Taiwan with friends


Our last trip in SE Asia (for this time period – hopefully not forever!) was to Taiwan.  We have 2 friends living there and being so close to them (well relatively speaking, the flight was still 4 1/2 hours but closer than 18 plus hours from Portland!) it would be a shame to not visit them.

We stayed in an area close to the domestic airport; I was told this is the old financial area, there’s a university here, and I think my friend might be the only Western person in the area!  Lots of fun to walk around; many small mom and pop restaurants, small shops for every need, went to the fish market,  checked out the grocery store and the all important Metro is nearby.  All in all a very dynamic area.

Many scooters, more than what we see in Singapore and all buzzing around you.  Eyes are needed everywhere to watch out for them (though we found the trick is to walk calmly forward and they (scooters) will buzz around you easily.  Though hard to think calmly as those scooters are barreling towards you!!  Here in Singapore we have the “green man” to walk.  In Taipei their green man is animated (I wish I had taken a little video of the green man walking, funny).  There is a count down clock above the animated green man and as the time is getting closer to zero the green man walks faster until he’s running.  The green man reminds me of the cartoon character from “Mad” magazine (one of the Freak brothers; Freak Brothers – it’s the big feet of the green man, and the loping walk is what reminds me – okay this is really showing my age!)

I booked a tour for us of the Dadaocheng area; “the major street of Dadaocheng are lined with hundreds of old houses. The facades of the buildings reflect architectural trendings in different eras. Some of them suggest the influence of Qing dynasty (the last imperial dynasty of China), while others give way a marriage with european styles or modernism. Despite the diversity in style, they are all long and narrow.   The first section is used to run business, showcasing goods from herbs for Chinese medicine, dried foods, bamboowares, to lanterns. The second section behind the court is in its capacity as a living room or warehouse.”  This area is known for their fabric; as in a huge building full of little fabric shops (if you have any need for fake fur, tulle, polyester printed fabrics its there; overwhelming is an understatement!)  Good thing I don’t need any more fabric.  We had a tea tasting in an old tea house (very fun – loved the architecture!)  The whole area is being revitalized; keeping the old facades and making the space inside into new functions – lots of art space is the newest thing.  The above picture is from the Dadaocheng area (North gate.)

Our next day was a short hike into the city mountains (Taipei is ringed by mountains, lot of lovely green to see, unfortunately though it suffers the same fate as Los Angles, smog.  All the smog is captured into a bowl situation.  This time of year, not too bad – but I understand it can be bad.)  From the short hike we go to Taipei 101; the world’s tallest Green building.  The building has a wind damper which is supposed to help the tall building sway and resist the typhoons and earthquakes.  The wind damper has now been made into a damper baby toy/mascot.  Damper Baby.  Had the very famous dumplings at Din Tai Fung (1 Michelin star!)  Lots of fun and very delicious!

We spend a couple of days at Sun Moon Lake which is in the middle of the country.  Beautiful.  The lake is small (about 30 kilometers around), it has a boardwalk/trail around for most of it (biking around the lake is considered one of the top places to go, though I will say, if you’re on the trail it’s great.  When the trail stops, you have to go on the road.  Well, the roads is narrow and the drivers are a bit crazy.  I’m not brave enough to be on the road with the drivers!)  We walked around some of the boardwalk, did a boat ride around the lake (though next time we might need to see if we can’t find a private boat to allow us to investigate a bit more of the lake side.)  Got to a butterfly garden and saw some of the biggest butterflies ever!  We took a gondola ride, not only a great views but we ended up at an Aboriginal center (Taiwan has 27 local indigenous people, and 9 of these tribes were represented.)  Many of the houses are original and moved to the village, from bamboo to great slabs of slate (I was surprised to see the slate!)  There were displays of,  clothes, basketry and wood carvings, lots of interactive things the kids could do (weave, clay work, playing traditional games – the boys tried out a blow dart.  John is a natural!)

What I’ve discovered about Taiwan; it’s hotter and more humid than Singapore (or at least during Taiwan’s summer months!)  I thought I’ve gotten used to the heat/humidity here (maybe not becoming one with the it, but being able to press forward at least).  Taiwan smacked me down with the humidity!  On the other hand Taiwan had some of the best food we’ve eaten since we got here!!!  Wild boar ribs, ribs with roasted cumin seeds and chili peppers, water spinach with garlic, morning glory greens, spring roll ice cream, beef noodle soup, milk fed pineapples and lots of red wine (okay that last part was with our friends and not in the restaurants).  Sorry SIN you have some good food, but I think Taiwan might have you beaten as a foodie destination!

No photos again. The internet where we are is painfully slow; if you’re Facebook friends with me, I’ve posted pictures of our time in Taiwan.

Well this is it.  We head back home tomorrow morning.  Thanks for listening to my rambles.  Will chat with you again when our next adventure starts!



And we’re out of here; well mostly


Contracts can run long (case in point Australia; we were to be there for 3 months, 21 months later we left) and they can run short (this contract; we were to be here until the end of November).  Rarely do they run on the dates that were originally given to us. Since John “serves at the pleasure of the client”, we have learned to be flexible (John is way better than me, but I’m slowly learning!)  We’re now getting ready to head back home to Portland, with a couple of slight detours.

Detour 1; a trip to Myanmar!  I’ve booked a tour, Yangon (the defacto capital of Myanmar), Mandalay (the religious and cultural center of upper Myanmar) Bagan (an ancient city full of pagodas) and Inle Lake (this where the fisherman row their boats with their feet!)  It should be quite the interesting trip.  We leave this Sunday for a week.

Detour 2; a trip to Taipei Taiwan to visit 2 friends.  We’re so close it would be terrible not to “run” over and visit. The (tentative) plan will be a couple of days in Taipei and then a couple of days outside of Taipei.  Back to Singapore and then fly out to Portland.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to write a brief post about each trip once we get back to Singapore after each leg.  We leave Singapore permanently on Weds July 27th (and arrive home that same day through the miracles of International Date line!)  Looking forward to catching up with everybody in person; red wine, BBQ and friends.  Can hardly wait!

