Grant and I hit the City running the day after getting our historical fix in Philly and we just kept running and running--well, actually walking. The very first day we walked from mid town (around 32nd) all the way uptown (not counting all the zig zags cross town) to Harlem (around 124th). In other words--we walked a hell of a long way! As I have noted before, NY blocks seem and are much bigger than the blocks most of us are used to--especially the blocks I grew up on in Portland, Or and Seattle.
Safe to say-- the days I am in the city, I don't have to worry about a cardio workout at the gym--I get plenty of exercise.

I had never been to Harlem, so it was a treat to take Grant up there and experience it for myself as well. On the way we visited some of the touristy spots that we missed when Grant was here before i.e. Rockefeller Skating Rink [Quote from Grant (and everyone else that has ever seen this rink] "Man, its small!!!!"); the NY Public Library, Bryant Park, Central Park, the Upper West Side (where I called Tom from a neat little restaurant and once again tried to convince him, but to no avail, that we should move there) and of course we visited the best Pubs we could find along the long walk -- shout out to The Pour House!!!

Once to Harlem, I noticed first hand the huge increase of building expansion that has been reported all over the news (real estate tip: buy now in Harlem if you have the $$). Its a gorgeous part of the city and near some pretty gorgeous landmarks including Columbia University and the 2nd largest place of religious worship in the WORLD, second only to St Peter's in Vatican City: The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

This "church" and by using the term church I feel as I am doing a huge disservice to this gorgeous building/house of God, is breathtaking. Seeing it from the outside and knowing that no picture I could ever take with my camera would do it justice made me feel so small. This building is enormous and once entering inside, it felt like I was Jonah in the stomach of the whale--swallowed whole and just frozen--looking around in shock.

The inside covers more than half a city block, spanning a length of over 600' and over 200' high.
It was designed in 1888 and begun in 1892, but since has undergone radical design changes (not to mention the interruption of the two World Wars). It is still considered unfinished... but due to lack of funding and the recession--the restoration project that has been ongoing for decades has been halted... temporarily. The stained glass, tapestries and small chapels within the cathedral complete with gothic statues, small historical religious mementos with the organ music (which I have to admit seemed eerie) playing in the background gave us a very surreal feeling.

After day one in the city we headed home to tell Tom of all our stories and plan day 2 which consisted of more walking, more pubs and Brooklyn. It was a great day.

Here are some pictures!

Grant in front of the Bryant Park Skating rink

Grant at the Library. GHOSTBUSTERS!!!!

Grant at the John Lennon Imagine Memorial in Central Park

Some shots of the Cathedral

The Apollo Theatre

Moving to the East Coast nearly 3 years ago took me away physically from all of my family and pretty much all of my friends. While I love it here and NEVER want to move back to Seattle, moving away of course has had its sad moments. I think honestly, the person I miss the most is my brother. He and I have always had a special bond and well, he is my little brother--I watch out for him. We obviously grew up together and had our share of good times and then as adults, in my late 20's, we were "roomies" for about 4 years or so. In those 4 years some of our adventures together count as some of the highlights in my life. I feel fortunate to say that my brother is one of my best friends.

This week my brother, Grant, came to visit! This was his second trip to the East Coast and a bit different than his first trip a couple summers ago. When he first came out it was over the 4th of July so we spent most of the time at the boat with one day seeing the "must see" tourist sights in NYC. This time, with the temp being slightly cooler than summer (28 degrees or so) the boat was NOT in the itinerary. Instead we proceeded to see more of NYC and the surrounding area than ANY OTHER GUEST has ever seen here, with me, in the same amount of time. Yes, its true.

Grant flew in on a Wednesday night that was COLD and cloudy. I had hoped for some sun--even if it was cold--and sun we got each of the following days.

Thursday we drove about 90 min away to Philly. Grant is a huge history buff so Philly was high on his list of must-see places. We stopped in Princeton, NJ on the way and visited the famous cemetery where Grover Cleveland and Revolutionary War soldiers are buried.

Once in Philly we visited the site of the first Congress and we didn't let a little scolding for touching a chair that was actually used by one of the "main guys" and 200 some years old stop our fun. We saw the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence draft that was delivered to Canada and various other locations proclaiming the legitimacy and standing of the "new United States of America", row houses dating back to the late 1700's and most important---some really cool old bars.
At City Tavern, we actually had a beer from a recipe found in Thomas Jefferson's home cook book served to us by a woman that knew A LOT about history and was dressed in a fashionable colonial wardrobe. After City we ventured to Eulogy, a bar that coins itself as "beer heaven" and has 300 beers on tap. It was here, at Eulogy, that Grant, a self proclaimed (but I am sure a claim that would not be argued) beer guru had his favorite beer ever--and that dear reader, says A LOT.

