A Gift from the East

Once again I find myself drawn back to Istanbul.  It was seven years ago since I spent any time in this fascinating city that straddles Europe and Asia (Amanda and I were here a couple years ago for a long layover on our way to Morocco).



Sunrise from my hotel room.

Even though there is currently a travel ban between the USA and Turkey, my visa was issued before this little tiff between our countries occurred.  Regardless I was welcomed in the warm Turkish style that I truly love.  They actually seemed to welcome me even more.  Tourism is extremely important here and the everyday Turk doesn’t seem to care about politics that much anyway.



Breakfast on my first morning.

I’m not sure exactly what draws me here.  There seems to be several factors.  First off, the city of Istanbul gorgeous.  Every corner offers a new vista or colorful insight into everyday live here.  But also important is the food.  I’ve traveled the world and I have not yet found a cuisine that I enjoy more.  They use simple, fresh ingredients that are grown locally and display them beautifully.  It’s simply complicated?  Is that possible?  Whatever it is I always eat WAY more than necessary.



Donor kebap.  It’s never far away.

Since Istanbul is an ancient city (Constantinople), wandering around in the little streets is a loafer’s dream.  I especially enjoyed that this trip since I didn’t necessarily feel compelled to revisit the sights I’ve already seen.  Here’s just a few of the scenes that caught my eye.



It wouldn’t be Turkey without a protest of some kind.



You can sit at a sidewalk café for an hour sipping a glass of hot tea.



I came across these two ladies-who-lunch this afternoon.

But as I write this post I am killing time before my next adventure.  Joan and I leave in a few hours for Amman, Jordan.  I’ll  be in touch from there soon.  In the meantime, please don’t tell anyone about Istanbul.  I want to keep it a secret.








The Road to Ruin



The ball court at Nim Li Punit.

We took a chance to get out of Dodge yesterday. So with Cameron, our hired driver, we set out for the Mayan ruins of Nam Li Punit nearly a couple of hours south of Placencia. While I have seen more impressive Mayan ruins, I’ve never experienced one in complete solitude.  We were the only visitors and it’s amazing how that can change the experience.



Ray’s ashes at Nim Li Punit

The ruins were in a lush tropical setting and it was here that I once again left a little piece of Ray behind in this peaceful setting.



Clarity of offer.

After the ruins we headed straight to Coleman’s Café for the famous buffet.  As you can see, they are quite specific about what the don’t have.  But it’s what they do have that’s important.  Real home cooked Belizean food in a real homey environment.  It was really good and the homemade ice cream is to die for.



Lunch at Coleman’s

But perhaps the most ruinous part of the day was the time we spent at Yoli’s along about 6pm…and onward. I loved the hippie vibe there and it truly felt like you’d escaped the real world for an alternate universe.



Lori, Brian, and Ruben at Yoli’s



Ruben and Yoli



I saw this gorgeous lotus blossom that the Spice Farm near Nim Li Punit


Leaf cutter ants at Nim Li Punit provide a surprising amount of entertainment.



Nim Li Punit












Ciudad de Mexico!

Beautiful architecture

Beautiful architecture

This is my first time to Mexico City and I must admit that I find it really surprising. The first thing that surprises me is how cold it can be here. At over 7,000 feet above sea level don’t let the latitude fool you. The second thing that surprised me is how clean everything is. It is a very desirable and cosmopolitan city. It’s one of the largest in the world, and frankly, they’re not real fond of Donald Trump here.

dsc01034But this is just a stopover for us, as we’re on our way to Havana tomorrow morning.  We hear that finding an Internet connection is nigh on impossible there so I may not be able to post until we return to Mexico City in about two weeks.  But if it is possible, I will.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos from around this exciting and vibrant city.

A beautiful old post office.

A beautiful old post office.

A stunning post office.

A stunning post office.


The most incredible bakery I've ever been in.

The most incredible bakery I’ve ever been in.

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Aztec cultural dance on the street.

Aztec cultural dance on the street.


La Condesa neighborhood.

La Condesa neighborhood.

Bali Bye


The terraced rice fields at Tegalaling, Bali.

Alas, my time in Bali is quietly coming to an end.  Tomorrow we fly back to Jakarta, spend a night at a hotel near the airport, and then have a very early flight back to Los Angeles. All this comes just as I’m finally getting used to living in this grand villa and am able to order something from the house staff without feeling a tinge of guilt.



Offerings left at important Hindu places.  These two spots must have been especially auspicious considering the number of offerings left.

It’s been a lazy time here in Ubud and we all certainly needed that after the crazy pace we kept during the eclipse tour. Yesterday we visited the home of an American (from Santa Monica, CA no less) that has been living in Bali since the 60s.  Both Nadya and her house was quite eccentric and we had a nice chat.  It was especially interesting to get her perspective on how this area  has changed since she first came.  She arrived before electricity and has watched tourism become the number one employer in the area…70% of the local economy. Her take is some things were good, some not so good.

The pictures above (click for a larger view) are from Nadya’s house in Ubud.  She served us Jack Fruit and coconut water grown on her land.  The cookies were really good and we had a beautiful view of her rice field while we sat and chatted.


Upon returning to the house after the visit with Nadya I managed to catch a glimpse of the “Offering Lady” who comes to the house every afternoon to leave little treasures in certain important places around the house. 

Today we had the house driver take us to Tegalaling village to view the beautiful terraced rice fields there and a little last minute shopping in Ubud.  I even managed to find a 3 square meter piece of hand-woven cloth for my Mother’s quilting habit (it was cheap Ma.)


Tegalaling rice terraces


Tegalaling rice terraces.


The village of Tegalaling.  We had a little tropical shower just as we arrived but it didn’t last long.