In the meantime it’s time to say good bye to SIN.  It’s been fun living here, and there’s many things I’m going to miss.  The food: lime juice; with lemon grass stalks, cilantro, kaffir leaves, lime wedges  all muddled together with sparkling water. Very refreshing and so tasty!


Love your carry bags for drinks, a little plastic sling with handles.  Very clever and convenient!!


Your Indian food; all of it so good – I haven’t had a bad Indian meal the entire time here, and all those lovely mango lassies.  Oh so good.  Your fabulous Thai Honey Mangoes, we might be able to get them at home (and I’m certainly going to look) but they have been a treat to have here, every day with my yoghurt.  It’s going to be sad to go home to bananas and yoghurt.  And I’m really going to miss my ice cream sandwiches; slab of ice cream in bread.


I’m going to miss my Garden city; for being such a urban city you have so many gardens and green spaces.  I just found out that for every new building going up (and there are many) there needs to be the equivalent space dedicated in the building for gardens (so if the building takes up a square block, there needs to be the equivalent of a square block of garden in the new building).  Nice, helps bring down the temperature of the city and improves livability.  Now if they could only put in some bike lanes, so all the bikes will get off the sidewalks, ditto for the scooters – that will really help with the livability or at least with walking on the sidewalks!


We’ve gotten to Fort Canning, Gardens by the Bay, Botanical Gardens.  All lovely green space right in the heart of the city.  Plus we were able to get out to some of the outer edges of the city to see more nature; Southern Ridges, Changi Boardwalk, Labrador Boardwalk, St John’s Island.  All wonderful pockets of goodness.

All the little neighbourhood areas; Little India my favourite haunts (though it helps that it’s so close to where we live), Chinatown, Kampong Glam (Malay area). The temples, mosques and churches all right beside each other (and no fighting!)  The oldness of the city; it’s been around forever VS Portland is barely 100 plus years old. 

The public art; so much of it.  Love it all.

The wet market that I’ve started to go to – the choices; all the fresh produces, dry goods (spices/rice), all sorts of seafood.  I maybe won’t miss seeing all the meat – it is slightly off putting to smell the meat (chicken especially) and to see the chicken heads.  I have to say I like my meat a bit more hermetically sealed!!

The friendliness of everybody I interacted with.  I’ve heard stories of people not being very helpful, I never found it at all.  Everybody went out of their way to help us out.  Though I will say, once they got behind the wheel of car; not quite so friendly!  Oh well – I’m sure we can say the same thing about the states.  And very safe here.  John made a comment to a little girl and her dog at our first place, wanting to know if “Bruno was an attack dog?”  “No, she replied –  you only need attack dogs in America for the burglars, it’s safe here in Singapore!”  We could (and did) walk everywhere and felt safe everywhere.

I love your floral displays – fun to see all these tropical flowers/plants outside, especially since where we live all these tropical plants would be house plants for us!

Plus the views; night views in all it’s lit up glory, or up high in the trees, Singapore shines.

Thank you Singapore for a great time.  Hope to see you again, very soon!!










Shopping; A National Sport?


I think if there is a national sports in Singapore, it might need to be shopping.  For what is a small island city state (276 square miles; half the size of LA) and with a population of 5.6 million people (that’s 21,077 people per square mile!) I’m amazed at the amount of  malls here.  And I’m not talking about just the typical mall I see in big cities (you know a mall located in one area with many smaller stores surrounding it and a couple of big department stores).  I’m talking about a street full of malls; 4 to 5 stories with shops, restaurants, and other services.  High end shops like Gucci, Chanel, Calvin Klein, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany are common.  So common in fact, I see them in many malls that are right beside each other.  Not that Singapore is a poor country, but who is buying all of these goods?  Clearly there is more wealth here than I imagined.

Are the ex-pats driving the shopping?  Bringing a touch of home to the “unknown”? My local mall has Marks and Spencer and John Little (both British) and Spotlight (Australian home goods and fabric/notions).  I’ve seen Harvey Norman (OZ electronics) and the local Dollar store, a national Japanese store Daiso, (where everything costs $2. I buy all my kitchen stuff from them!!)  Plus of course all the shops from the States; Forever 21, Victoria Secret, etc. And not to mention all the food chain imports; McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC (I personally think these are some of the worst things to import to this country!)  I’ve come across a Baja Fresh (I wonder if their fish tacos are as good was what I could get at home?)

Stores are getting ready for the Great Singapore Sale (end of May until the end of July); 10% to 70% off goods.  Will be interesting to see what it will entail.  I’m looking for a few things; carpets and fabric, but so far have only seen that in small shops.  Somehow I’m not thinking I will be getting 70% off a carpet or a sari!  I am hot for a silk comforter and hope I might be able to get one one sale.  Checked out Tang (Japanese high end department store), chatted with the staff, looked at what they had, discussed merits of silk cover VS cotton cover.  Okay going with cotton cover.  Oh sorry, we only have cotton cover silk comforter in a single width, new ones in the size I want won’t be for another month or 2.  Why it wasn’t it mentioned right up front when they knew the size I wanted?

John and I headed out on Saturday to celebrate Vesak Day at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. http://www.btrts.org.sg/museum-guided-tour.  Buddhists world wide celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha on this day, it’s a time of joy, peace and reflection.    The temple/museum is new(ish) built in 2007 in Chinatown, cost of $75 million dollars.  The sacred artifacts of Buddha (his bone and tongue) were on display in the Buddha culture museum, and the tooth is in a giant stupa (a dome shaped building) weighing 3.5 tons and made from 320kg (that’s about 7o5 pounds) of gold, of which 234kg (515 pounds) were donated by devotees.  4 floors of incredible!  2 floors of worship, bathing of Buddha (significance of one of his legends that the infant prince was showered with waters of nine dragons soon after he was born).  10,000 little statues of Buddhas, many stations of little alters of fruit and flowers with a bowl to put change in and Buddha in many poses.  The museum was very interesting; how Buddha became, his journey of enlightenment, how Buddhism traveled the world.  The top floor is the roof top garden; more Buddhas (annual sponsorship – business/general public would pay a fee to “own” Buddha for a year), along with a lovely garden and a prayer wheel.  It’s the largest cloisonne Buddha prayer wheel in the world, every turn represents a single recital of the scripture and mantra.  Huge, but shockingly easy to turn the wheel.

