Family Fun in the USA

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Sailing in San Diego Bay with members of my family, from left: Tom, Joan, Steve, Yoshie and Dave.  Capt. Charley at the helm.

First stop, Winchester, Virginia. Stepson Rob and grandsons Samuel and Lang live outside the city in a lovely country location below the ridge of Big Schloss Mountain, part of the Appalachian chain. Their house, which we had not seen, is spacious and tastefully decorated by Rob – with a few treasures from Germany donated by his father.

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Samuel, Rob, Bob and Lang at the bridge.

Rob drove us around the picturesque area with stops at the Muse Winery Swinging bridge on the Shenandoah River and a visit to the Woodstock Brew House in the town of Woodstock,  Va. The artisanal beer was a treat, as was another German favorite,

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Swinging bridge on the Shenandoah River


sauerbraten at a German restaurant 
in nearby Harrisonburg

On the way home from dinner we passed a Krispy Kreme donut store. They were excited. The red light was on. ?? We learned this means donuts are coming off a conveyor belt to be doused with glaze. Purchase them fresh and warm and enjoy on the spot. “You will love these,” they insisted. The boys had more than one each…   Bob and I failed to share their love of Krispy Kreme. We’ll take croissants, merci.  But, good to know about that red light. And, the German dinner was wunderbar.

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Virginia home of Rob, Samuel and Lang

Bob spent several days with Rob and the boys, then flew on to Ohio for a reunion with six of his seven brothers and sisters, as well as many nieces and nephews. They had a belated b’day celebration for Bob, 80 last October.  I flew west to San Diego for a reunion with some of my family.

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Bob, far right, with his brother John and sisters, from left,  Susan, Judy, Kathy and Sandra.  Missing: brothers George and Tim.

My brrother Tom, who now lives in San Francisco, wanted a reunion in San Diego where he had worked for several years. Brother Steve and sister-in-law Yoshie came from Boulder. Nephew David and his mother Joan came from Kentucky. Missing was brother Dave, Joan’s husband and David’s father, who had work commitments and could not join the fun.

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San Diego from the sailboat

Tom was our guide. He made sure we visited famed Balboa Park, his beloved Coronado, downtown landmarks and more. Thanks to nephew David, who combined business with pleasure, we were fullsizeoutput_14fcchauffeured in style. His rental car was upgraded to a gleaming, cherry red Cadillac. A tight squeeze, but we all piled in for a scenic ride up the coast to La Jolla where we took lots of photos of seals.

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Dave and the Caddy.

More seal photo opps awaited on our sailboat adventure with Captain Charley in the San Diego Bay. We enjoyed superb views of the city skyline, sailed past the Naval Base, and, in addition to seals, watched dolphins training to detect mines. All beautiful, fun and relaxing, until Joan realized her Iphone was missing — not to be found on board. It obviously had disappeared overboard. Although the phone was insured,  most of the photos had not been backed up.  Lesson learned: back up all. 

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I went  overboard with seal photos — too many.  But, I like this one.

Balboa Park, San Diego’s “cultural heart” with 17 museums, gardens, the city’s famous Zoo, plus stunning Spanish-Renaissance architecture, is impressive. Tom recommended a visit to the Botanical Building with more than 2,100 permanent plants, including collections of tropical plants and orchids. Alas, it was closed for cleaning. Instead we went to the Japanese Friendship Garden.

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Japanese Friendship Garden, Balboa Park

Yoshie, who is Japanese, enlightened us on many aspects of this marvelougarden with its streams and pools where vibrantly colored Koi (Japanese carp) swim.PFZfUgbsSI29iZgMpO3x4w

My favorite part of the San Diego visit was the Ocean Beach street fair. It is a regular happening, we learned, a feast for foodies with a range of international culinary treats: Mexican burritos, Chinese steamed buns, paella, lobster rolls, tangy East African specials, pizza – even crème brulee. Plus – lively music — and  dancing in the street. Tom and I joined the dancers.

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Joan went for pizza. This is one slice of a monster.

We ended California family fun at the beach in Coronado watching the sun set with a Margarita in hand. All agreed. We should have these reunions more often.  

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Dancing at the fair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scroll down for more of the family photo album.

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And the winner of the best San Diego sunset photo, brother Steve who shot the scene with a Panasonic Lumix LX100.  “I love this little camera,” says the photographer.
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In Ohio:  Bob’s niece Tammy and husband John.

 

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In California: The “boys”:  My brother Tom, nephew Dave and brother Steve.
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In California: The”girls”: sisters-in-law Yoshie ,Joan…and me
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In Ohio;  Bob’s niece Kim, husband Alan and nephew Jim.

Coming soon:  Rajasthan, the best of India, and then, Costa Rica, which followed this US trip.  If not a talesandtravel follower, sign up, upper right.  Your address is kept private and never shared.

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In Ohio:  foreground, Bob’s nephew John and wife Cindy.