Here are some pics of us in Philly. The next installment of this blog will follow Grant and me to my favorite city -- NYC.

Grant and Grover in Princeton

Grant at the Liberty Bell

Grant and Diana at City Tavern

Cool very small door in Philly

Grant & row houses, small door frames and cobble stone parks

Panama in video

We hope you enjoy this little video I put together based on pictures we took in Panama. Turn on your sound and groove with the gorgeous shots.


Life in 2010

One my twitter "friends" had "tweeted" about this and it is TOO good to not pass on to all of you!
The link and the below blip (written by the owner of this website I am linking you too as well as this awesome little blog post you will read) gives you an idea of how life in 2010 was thought to be per a 1972 library book.
What is a bit freaky, is that some of the "future projections" really aren't that far off... maybe except for the following: "In the year 2010 everyone wears a jumpsuit and shoes."

Page through the "book" with the arrows and page down to read all of the text of each page as well as some very humorous side notes/realizations from the blog author.

Here is the blip:
Back when I was a boy, I bought a children's book at my town's library book sale called "2010: Living in the Future" by Geoffrey Hoyle. Written in 1972, it had been withdrawn from the library's collection by the mid-80s, when I picked it up. I've somehow managed to hang onto it for 25 years and now, suddenly, here we are: 2010. I'm reproducing this long out-of-print book here to see how we're doing. Are we really living in the future? |a project by Daniel Sinker

Here is the link:

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did and if you ever find the actual book at an old flea market or garage sale--please snatch it up for me. Thanks in advance. :)

Since moving to the East Coast, each Winter a certain day arrives and it is a day like no other.
A day that, although I know will come, isn't always predictable and its arrival cannot be based on its arrival in previous years.
A day that once it does come I get a feeling that summer will never be here again.

The day I am speaking of has arrived today --- it is the day that I have a desperate desperate desire to wear a full face stocking hat--the kind with just eye holes open-- whenever I have to go outside.

As fashionable as I may NOT be, I do know that these hats would be the final nail in my coffin in terms of fashion... but its SO COLD! The last few days have seemed brutal and today it even warmed up to 35! While I was successful for the 3rd Winter in a row in resisting a trip to the Army Navy Surplus store to invest in one of these hats, I did decide to try and find people who may be colder than I am-- and I did! The Participants of the annual NO PANTS DAY SUBWAY RIDES--- 2010!!

This day happened just last week in NY (and in various parts of the country--even in Mexico I hear). Riders rode the rails with their normal attire, just minus the pants or skirts. Here are some pics I found on the internet as I was not there myself participating in the event.

Enjoy and stay warm! The countdown to Summer is ON!

Panama Canal

This final installment of our Panama trip focuses on what some people travel to Panama for to see above all other things the country has to offer: the Panama Canal.

Our last day in Panama City, before flying home, was spent touring the "old city" (Casco Viejo) again with Gretchen, Doug and Sonya, having a nice final dinner at one of the best restaurants in the city-- Scena and visiting the famous Canal.

Just a background for those of you who have forgotten what you learned about the Canal in your middle school history class (some data below gathered from wikipedia):

The Panama Canal is a 48 mile ship canal that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and acts as a key conduit for international trade. Annual traffic has risen from about 1,000 ships in the canal's early days to 14,702 vessels in 2008.

One of the largest engineering projects ever undertaken, the Canal had an enormous impact on shipping between the two Oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via the Drake Passage and Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 6,000 miles, well under half the 22,500 km (14,000 miles) route around Cape Horn.

The concept of a Canal near Panama dates to the early 16th century. The first attempt to construct a canal began in 1880 under French leadership, but was abandoned after 21,900 workers died, largely from disease (particularly malaria and yellow fever) and landslides. The United States launched a second effort, incurring a further 5,600 deaths but succeeding in opening the canal in 1914. The US kept control of the Canal until September 7, 1977 when US President Jimmy Carter gave the Panamanians free control of the Canal so long as Panama signed a treaty guaranteeing the permanent neutrality of the Canal.