Sunday the plan was to head to one of the smaller islands and hang out there for the day.  Well it would help if I could read the schedule better.  I clicked on the wrong area so we were a half an hour late for the ferry.  Okay, we now know the drill and will for sure go back this weekend.  In the meantime we decided to go to the east side of the island to check out the beach boardwalk close to the airport https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/changi-east-boardwalk.  Of course we didn’t have all the information and only a phone to try to figure out some of the logistics.  We did find a lovely park, and the ocean but not the area I was looking for.  The big amazement to me was the camping along the beach.  Mostly the amazement was, enclosed stuffy tents with NO A/C.  I know one is supposed to “suffer” when you camp, but this went way beyond suffering and bordering dangerously close to torture (well for me anyways!)  I’ve checked out the logistics and we now have a plan for the next time we head out that way.  Starting with after we get off the train, we should have taken a cab to the beach area.  Clearly the heat/humidity had affected us!!

A romantic date tonight at the Long Bar (where the Singapore Sling was invented!) at Raffles hotel.  I’ve walked around the shops, would love to walk the ground or at least see the lobby.  You need to be a registered guest, but at $760 a night I guess I will be happy to check out the Long Bar and the shops!  Going to check out the little islands this weekend, now that I know the right ferry schedule.

Have a great holiday weekend for those in the States.



I’m here!


First week in Rio, yep I’m back in South America.  Where everything is just a bit harder to figure out and to do.  Went and got a SIM card for my phone; knew to bring my passport, waited in “short” line that was really at least 15 minutes long, then the experience of trying to convey what was needed to the store associate.  She had to whip out her phone a few times to Google translate to us what she needed and used her phone to figure out where the English settings were.  We were all pleased an hour later to have a functioning phone (the next hurdle will be to add minutes to the phone.  I’m hopeful that by the time I need minutes, I’ll be back in the states (chicken I know!)  Today’s hurdle will be to find laundry soap for a front loading washing machine.

World Cup: Brasil made it from the quarter finals and is now into the semi finals.DSCN6034(mascot)

The game was on Friday and a day off for most of the work force (John did go into work).  The locals (of course) are super excited that they advanced – during the game when they scored fireworks went off, cheers, horns honking.  We walked around the beach after the game; swarms of people dancing, lots of hugs and kisses, somba lines – lots of pandemonium.DSCN6048(me w/local football star)

Tomorrow Brasil will play Germany (another day off from work) and the final match will be on Sunday.  What will be interesting is how the city will be once all the tourists are gone.  Right now I’m (seeing lots (and lots) of military and police (many in full riot/storm trooper gear!) on street corners (though I feel pretty safe from them as it seems without fail all are looking at their phones (Facebook updates?!) and not watching the public.DSCN6029 When everybody is gone, will crime rise up (no more overtime for police?)  Regardless for all the publicity Brasil was getting about not being ready for the Cup – there has been only 1 problem (that I’m aware of) about a bridge collapsing at one of the host cities.

John and I got up to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar) this past weekend.  Beautiful views of the city – you can really tell this is a beach city.DSCN6056

We live near the end of the point – you’re seeing Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach is on the other side of the point.  Sugarloaf Mountain is 1312 feet tall of granite and quartz (perfect for climbers!)  You can hike to the summit (though too humid for me), so we took the cable car (which has been running since 1912 – though not the same one!)  The view from the top is incredible – 360 degrees, you see the whole bay, and for as crowded as the place is, we were actually able to find some quiet, shady spots to enjoy the scenery.DSCN6042

A few items of note: I have the “biggest” bathing suit here.  I was kidding before about a string bikini, but maybe I might need to re-think!  Though I won’t go out into the public until I have more tan on tummy – will need to get more of a base tan here at the pool. Tried a few of the local favs – aqua de coco (coconut milk – not bad if the coconut is nice and cold), acui ice (a super berry that comes of slushy machines, a bit gritty and a little sweet; though you eat with your eyes, and the berry is very dark purple/brown.  I don’t need to say anything more!)DSCN6070 The best have been the pastel de carne (meat empanadas!)  I can eat those every day.

Tchau, the girl from Ipanema Beach






The Adventure Begins (soon!)


I’m almost ready to head out the door for our next adventure, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (I can barely believe I’m saying those words!)  I’ve started to pack (do you find it hard to pack for weather in another country?)  Even though I’m watching the weather in Rio it’s still slightly hard to pack.  The saving grace, they’re on the Tropic of Capricorn and it’s their winter.  Essentially our summer, warm during the day and a bit cooler at night.  Dresses, flip flops and lightweight sweaters, possibly a string bikini (well no that won’t happen – but maybe when I’m there I might have a look at one or two!)

My list of places to see and do while there:

the beach – we’ll be living at Ipanema Beach, right beside Copacbana Beach (just hearing it sounds like fun!)

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ Redeemer, Favelas (located in what might be called “sketchy areas” this would be a tour, there are supposed to be some pretty amazing art/samba schools), cooking school (can hardly wait to try some of their food – http://www.buzzfeed.com/gabrielakruschewsky/traditional-brazilian-foods-you-need-to-eat-right-now  – all of that food sounds amazing), plus all the usual suspects of museums/shops/botanical gardens/and hopefully a few weekend side trips (Mr Adventure is working after all!)

Iguazu Falls (bigger than Niagara falls) found at the corner of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

The Amazon – Manaus – jumping off port for the Amazon.  Though after reading one of my guide books; DEET needs to be packed, and no fingers or toes into the water (either super dirty or bitten of by Piranhas!)

And of course World Cup!!!  Not that I’m a huge fan (okay barely a tepid fan) but I’ve seen clips of fans all excited, watching on the big screens on the beach (Copacabana) and generally having fun and I’m all about having fun!

I’m all ears if anybody has words of wisdom of things to see/do/people to connect with in Brasil.

Tchau (pronounced ciao)

The girl (soon to be) from Ipanema Beach

leaving for home.jpgHopefully this won’t be me leaving for Rio (luggage wise I should qualify!)