The town of Ubud, Bali.  Monkey Forest Street (it’s actual name).

Well it’s about time to pack it in for this trip.  I’ve liked Indonesia.  The sights are lovely.  The people are warm and friendly, and the culture is diverse from island to island.  I worry though what will happen to the resources and infrastructure of this developing country (the fourth largest in the world!) as they grow into the 21st century.

Come along next time.  I don’t know where yet, but my life is a trip!

Heaven Has a New Name

DSC00443Before I go any further, let me recap why I’m so happy to be where I am now at this moment.  Over the past few days I have:

  • Driven from Palm Springs to Los Angeles
  • Flown from Los Angeles to Tokyo
  • Flown from Tokyo to Singapore
  • Flown from Singapore to Jakarta
  • Flown from Jakarta to Yogyakarta
  • Flown from Yogyakarta to Denpasar, Bali
  • Flown from Bali to Jakarta
  • Flown from Jakarta to Bangka Island, Sumatra
  • Experienced a total eclipse of the sun at sunrise after a 3:30am bus ride
  • Sat on a Sumatran beach for six hours awaiting the clearing of traffic
  • Flown from Bangka Island to Jakarta
  • Flown from Jakarta to Denpasar
  • Taken a private car from Denpasar to Ubud

Needless to say we arrived at our private villa near Ubud utterly exhausted and over stimulated.  Alamanda is my new name for heaven. We have the whole place with four bedrooms, private pool, and a staff of six people for the four of us.DSC00448This will be our own personal nirvana for the next six days.  I have a full body massage scheduled for later this morning and a new Phillipa Gregory novel to savor by the pool afterwards. Very little sightseeing is planned.

DSC00455For now I will just enjoy this lovely, magical place as I daydream about also finding Love like Julia Roberts did in Eat, Pray, Love in this exact spot.DSC00455DSC00454DSC00453DSC00452DSC00451DSC00450DSC00449DSC00447DSC00446DSC00445DSC00444DSC00442

A Sunrise Eclipsed

DSC00380Well we had to get up at the crack of insanity again this morning.  To be exact, I had to get up at 2:30am to be on the bus by 3:30.  But I didn’t mind.  We had a purpose.  We were going to see one of the most spectacular astronomical events…a total eclipse of the sun. This eclipse was happening just after sunrise about 6 degrees high in the sky.  It would go fast, about 2 minutes of totality.  It could be a dud because of clouds, or it could be breathtaking.


Just before sunrise the situation is not looking good for us. It’s pretty though.

But we arrived well before sunrise to a beach facing in just the right direction and were welcomed by throngs of local people already in place for this highly publicized event on the local media. At first it was just a little depressing. The cloud cover looked against us and to have traveled all this way and not see the eclipse would be a major disappointment. But…DSC00391We missed the “first bite,” but lo and behold,in just a few minutes the clouds parted and we were awarded with a spectacular show! I’ve never been able to get pictures of an eclipse since I refuse to lug around all the equipment necessary to do so.  But I did get a couple of keepers this time.

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The diamond ring was gorgeous and it is truly hair-raising to be able to look at the corona without filters.  It’s the fastest two minutes of your lifetime.  It’s magical and impossible to explain.  One woman in our group had never experienced a total solar eclipse before.  She was simply stunned.

The number of local people that showed up for the event amazed everyone from local authorities to our local tour organizers.  Therefore, we really had no choice to sit on the beach afterwards…for hours…until the buses could move an inch.  Fortunately for my camera, it provided an excellent opportunity to get some pictures of people experiencing this event for probably the only time in there lives.  Everyone was in a great mood and I must have had my picture taken hundreds of times and gave nearly as many autographs.

Take a look at these photos and maybe you too can get a sense of the “place” here on Bangka Island just off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia for Gerhana Matahari Total.


Eclipsing takes a toll on our group




Cuenca, Ecuador

P1070683We arrived in Cuenca, Ecuador via Quito a couple days ago.  Before I started planning this trip with Joan I had never heard of this city of nearly 400,000 residents set high in the Andes of South America.  At around 8,200 feet above sea level it’s not for altitude challenged.  The real draw here is the Spanish colonial architecture that many regard as some of the best preserved in the world and the entire “centro historico” has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The stunning architecture, colorful indigenous Americans, and all-around general vibe make for a wonderful place to visit.
I’ll admit, upon arrival I was tired and didn’t really understand the attraction here.  But it only took a few hours to see that this is really a special place.  This entry will have a lot of photos for the mere fact that it is a photographer’s dream.  Not that I’m a photographer, but it certainly gave me plenty of reasons to think that I was.

P1070627Of course we saw the beautiful architecture.  We also had some wonderful meals (a couple of bad ones too).  We visited more churches than you could shake a stick at but probably the most memorable experience of our visit here was the political demonstration on some sort of constitutional amendment.

The local police prepared for it all day!  And they sure did pull out all their toys for the event.  We saw everything from cops dressed in armor that looked like it was from a Star Wars set to cops on armored horses, to cops with rather friendly looking German Shepherds.  However it was notable that very few actually had guns.  I even saw one particularly macho looking “polizia” assisting an elderly lady around some barricades that had been erected.   He treated her with a gentle touch.  Here are some photos from our riot.P1070719 P1070698 P1070707 P1070725P1070722




























This morning we found a local food market.  It was here that I got some good photos of people that I especially like.

Joan had to try an arrepa.

Joan had to try an arrepa.


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Of course there was the food!













Here are some other scenes from around town that just caught my eye. Late this afternoon we fly to Quito which the country’s capital.  Stand by for further reports and a new person added to our travelling party.  Francisco will be showing us all the sights in Quito and the surrounding area.  Should be fun.


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