The treaty led to full Panamanian control effective at noon on December 31, 1999, and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) assumed command of the waterway.

As with toll bridges, ships passing through the Canal must pay a fee. This fee is based on the size of the ship usually and the most expensive toll to date was a Disney Cruise ship that paid $331K to pass through in 2008. According to the tour guide at the Canal, this fee is around the norm these days for all large ships.

In case you were wondering... it seems that they charge ANY kind of vessel that goes through this passage. The least expensive toll recorded was .36 cents charged to an American adventurer that swam the Canal in 1928.

Tom enjoyed the tour as his engineering background sort of pre-disposes him to that enjoyment. For me--it is interesting yes, but I have been to the Ballard Locks SO MANY TIMES (in Seattle that this to me was just the Ballard Locks, on a larger scale...And no clam chowder restaurants within walking distance :)

I kid, I kid. It is an amazing world wonder and its construction brought a great deal of international presence and monetary gain to and for Panama and for that I am grateful. It is a gorgeous country and as I have said, we cannot wait to visit again.

Here are some pics Tom took of the Canal.

View from our hotel in Panama City--the start of the Canal.

Shots of a ship making its way into the Canal

These little "cars" keep the ships centered while traveling through the Canal; and a shot of the doors/water barriers of the locks.

A website for the Panama Canal for more information

As I write this post the fireplace is roaring, we have multiple layers of clothes on and the throw blankets are at the ready as we watch our NY Jets try and stay alive in the playoffs. Much different situation for us now than compared to last week at this time... for one, its about 75 degrees COLDER now than what we had gotten used to in Panama.
Ahhhh Panama--it seems so long ago now. We came home to snow and very cold temps--but still, it is very sunny so at least it is beautiful. I love East Coast winters.

Now that time has passed, some of Panama feels like it was a dream... could it have really been as wonderful as we remember?

So just to summarize, we met our friends Gretchen and Doug in Panama City (they are our official travel buddies for a yearly Christmas time trip to somewhere warm and tropical). I have written many times about these two--they are very dear friends of ours--as close as family to us-- and every time we get the chance, we love to see them. (By the way, our next long term visit with them (not counting short trips for Gretchen to NY or us to Cali to see them) will be in NEW ZEALAND & FIJI for their wedding! Yay!!!!

Sonya, Gretchen's friend for many years, also flew out to Panama to join us all for diving and fun and I hope she becomes a regular on our trips!

After spending some sight seeing time in gorgeous Panama City (a very modern banking city that was influenced greatly by the build of the Panama Canal) especially in the "old" Panama City where we saw the old ornate churches, the President's house (heavily guarded) and the locals. Panama City also has a large population of the native Kuma Indians and they make and sell their traditional Molas which they use as part of the blouses they wear (but what I will use as a wall hanging in my office with the one I purchased). The Kuma women wear bracelets all over their legs and arms as well as the traditional dress with the colorful Molas being the focal point of the outfit. They also all have a nose piercing and we didn't see one over 4'2". Its funny--we didn't see any Kuma men... I wonder what they do in the day?

A couple posts ago I added a picture of me with the Kuma woman (as well as other Panama City pics) that made my Molas. Later, when Gretchen, Sonya and I wandered over to her part of town so those 2 could purchase Molas, this woman spoke to us in a very fast Spanish that she must have assumed me understood. I take that as a compliment, but in reality we only understood snipets of what she was saying...

After Panama City we headed to the other side of the country, to the state of Bocas del Toro which borders Costa Rica. The island of Bastimentos in Bocas was our destination. We stayed at eco-bungalows that were positioned above the water (Caribbean) and were very ecologically in tune with everything including solar panels that gave us our electricity (but only from 5pm to 9am each day), water conserving showers, sinks and toilets as well as organically home grown food for our delicious breakfasts and other meals we chose to eat at the guest only restaurant. Gretchen found this place, Eclipse de Mar, in Islands Magazine and she could not have picked a better place. We each had our bungalows with decks that led right into the water for our swimming enjoyment.

Our bedroom french doors were never closed and at night we fell asleep in our bed looking at the moon shine off the water and palm trees and woke up to the sun shining on the water and morning kayakers. Kayaks were at our disposal and Doug, Gretchen, Tom and I all kayaked out to a nearby palm tree island (see rainbow pic from our deck. palm tree is off to the left) and Gretchen and I swam back. 10 min after getting back to our bungalows and drying off, we saw three dolphins swimming RIGHT WHERE WE WERE SWIMMING. WOW.

