaking, whale watches, lobstering trips, sailing, glider tours, and much more.

Although we were thoroughly blissed out during our trip to Ogunquit earlier in the month, we completely fell in love with this more rugged part of Maine.  If we could have stayed for another month, we would have.

Hangzhou and the ‘magic lake’

7 Oct

The last weekend we were in Shanghai, we took a quick trip to Hangzhou, which is billed as one of the most beautiful places in the area.  It has a ‘magical lake’ that is wildly popular, but the area is also famous for its Dragon’s Well green tea. We decided to take Mr. Shin (Jenny and John’s driver) along with us, so he booked a cheap Chinese hotel – only $15 per room! The hotel was rather amusing, it was clean enough but it was a business hotel…which means there was an attached building where you could get a hooker.  The rooms had the shower in a glass cage right next to the bed…

Enjoying a few tasty beverages on our boat tour of the lake

Unfortunately it was raining much of the time we were there, but it did clear up long enough for us to grab some beer and take a boat ride on the lake.  It was a perfectly lovely lake, but I didn’t really get the ‘magical’ bit, something definitely got lost in the translation for us as we were reading about it.  After the boat ride was over we wandered around the botanical gardens for a while.  This was definitely worth it as there was, a huge variety of plants, many of which I’ve never seen before.

Mmmm. Chicken.

For dinner we went to a local restaurant where the specialty was a whole chicken wrapped in Lotus leaves and baked in mud.  They bring it to your table and unwrap it, hot and steaming, right in front of you. It was very tasty, sort-of like roasted chicken.

As it was still raining the next morning we opted to visit a few of the local temples.  As usual, a calm experience marked by many Buddha figures.

A good side trip overall, though I’m sure it would be better without the rain, we had been very much looking forward to visiting the tea field.

The Final Countdown: 31 Days

2 Oct

31 days until we leave the country.

18 days until we leave Vermont.

12 days until we transport our kitties to their temporary guardians *sniff, sniff*, this one is particularly hard for us to deal with.

4 days until our last set of visitors arrives in Vermont.

How is it possible that we have only one month to finish the, oh, million items left on our giant “to-do” list???  31 days.  It doesn’t seem possible!  We have been super busy here in Vermont and trying to balance enjoying where we are with making sure we are getting everything prepared for a year away is a bigger task than one might imagine.  We’ve done a pretty decent job so far, and we have checked off many things on our list.  The thing is, it seems like for every item we check off, at least one or two more come up to take its place.

The hardest part right now is just trying to figure out exactly what we are taking.  We’ve looked at lots of other RTW travellers’ packing lists.  We’ve bought some new gear, and chosen some of our old favorites that we think can make the trip.  Now it’s down to the nitty-gritty, and when you are trying to carve it down to 5 shirts for the whole year, to span a climate range of 30-100 degrees as well as making sure the items are both hiking and city appropriate, well, let’s just say I’m surprised my head hasn’t exploded.

What are your favorite pieces of travel gear?

 

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