Back in Lima

After a whirlwind trip back home (the States), onto a planned textile tour of Bhutan with a girlfriend, back to Lima and then one more trip to Colombia for the holidays and a wedding (one of John’s nephews), I’m back in Lima.  Time to pick up the pieces and get settled back in.  Though for next week or so I’m temporarily side lined.  In Colombia (luckily on our last day there) and rogue wave got me.  Injury was a badly scraped ankle.  No big deal, leave it in the salt water; that’s good for many aliments (though I will say when it happened, I felt like Tom Hanks in Castaway when he got dashed up onto the coral reef!)  But it felt worse as the days went one.  Three days later I was dragged to emergency (I’m a terrible patient – if I’m really hurt I will protest that no I’m fine.  If I’m medium hurt, you would think I’m dying!)

We take a cab to the clinic (cabs are going to be my future of the next while), the one we were told that is bilingual.  (Note: not as bilingual as we had hoped.  Luckily between the two of us and our doctor we were able to sort ourselves out.)  Check in; John shows them our new medical insurance (the whole packet that you get when you’re a new hire – we literally just got it on Tuesday and the hospital visit was on the Wednesday – really a coincident!)  Receptionist takes one look at it and hands back to John – too much paper?  She takes my passport number, and our address.  Take a seat and we’ll get to you.  5 to 10 minutes later I’m in the back.  Temperature taken (normal), blood pressure taken (too high, taken a second time – still high.  I’m going to put it down to the stress of being there!)  Name on wristband is checked and a second band is added.  Fall Risk.  In English.

I’m finally put into a wheelchair, wheeled off to see the doc.  First doc comes in (I’m sure they were drawing straws of who gets to deal with the English speaking people, she was the short straw!) looks at me and decides maybe an X-ray is needed.  Off they take me, (no John, I have to tell the radiation tech the only Spanish I can understand is really easy).  Luckily it’s a lot of pointing and she positioning me.  Back to the exam room, new doc (bonus some English from him!)  No broken or chipped bone (huge relief!) but infection and pain pills are in my future.  Prescription handed out, back to the waiting room.  John fills out the prescription, the orderly ushers me into a waiting taxi, and off we go.  From start to finish I bet not more than hour.

The only slightly strange part no mention of a bill.  Before John came home, stopped at the ATM for lots of cash, credit cards.  And nothing.  Nothing at the pharmacy and nothing when we left.  I’m pretty sure we’ll see a bill in the mail, but still so different from the States.  Or could it be because again, nobody wanted to deal with those English speaking foreigners?!

I’m now at home for the next few days (stay off my feet is part of the new regiment).  No walking (did I mention that is mostly how I get around, Peru is very much a walking city!)  Ankle is starting to feel better, still slightly swollen but the pain level is at a 1 or 2 VS the 6 or 7 that it had been.  The most walking that I’m allowed to do is to go onto our balcony.  Hopefully by this weekend Dr. John will clear me to do a bit of walking outside (that would be after he runs out and buys an ugly stretchy ankle brace for me to wear – it won’t look cute with my skirt!)

Everybody write to me!!  I’m home, not going anywhere and I’m desperate for interaction.  Hopefully next week will be more action packed.

In the meantime a few pictures from my latest travels.

Bhutan: Buddhist monk, at a festival, one of the dancers, me at a temple courtyard and me above Tiger’s Nest Sanctuary.

Colombia; Bogota, Plaza Simon Bolivar, art graffiti, hiking in the Andes

Colombia; Guatape (the rock and lake view) and saw this sign in Medellin

Colombia: Cartagena and Santa Marta; old colonial homes in Cartagena and lovely beaches in Santa Marta and all dressed up at the wedding!

Hasta pronto,


Merry Christmas

I’m back in Lima (did anybody notice I was gone for 4 weeks – a trip home and a trip to Bhutan.  Both were fabulous!)

It’s been fun to notice changes in my city (it’s my city now!)  The big pot hole in the middle of the sidewalk is fixed (we thought for sure the hole would increase in size and suck down a small child).  It’s officially summer here and most days we actually have summer temperatures (though today the sea fog is so thick, we can’t see across the street to the sea!)  Flowering trees are starting to flower, instead of just being green and new flowers have been planted in the parks.  2 new restaurants have opened up in our area, and buildings have progressed in construction.  I love being able to see the changes – makes me feel like a local!


Sea fog – note you can see my balcony rail and pretty much that’s it!  Seriously the sea is literal right across the street from me.  Really!!

The city is getting ready for Christmas.  Not quite the excess of the States; some of the apartments have lights on their balcony, I’ve seen a few small lighted displays on the balconies, some Christmas trees (though nothing big – I’ll need to walk down to our big mall and to Parque Kennedy, where I’m sure I’ll see big decorated trees.)  The best though are the crèches in the parks.  (Crèche is the manager scene of typically Mary and Joseph; sometimes with animals and Wise men).  John tells me baby Jesus isn’t put out until Christmas eve (I put out all my crèches with baby Jesus the beginning of December – I had no idea baby Jesus doesn’t come until Christmas eve; the difference between a Protestant and a Catholic!)  Sure enough, crèches here have no baby Jesus in them.  Which makes me wonder, Christmas eve is park maintenance going to run around the whole city trying to figure out which baby Jesus goes with which crèche?  Will there be a bit of a panic trying to get it all done in one evening (if Santa can, why can’t maintenance?)  Will maintenance even care if it’s the right baby Jesus and towards the end just start chucking in random babies?  Inquiring minds want to know!

The first crèche is found at Parque Kennedy; check out the cat resting comfortably with Mary and Joseph.  Surprised he’s not in the manger!  The other crèche is slightly “homemade”, the brown “straw” is where baby Jesus will go.  Not sure if you can see in the picture, but crèches here often have chickens as part of the animals involved.    

And check out the Amaryllis growing in the park, outside!  Not like at home where it’s inside, coddled and I hope it will bloom in time for the holidays.   The other is a pom-pom tree in front of a boutique hotel.  So cute!!