The weather was in the 90's the entire trip and only one day we had steady rain. We spent some of the mornings diving in the very warm (84 degree) Caribbean Ocean (see pics and Tom's video in our previous post) and our afternoons and evenings laying in the sun and finding great local restuarants for dinner.

The Panamanian people were very gracious and as with Mexico, it felt very safe for us "tourists". About the tourists--- all of the people we met for long enough to find out where they were from, were from either 1) New York 2) California or 3) Canada. We found that interesting.

The days we didn't dive, we instead enjoyed and discovered the jungle life in Panama. Tons of birds, frogs, lizards, geckos, cows, horses, roosters, chickens and of course street dogs were all very plentiful (pic below of a local house, a relaxing "street" dog and some wild life).

One of the days, all 5 of us hiked to an organic farm at the top of Bastimentos to visit with a couple (the man from Argentina and the woman from Scotland) and their two young boys who grew all of their own food on their farm and also all of the ingredients necessary to make the organic shampoo, soaps, anti-itch cream (bugs were pretty thick) and oils that they sold themselves and also sold in some of the local markets. This farm was amazing. It was VERY hot that day so we all arrived drenched in our own sweat but happy to have made the trek. We had organic juice to quench our thirst and while Tom and Doug rested some, the girls shopped the locally made jewelry. What a life this couple had. They moved to Panama 10 yrs ago to volunteer on the Turtle Conservation Project (Turtles are near extinct in Panama as the locals eat them---very sad). Anyway, they met and created their dream. It was inspiring to see them live with solar panels, growing their own food and teaching their sons a life that not many people I know would ever choose. A part of me made me want to choose that life--to throw it all in and get myself some sandals made of rope, a surfboard (their house overlooked the best surfing beach in Panama) and some spanish classes...It seemed a very romantic life to me---to be passionate enough to give up many, if not most, modern conveniences yet be totally happy without the modern headaches that come along with corporate life, technology, power, money etc. Those closest to me know that I am semi serious when I say that I could live that way---if given the chance, but of course, my husband is MUCH more important to me and the life we have built.
If given the chance, I wonder if I really could pull it off---I guess I will never know, but its so fun to imagine I could... :)
(Pics of the hike below)

Another day Tom took a hike into the conservatory on the island to witness rare foliage and birds. He got some great pics and got an insider view of some of the behind the scene workings of the island--the water collection and purification process specifically.

Another day, Doug, Gretchen and I hiked to Wizard Beach and witnessed THE most gorgeous beach all of us had ever seen. It was desolate save for a few surfers. The reason: you had to hike through the jungle in ankle (sometimes knee) deep mud to get there.
It was definetly an experience and the mud, when you don't think about the bugs and other creatures embedded in the slop, actually felt sort of soothing to be enveloped in (except when you stubbed your toe on a hiden fallen tree branch (get well soon Doug AND Gretchen) or when you fell on your ass into even deeper mud (I speak from experience). Seeing the beach and knowing we made it there made the walk there (and back) totally worth it!

While at the beach, we took off our clothes and hung them on a makeshift clothes line made out of driftwood we dug into the sand then went swimming in the warm ocean (we had suits on under our cothes in case you were wondering). It was only one of 2 times in my life where the water temperature did not cool me off when going in-the water was THAT warm.

After some swimming and walking along the empty beach, Doug plucked us a coconut and actually--I swear this happened-- cracked it open on some lava rock. Seriously. After drinking the refreshing coconut water we tasted the soft gel of the coconut (that hardens when exposed to air long enough). We were on a natural high and I for one, did not have a better day in Panama. I wish Tom were there to enjoy it with me, but for some reason he opted out of the mud hike? Wonder why? :)

Sadly, we do not have any pics (except for this one I found on the internet of Wizard Beach).

We were told to beware of the banditos that are known to hold people up at gun point on the mud walk and rob them of their valuable possessions. With that little tip-- we decided to leave cameras, jewelry, pretty much everything but water back at the bungalows. Turned out we saw some locals on the mud trail, but I don't think they were bandits and all probably would have been fine, but--better safe than sorry. I will never forget that walk or that beach. Or that coconut.

Our days were filled with adventure, relaxation and gorgeous sites. We can't wait to go back.

There is even more stories to tell but for now, I will sign off, but I promise to write again about our adventure to the Panama Canal! :) Enjoy the pictures!