A new taste — trout for fish lovers.  See recipe, click on photo above right,

Don’t be shy.  Please comment.  Click below and add your thoughts. I love feedback and hearing from friends and followers

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Magical Maldives

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My friend Mollie has been vacationing in this Indian Ocean paradise of islands almost every year for the past 26 years.  She swoons when talking about her perfect holidays:  sensational snorkeling, gorgeous accommodations, fabulous food, pristine beaches.  What more could one want?

We had booked a trip to Sri Lanka last February (see previous posts, “Wonders of Sri Lanka” and “Sri Lanka: Wondrous Wildlife”).  The Maldives were in the neighborhood, about an hour and 15 minutes flight time from Colombo.  We had to see this paradise for ourselves, so we added a week of Maldives R&R to our trip.

No doubt — the Maldives are magical.  Postcards cannot capture the beauty of beaches surrounded by shimmering sapphire waters.   Our resort was luxurious.  We had our own bungalow, our own piece of beach.  The food and resort staff all rate five stars.

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No crowds on Maldive beaches

Yet, we were not overwhelmed.  Unfortunately we did not have the best weather.  Too many cloudy, overcast days and rain.  When it rains in the Maldives, it teems. I had been eager to experience what is considered some of the best snorkeling in the world. I was disappointed.  I did see colorful, exotic fish and other creatures, but not the extravagant underwater wildlife I had expected. Mollie said we should have chosen a smaller island and resort, and I should have taken boat excursions to other places for better snorkeling…

The Maldives consist of more than 1,190 islands on a coral-formed archipelago.  Only about 190 of those islands are occupied by the country’s some 341,000 inhabitants.  The rest are virgin islands, or, like our Island, Horubadhoo, Baa Atoll, private islands developed for individual resorts – one resort per island.

Hasan Ibrahim, reservations manager at Royal Island Resort and Spa where we stayed, told me there are 114 of these private island resorts in the Maldives, with another 14 under construction.  On the main island, Malé, and on some of the other larger islands, there are guest houses offering far more reasonable accommodations than the pricey, private resorts.mblog.13a

Royal Island Resort and Spa has a capacity for about 300 guests, and a staff of 350 coming from at least 10 different countries, he said.  Most of the guests are Europeans.

“Since the tsunami (2004) everything has changed,” assistant manager Sharif said. “The winds, the waves, you can’t predict.  The rains are heavier now.’’ The inclement weather we experienced in March was abnormal. “This is supposed to be the dry season.”

He explained that El Nino in 2016 killed the coral, turning it brown.  “It will take eight years to come back.”  Although Royal Island did not suffer extensive damage from the tsunami, a rock wall, mainly underwater, was built around the island in 2008 to protect it from big waves and erosion.  I did venture outside the wall when snorkeling several times and spied different fish, but the sea was a bit rough and I feared venturing too far.  There were no other swimmers in sight. mblog.17a

I did fulfill one wish – to scuba dive again. I am certified, but have very few dives on my dive card.  I just wanted to prove that I could still dive, and thanks to a very patient and understanding diving instructor, Anne from Russia, I succeeded.

Bungalows at Royal Island are spread throughout a tropical forest, but all facing the beach.  The only sounds are the gentle slapping of waves on the white sands and bizarre shrieks from all manner of jungle fowl.  mblog.14a

In addition to diving and snorkeling, tennis, big game fishing, sailing, and canoeing are offered.  A posh spa offers a variety of treatments, massages etc.  We took beach walks around the island (800 meters in length and 220 meters wide), and rarely encountered another soul.

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We left the island paradise to visit an island where Maldivians live and work. These friendly women were happy to pose for photos in their shop.

If you seek solitude and tranquility, the Maldives is the place. We like both, but mixed with exploring and mingling with locals. We had our chance for the latter on a boat trip to a larger island where we followed our guide through a tiny fishing village — and shopped.  There were just a few souvenir shops, but each offered bargains and friendly, delightful shopkeepers who, not only gladly posed for pictures, but showered us with small presents after we made our purchases.

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Fun feeding session on outing to a nearby island

A bit of adventure awaited on the shark and ray feeding outing. The marine mammals are obviously accustomed to visitors and snatch food from your hands if you are brave enough to offer. I was intrigued.

The majority of Maldivians, Sunni Muslims, live in the capital city on the island of Malé where the main international airport is located.  Their religion prohibits drinking alcohol and eating pork, but the resorts are an exception to this ban.

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Village women were at work cracking almonds.

Ibrahim said managing Royal Island is“like running a cruise ship. We have to do everything ourselves… We produce our own water. All the food is imported.”  All the staff live on the island, he said.  “We are like a family.  We live and work like a family.”

The Royal Island family treated us and all the guests royally. We were amazed with the variety of tasty food.  The surroundings, both the beach and the jungle-like interior, are enchanting.  All is magical, but perhaps not the kind of magic that will lure us back for a repeat visit.

More photos follow.

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Chefs at resort prepared different ethnic specials every night.
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A beach brigade cleans and sweeps the sand very early every morning.
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The men fish.  The village women have other chores.
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Not camera shy, these Maldivians.
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Cats wait for leftovers from shark and ray feeding.  I made sure they got plenty.

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