Grocery stores are also ready for the holidays.  The one that fascinates me is the pre-done food boxes to be handed out to???  The boxes are about a printer box size, the sides are printed with Christmas decoration and Feliz Navidad is stamped on the front.  Boxes are full of assorted food staples (panettone, crackers, olive oil, some might have wine, pasta, canned goods).  All in all quite interesting.  The biggest food tradition here (so it seems) is having Panettone and hot chocolate Christmas Eve at midnight/Christmas morning (after all the fireworks are over at midnight – now that is a tradition I can embrace!) Though I will say I have Panettone for breakfast as much as possible during December.  This does beg the question though, why is Panettone so popular in Peru when there isn’t a very big Italian population here.  I guess shouldn’t wonder why, but instead enjoy the goodness of the lovely hot chocolate you can find here, along with the sweet bread that is Panettone!

Food boxes and Panettone supplies at the grocery stores

summer santa

Summer Santa – because coming from the Northern Hemisphere, summer Santa is just too strange of a concept to grasp!

A bit of local news here; the Pope is coming to town (Jan 18th – 22) and the city is preparing like mad.  I’ve seen at my local grocery store a “pope kit” (I might be paraphrasing here!)  The kit consists of a T-shirt/back pack/baseball cap, both with the date of his visit and a picture of the pope (S/25 or about $8 US).  He’s to go to 2 cities and Lima; fisticuffs of where he was going hold his sermon in Lima.  The original place was to be along the Costa Verde; lots of open space and relatively easy to get to.  The downside, if we have a Tsunami everybody would be history (who knew this was a serious worry here).  The other place is on a military base near the airport; the downside, it’s a military base and of course the pope is (well should be) about peace.  In the end the military base is where the pope will preach.  Pandemonium is going to run rampant that week!  The other big local news; PPK (the country’s esteemed(?) leader) isn’t going to be impeached.  Congress said he can stay in power.  It’s been a big topic these last few months.  It’s good that he’ll still be in power, I personally would think it would cause too much unrest here.  Will be an interesting first month in the new year!

pope kit

John and I are heading out for the holidays tomorrow; Colombia.  A nephew is marrying a Colombian and the family is heading out for the wedding (for some us it might be an excuse to leave winter cold behind and to enjoy some Caribbean sunshine!)

Feliz Navidad and Feliz Ano Nuevo,






This and That

Last weekend we headed to the Mistura; this is a big food festival in Lima.  In past years it’s been held on the Costa Verde (along the water edge, along the outskirts of Miraflores), this year it was held in the Rimac area (the concern was it was being held in a slightly dodgy area – for us anyways it was just fine).  Very interesting; a huge marketplace of all sorts of cheese, bread, vegetables, fruits, coffee and chocolate.  Too bad we’re heading out for a few weeks, would have bought much more (though we did get coffee and chocolate  – that never spoils!)  The area was divided out by types of food; sweets, ice cream and drinks, pisco sours, sandwiches, ceviche’s, BBQ (evidently BBQ pig is a big deal here from the amount of pits we saw!), anticuchos (heart), and restaurants.  Lots of samples, 2 little parades (or wandering musicians might be the better term), somebody described it as a state fair without the animals, rides and all the selling of different gadgets.  A very fun day!

I also checked out CasaCor; this is a local house (typically in a slightly depressed area) that has been re-furnished by local designers.  Lots of fun to see, and saw some cute ideas I would love to try out in my house.  But really the fun part of the whole outing was the going out with a few friends.

This past weekend was another visit into central Lima for a walking tour; Lima Walks.  We’ve done several walking tours now with Ronald, they’ve all been fabulous (he’s an impressive wealth of knowledge!)  A new co-worker with John was in town, so we dragged her with us on the tour.  This time the tour was in Monserrat, home to the two most important Peruvian Saints; Santa Rosa de Lima and San Martin de Porres, along with Senor de los Milagros (October is Senor de los Milagros month – the patron saint to prevent earthquakes (okay that might a bit of a paraphrase!)  In the 17th century an Angolan slave painted an image of the crucified Christ on the adobe wall of his dwelling. This wall kept standing during several earthquakes. A copy of the painting is carried around in the most important religious processions of Lima, each year in October.   The added bonus; a little parade/procession of indigenous people going into the Governor’s Palace for a ceremony.  Not sure why there was a ceremony, but music (big drums – love those big drums) and local costume.  The best was seeing some of the ladies getting out of the taxi cabs in their very elaborate costumes.  Struck me as funny.

Fabulous lunch today at Rosa Nautica, with John’s co-workers.  The restaurant has been around for 25 plus years, built right over the sea, which means delicious seafood.  It’s been on my list for awhile to check out.  Perfect day to sit by the window and admire the view and food!

We head back to the States this Wednesday (how are we going to watch the last fubal game of Peru VS New Zealand – it’s the final qualifying game for World Cup 2018?)  Rumor has it, if Peru should win (and come on, they’re playing here – they have to win!) PPK (Peru President) says Thursday will be a holiday.  Maybe he should just come out and say Thursday this week will be a holiday regardless of the outcome.  If Peru wins, people will be on cloud 9 and hungover.  If Peru loses people will be down in the dumps big time and hungover!

I’ll be gone for the next few weeks.  More of my Peruvian adventures when I return in late December

Hasta Pronto,


Eating around Lima

We had friends here a few weeks ago, and lots of eating and drinking was involved!  We were able to show off some of our favourite restaurants in Lima, and have them experience some of the reasons why Lima is considered a “foodie” destination.  In no particular order our food experiences of that week.

First day; drinks and tapas at Cosme; pisco sours, triadito (thin slice fish (think sashimi) and in the traditional ceviche lime juice, pulpo sellado (octopus – I didn’t have any, not a big fan of octopus, but are friends were swooning over the fabulous taste!)  Onto La Esquina (the corner, it’s on a corner!)  My favourite tapa place (so far) in the city.  It would be our local if it was just a few minutes closer (15 minutes to walk to – not far, but when we’re done with walking it would be nice if it was just a bit closer).  The menu is always good; pork belly, bruschetta with lomo (little meat), mushrooms.  Plus of course the wine.  Having tapas in a Spanish wine shop – how is it bad (it isn’t!)  Right now this is our favourite wine.  Is it possible to bring back a few bottles home?  I hope so!

wine from La Esquina

Day two; lunch at a “closed door” restaurant, Sonia, we were recommended to this place by one of my tour guides.  It was excellent!  It’s called a closed door because essentially the restaurant door isn’t open, you need to know it’s there.  Though the big fishing boat out front is the clue there’s a restaurant there.  I was told it was started by the fisherman’s wife (Sonia) and it’s grown from there.  We were there for lunch so of course had ceviche (ceviche is traditionally only served at lunch), along with Pisco Sours.  There was a small quartet (2 guitars, 1 sax and 1 fellow sitting on the square drum box – very popular instrument here).  Good thing we did a walking tour after lunch – needed to walk off some of that meal.

Day three; Matria for dinner.  I had the daily fish in red curry sauce – delicious.  Everybody’s meal was fabulous (though I can’t remember what anybody else had, as I was concentrating so hard on my dinner!)  Dessert – chocolate cake (think lava cake with a very warm gooey center with hazelnut ice cream.  Good thing we walked home!

Day four; food walking tour (can you see where this is going – lots of eating!)  Barranco bites was the tour we did (though I’ve also did their Miraflores walking tour and their Bikes and Bite tour and have enjoyed them all!)  The Barranco tour started out with causas (my favourite little appetizer – cold mashed potatoes topped with a little bit of seafood.  I originally chatted about it here.  Onto a taste of Inca Cola; sweet, as in bubble gum sweet.  Really not very good at all (for me!)  A walk along the art murals that Barranco is known for and we end up a little place overlooking the ocean for a bit of anticucha (heart – sounds a bit off putting, but it is good – though I would say in small doses!) I finally eat a bit of Chifa (Chinese fusion) food (I’m not a big fan of Chinese food), this dish was lots of veggies, a few pieces of different meat all on a big scorching hot platter.  Last stop Barranco Beer Company for some hand crafted beer.  Thank goodness we just had a few nibbles for dinner that night.

Causa’s from a little bar and one of the many art murals in Barranco

Day five; Astrid y Gason – our friend’s anniversary and we celebrate here.  One of the top restaurants in the world and yes I can see why.  The setting, the ambiance, the food.  It all was top notch.  We all decided to do the tasting menu (much easier to make a decision than to figure out the a la carte menu).  15 course!!!  Now each course literally wasn’t much more than a mouth full or two.  But we were all groaning by the time desserts came around.  To say we were in a food coma was an understatement.  But the food was wonderful (cuy in a small chocolate disc taco like – sounds weird, incredibly tasty!)  Scallops on the shell with some sort of frozen powder poured over top (I found out it was something to do with apples) – melt in your mouth.  Surprisingly the least favourite for me were the desserts, though they redeemed themselves by offering a giant chocolate box, whipped open several layers and drawers all hand made.  I took all 3 of my chocolates home with me!  A small bit of heaven the next day.  And the restaurant gave us a little celebratory cake for the anniversary couple – very nice!

the outside of Astrid y Gason and cocktails before dinner

from the tasting menu; appetizers – note the bed of appetizers on the left

the dinners; I can’t remember them all but the very first one is cuy on a chocolate taco disc.  Incredibly good!

desserts; the corn one not so good, but the bottom chocolate was excellent – ditto for the box of chocolates we got to choose a couple!

Day six; La Mar, last day with our friend’s here.  Another excellent top rated cevecheria; ceviche, triadito, yucca frita (fried yucca – it’s done very well here!), more pisco sours.  All in all it was a brilliant food trip with friends!!

picarones – the Peruvian donut, with a glaze of honey.  Very good!

And because John and I are a bit of gluttons for punishment two more restaurants to bookend this food week extravagance; Jeronimo; little tapas, (fish tacos, beef tacos, tuna tartar in cones) with lovely pisco sours.  We went here with a friend from work to help celebrate her birthday.  IK Resturante with more friends; lovely atmosphere, great food and wine.  The best was the little extra dessert – our waiter brought to the table a bowl of rocks with 4 chocolate rocks right on top.  The chocolate rocks looked exactly like the real rocks, which were delicious by the way!

Needless to say we’re about dined out or at least rich food out.  Eating in on soups and pasta; feels pretty good!

Though this weekend is the Mistura – a huge food festival that I understand people from around the world come to check out the latest in food.  We’re going this weekend with friends.  Should be interesting!

Hasta pronto


I’ve been counted

This past Sunday was census day here in Peru.  The whole country of 31.77 million people (more or less) was going to be counted in one day (unless you lived in the rural part of Peru, then the census takers had a few extra days to count you).  One day.  The mind boggles.  And not just a count of how many people live here, but rather we need to ask you these 47 questions.  Plus it was done door to door!!  My mind is reeling.

For a few weeks now there has been lots of notice about the census and what it all entails.  It started with everybody (locals, foreign residents, and tourists) were all going to be under “house arrest” from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.  If you were caught outside you would be “arrested” and taken to the local jail and held there until after the census was over.  In the end that ban was rescinded and you could walk/drive/bike around the area with the police not stopping you.  Though you were encouraged to stay put until you were counted.  I had heard at one point all the tourists coming into the airport that day between 8:00 and 5:00 were going to have to stay at the airport as there wasn’t going to be any transportation to take you to your location.  That also got waived.  If you were involved with tourism, your employer was to give you a waiver to be given to the census people early so you would be allowed to work.

All shops/restaurants/offices were closed, only essential services were open.  Lots of stocking up on the basics; wine, chocolate and cheese.

So what happened?  We had a look at some of the questions online (The government wanted our name and numbers (luckily we don’t have any numbers and weren’t asked for our passport number. Isn’t a census supposed to be anonymous?)  Some of the actual questions; did we have a refrigerator, stove, microwave, and my personal favourite’s; did we have a blender or an iron? (really; wow!)  Did we get gas/electric/water bills?  What kind of gas did we have (bottle/natural – here some apts. have bottled gas like propane tanks for heating).  How many rooms did we have (but not to count the living room, kitchen, bathrooms – really it was how many bedrooms did you have).  Did we work and if yes where/what as/on what kind of a visa?  What was our education/language/colour of skin?  Did we have a car/motor bike/boats of any kind?  Any kids? (and if yes, I think those same questions were to be asked of them).

But interestingly enough one friend was asked a question about is she a tourist or something along those lines.  Yes she is, though she’s here while her husband is working and that was the only question asked and the census taker walked away.  Other friends here are with the embassy and they were instructed to say with the embassy and no further questions asked.  And even more interesting, local friends weren’t counted, or got counted after the “curfew” was lifted.

And the logistics of it all.  In just my small area; how do you figure map out how to count (let alone the whole country!)  I heard people saying they saw one side got counted in the am, but their side didn’t get counted until late afternoon.  I did see the stickers on the doors – when you get counted the census taker slaps a sticker on your door.  But the stickers were so random, a couple house together and then random placement of stickers, as if they couldn’t be bothered to count the houses in between.



census sticker saying you were counted

It was mostly young university students who did the counting (essentially they volunteered – paid S/50 (which works out to be about $15) for all day of going door to door (and I read about some people really not happy about the census, so these young adults had to put up with “unhappy” clients) plus the additional 4 hours of training before hand.  No food or transportation allowance.  Hopefully they get some serious brownie points at school!  The other bit that boggled my mind; many of the census takers were by themselves going in and out of houses/apts.  Grant you, one didn’t need to invite census taker into your place (heard there was concern about census taker being fake and casing your place) but equally disturbing were the census takers were being taken advantage of by the owners (3 ladies got raped).



So after gathering up of all this information (by hand, fill in the bubble, though many of the answers were written out!), the information will be sent to the anonymous office to be entered and analyzed.  In one month’s time it’s supposed to be ready for publication!!!!  How is that possible?  Or maybe the question needs to be asked, why does the US need a year before they can release census data?

But the actual day of census.  So quiet.  No buses, no taxis, no car alarms going off, no traffic.  I did an early walk once we got done with the census; I saw 1 bodega open and 3 street cleaners and that was it.  Kids were playing basketball in the street.  John and I went for a walk a bit later on; another bodega open, ice cream man out and still no traffic.  We wandered in the middle of the streets that we never can cross unless there is a light.  A few people wandering around, but mostly census workers were the only ones out.  All in all a slightly eerie feeling of quiet.  So very quiet.  It was great!

this street is always crazy busy with cabs/buses.  Notice how it’s not!

playing and standing in the street – that’s a death wish here!  Not on census day!

Hasta pronto



Local Thoughts

Did you know October is earthquake preparedness month in Peru?  A whole month!   In Peru earthquakes are pretty regular occurrence.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Peru (coming from the Pacific Northwest, and the Ring of Fire, I never realized that Peru was so earthquake prone).  When we went to Huaca Pucllana and were told they bricks were laid in this particular order because of the earthquakes (this Huaca was built 200 AD to 700 AD).  http://limacitykings.com/senor-de-los-milagros-lima-peru/ , the painting on the wall survived at least 2 or 3 very big earthquakes, resulting in the painting to become a shrine, which in turned lead to a religious procession that occurs every month in October.  (A side note; I thought I wanted to check out the procession, as I’m all about a parade, but my Spanish teacher said something like 10,000 people go on these processions.  Even I knew I needed to draw the line at that.  That is just too many people to be in!  But I did think about it for a few minutes about going.)  But back to the earthquake preparedness month.  Tonight is a country wide drill (I’ve been texted twice by my cell phone carrier saying it’s going to happen at 8:00 pm), one source told me all the power will be cut (to enact if it’s a real happening).  We’re going out to dinner tonight – will be interesting to see what happens.  (Update: no power was cut, but we did go outside during dinner – of course our warm appetizer had just showed up!  We went out (took our drinks with us – that wasn’t well received.  We all stood around for about 5 to 10 minutes and then an all clear signal? and back in we went.) Oh and the other notice I saw was you had to have a earthquake preparedness backpack or risk fines.  I certainly agree on a backpack, but wonder on the logistics of enforcing/fines!    

local signs for safety spot for earthquakes; do I need to worry that some of the signs are right under all the electric wires?!

Another local tidbit is Sunday Oct. 22 is a census of the country, done once every 10 years.  https://www.perutelegraph.com/news/peru-living-lifestyle/census-2017-in-peru . There will be a “curfew” from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm for everybody (locals, foreign residents, and tourists.)  All shops/restaurants/churches/government buildings closed between 8:00 to 5:00.  And this count is to be done all on one day (well the article did say the rural area will take a bit longer).  To count the whole population of Peru in one day – the mind boggles.  But I’m even more stunned with the thought of everything being closed between 8-5.  Oh and the poor souls who are arriving into Lima between 8-5 on a plane; supposedly no cabs are allowed to and from the airport.  I’m not even sure if we’re allowed to walk around and luxuriate (so to speak) in the quietness of the streets (I read possibility of non-compliance if we’re not at home to be counted?)  Will our security guards do all the counting for the building?  But as I read more, there are 47 questions to be answered – who lives at home, educations, marital status, etc.  Is this when I flash the “no entendio” card?  I guess I need to make sure I have plenty of wine on hand and a bit of food!!  (Update: hearing from my local friends; not allowed outside.  If we do go outside, risk being “arrested” by the police and held at the police station during this 8 – 5 curfew.  Guess this really means we’re at home for the day on Sunday!)

World Cup fever is hitting Peru; right now Peru is battling for the last slot of the South America contingent (Argentina, Brasil, Uruguay and Columbia are in).  The last game was played in Lima and essentially the city shut down around 2:00 so everybody could either get home or get to the bar/stadium/outside park to watch the game.  People had face tattoos, the red and white jersey on (even dogs!!)  Peru has one more game to play; New Zealand – one game in Wellington (Nov 8 or 9) and one game here (Nov 14?)  The winner of this game will advance to the Russian World Cup 2018.  Might be time to go watch the game in person!  

Peru futbal team

Lastly a few random observations: in our neighbourhood (which is pretty nice) there are quite a few bodegas (little convenience stores), and many of them are sealed off with bars.  You want something; you stand at the entrance, tell the clerk what you want and it’s slipped out to you between the bars (I’m thinking it’s one roll of toilet paper at a time!)  I especially love the telephone that is bolted to the bars (on the inside of the store), all that you can reach is the receiver and the keypad for the number.  Evidently our neighbourhood has only recently gotten perky from the amount of barred stores around. 



buying from the bodega

Why does Peru have so many pompoms?  I’ve seen them in ears of llamas.  Ends of textiles.  In the hair braids.  And in the local markets.  Are they to make you happy?  (I can see that; nothing like a lovely burst of colour to perk up your day.)  But why so many pompoms? 

Happy Pompoms!

Friends are here this week.  Of to do some local sightseeing and eating our way across the city!  I’ll be sure to let you know what happens on census day. 

Hasta Pronto,






John and I headed to Ayacucho this past weekend.  I was told this is considered a handicraft city (I’m all about the handicrafts!); well known for it’s ceramics, embroidery and especially for its retablos.  (These are little boxes which depict either religious, historic or everyday life).  The city is also well known for its 33 churches (1 for each year of Jesus life) and at Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) the city is especially well known for its religious ceremonies (code for it’s a mad house!)  Ayacucho was part of the trade route; Lima to Rio (via Ayacucho, Cusco, Puno, La Paz, Rio), so lots of history in the area and the last tidbit; the Shining Path was located in this area.  Interesting area for us both!

retablo at the airport

news stands are retablos and us in a small retablo frame!

An easy flight; (side note – short runway plopped right on top of the flattest part of the mesa that could be found; when we left we had inches to spare to leave the runway to get into the air).  Taxi into the city, our driver told us he would be happy to drive us to the Wari dig and Quinua area on Saturday, perfect – and it’s a chance to practice our Spanish (both listening and speaking!)  We wonder around the Plaza de Armas on Friday and catch a little parade (I love a parade!)  Not sure what the parade was all about, but it was small kids holding onto lighted objects (stars, I thought I saw a Nemo), the parade goes a few times around the plaza, music and then head off into another direction.  It’s sunny and warm, able to eat dinner outside overlooking the Plaza, couldn’t have asked for a better start to our little holiday.



dinner looking over the Plaza


Saturday we’re up early, again breakfast outside on the balcony (can life get any better?)  Another spin around the Plaza (I’m hot to find a Museum of Handicrafts which we see on the map is near by.  Twice around the plaza and we see no signs of it at all, to my huge disappointment.)  But another parade; this time it looks like more a sporting event/team competition.  Lots of schools, mascots, noise makers, drums.  You know, general chaos.  Again around the Plaza and off to???  While waiting for our driver, I check out the quinoa ice-cream.  It’s a “thing” in Ayacucho.  The local ladies set up shop on the weekends along one side of the plaza; creamy, sweet, cold.  Very delicious!

Quinoa ice-cream and the makers

team parades

First stop is the Wari archeological dig.  S/3 entrance fee ($2.00 for us total) and directed to the museum on site.  I love these small, slightly quirky museums!  The museum is all in Spanish (this is when I’m slightly bummed we didn’t take a tour to the site so understand a bit more of what we’re looking at).  But that being said, both of our Spanish has improved that we can read more than 50% of the descriptions and understand the displays.  The Wari people were before the Incas, also covered a large territory (like the Inca), huge culture of influence on weaving and ceramics, and elaborate burial rituals; 500 AD till about 1100 AD when the next civilization comes (Chankas) and then it’s the Incas (1350 AD).  After our tour of the museum we wonder around the archeological ruins; saw a huge slab stone used for sacrifices (I wasn’t sure if it was for humans or animals – but wasn’t sure I really wanted to know!). We came upon a big area, slightly underground divided up into little rooms, plus what looks like a small cave a bit higher up – maybe group housing?  Come to find out it’s a burial, the people are buried in fetal positions with all of their worldly possessions (which because of the very dry area has preserved many textiles/ceramics/basketry).  Very interesting.

from the museum at the Wari dig

from the dig; the stone slab sacrifice table, one of the digs being worked on, the burial site, and view of the Wari dig

We head onto Quinua to Pampa de Quinua; there’s a big monument here in the middle of a large empty field (the monument is where the Battle of Ayacucho took place against Spain in 1824, which won Peru’s independence, evidently a very bloody encounter – Ayacucho means “bloody corner” in Quechan.)  Huge wide open spaces (pampa does mean after all huge, wide open spaces!), a little stand of restaurants (didn’t try – next time!) and a stand of artists.  Very local – essentially I think we might be the only tourists there (though many locals around).  As we’re walking over to the monument a group of 3 young men come running up to us and proceed to interview us for a little survey.  Come to find out they are looking into “glamping” for this area (even said the word glamping – it’s a real thing!)  Tents, organic meals, some adventure hiking/horse riding/waterfalls/transportation, all for $70 a night.  I hope it works out for them.  The monument is lovely, for a mere S/2 (less than a $1) we’re able to enter the monument and tour the bottom for a little bit of history (the monument has been made 3 times), plus we could climb up and get a great view.  Well worth every bit of S/2!  Next stop Plaza de Armes in Quinua; known for the their ceramics.  The plaza is small, not very touristy.  But we’re able to wander around and buy a few ceramics.  I see on the top of a quite a few roofs, what looks like to be a little church out of ceramics.  I understand that the church on top of your roof means the house is occupied, no church the house is abandoned.

the monument area of Quinua

the Plaza da Armas of Quinua – note the little church on top of the roof

Back to the town of Ayacucho.  We wonder around a bit more – find a handicraft area (yea!) in which I was able to part with a bit of money and then a walk back to the Plaza with yet another parade (folkloric this time – all in traditional costume).

Sunday we wake up to another sunny day (I could get use to these sunny days) and yet one more parade.  This time slightly more military in feel, though many schools marched; school of doctors, school of ecology, engineers, though there was also what looked like a kindergarten marching, what looked like troops of  girl guides (though I know that’s not the right word), plus many Quechua (local indigenous population) ladies and gentleman.  All carrying signs (though not up high, but rather more flat – good thing I was seeing the parade from up above, but still couldn’t puzzle out what the banners were saying or more importantly the why!


The only slight hiccup in our get away; LATAM decided not to fly us home that afternoon.  We never did understand the reason why – the plane did come out, but maybe too windy (which I could understand – not much leeway on the runway!)  One more night in the city and out the next day (early afternoon).

a few of the many churches in Ayacucho

and a few details of the city, the vulture on the bull was a big deal.  Not sure what the significance was!

A very fun weekend away.  No big plans for this weekend.  Friends coming in next weekend (yea!)

Hasta pronto,