Monday, January 11, 2016


  OMG!  It's been a long journey to figure out why I haven't been able to upload photographs to my blog, but FINALLY the solution has come to me via a young nomadic Italian whom I encountered at an Internet cafe in a ChiangMai mall.

A big "Grazie Mille" to Antonio from Sicily for what turned out to be a very simple solution.  And I'm not going to tell you what it was because some of you still think I have half a brain!

Where do I start?  I've been hanging out in ChiangMai since December 1....the first couple of weeks in a hotel and since then in a small condo as the guest of my friend Connie, who is a most gracious hostess indeed.  She and her husband moved to a much larger condo, and they are letting me stay in this smaller condo for a few weeks.  It's in a great location...several restaurants with two blocks and walking distance to two malls.

Even though Thais are Buddists, they displayed the Christian holiday spirit with decorations almost everywhere, especially in the malls, which are hubs of Thai life.  Mickey Mouse and family are very popular here.

In most Thai malls, you'll find a major grocery store on the ground floor, a major department store and various shops on the second and third floors, electronics on the fourth floor, restaurants on the fifth, capped off by a movie theater on the top floor.

I spent Christmas Eve and Day with my friend Connie and her husband.  We went to a wonderful Christmas Eve buffet at a 5 star hotel, and Connie and Nat hosted a Christmas barbeque at their new condo on Christmas Day.  I made some very interesting new friends there who happen to live in my condo building.  They came with Santa Arnie from Brooklyn, who may be the first Jewish Santa I've ever encountered.

Kevin and Simone are on either side of Santa Arnie, with Connie and Nat on the outside.  Kevin is a Californian and Simone is from Brazil.  They are researchers/educators in a field that is difficult to explain (will try later), but it has taken them from Brazil to China for 12 years, Bali for 2, and very recently to ChiangMai.

My friend Dolly from Bangkok came to visit me for a few days around the New Year.  I took her to Doi Sutep and the King's Summer Palace (where I have been before and posted a blog).  We also visited the ChiangMai Zoo, the first "drive-through zoo" I've ever seen.  A paved road winds up and down and around the hilly terrain where there are several distinct areas to visit....not the least bit pedestrian-friendly, much like the rest of Thailand.  We walked to the first three areas, but I could feel the beginning of a blister, so we took a shuttle to the remaining areas.  You could get really close to some of the animals, like these giraffes and ostriches.

And this elephant who somehow managed to keep his tusks.

This hippo was begging for food treats.

The highlight for me were the pandas.  This is the famous Lin Ping, born at the zoo in 2009.

We also went to the 3D Museum, Art in Paradise, where there are many opportunities to become part of or an extension of the art.  A few fun examples....

On New Year's Eve, I cooked dinner for six--Nat, Connie, Kevin, Simone, Dolly and me--in Connie's magnificent new kitchen.  

Mostly I've just been hanging out with friends, shopping, reading, and lounging.  This weekend, however, I took a train trip with Kevin, Simone, and Connie to Lampang, a city of about 60,000, about 100 kilometers southeast of ChiangMai.  It was National Children's Day and the cars were filled with families taking this free promotional train ride to Lampang.  We were the only "farangs" (foreigners) on the train and attracted a lot of attention wherever we went.  

The train made a few stops along the two of the stops, we were entertained by a wonderful band, The Banjo Cowboys.  Kevin and Connie, both professional singers in prior lifetimes, joined the band at the lunch stop.

At another stop, where we saw this famous white bridge,  there was some colorful entertainment and prizes for the kids.

Thai children are extremely well behaved and cute as buttons!

One of the bigger kids with his balloon.

The band entertained us on board the train after the lunch stop.  Because of our enthusiasm for their music (not to mention active participation), they invited us to join them as they moved from car to car.  I was the tambourine player for a bit.

We stayed overnight in Lampang, and what a surprise it was when I met a lovely Thai woman at our hotel who spoke Italian!  Tick is her Thai nickname....wish I had remembered to take her picture.  We roamed around a huge night market that evening, ate some delicious Chinese dumplings from a street vendor, and had dinner at a favorite restaurant of the locals.  The next morning, we took a long walk in search of breakfast and visited ChiangRai Temple.

We took a bus back to ChiangMai, an hour and a half versus four by train.  It was a really wonderful trip with really fun I won't forget.

Okay, this was a really long blog entry, but I'm back on track now.  I'll be staying in ChiangMai until mid-February because I need to have a surgery done to remove a basal cancer cell on my nose, discovered just a few days before I left the States.  It only took me five weeks to get a surgery date scheduled....things move at a different pace here, but Thailand has excellent doctors, worth the wait.  Wish me luck.

Monday, November 16, 2015


I've had a few emails from friends wondering if I'm anywhere near Paris.  Just want to let everyone know that I'm safe in Rome.  But I'm grieving with the rest of the sane people in the world for the people of France who have lost family and friends in the brutal assault of the most lovely city in Europe.  

I haven't been posting anything on my blog for two reasons.  For one, I've been pretty busy with language school.  It's a very good school, and I'm learning a lot.  But my apartment isn't in the greatest neighborhood, and I've been told by women in the area that I shouldn't walk alone at night here.  I don't get out of school until 1 p.m., so by the time I walk a mile back to the apartment and have lunch, it's 2:30 p.m.  It takes about an hour round trip on public transportation to get into the Old City to sightsee or visit a museum, so that leaves little time for anything.  I've seen the major sights here on earlier visits, but I had a list of lesser known places that I hoped to have time to check out. Then there is the threat that other major cities in Europe will be ISIS targets, and that's enough to keep me in my obscure suburban neighborhood where I feel safe.

The other reason I haven't posted is that I can't figure out how to upload photos to my blog.  I was able to do this on my old PC, but now I have this beautiful new MacBook, and I haven't had time to go through the tutorial on how to use it.  I will eventually figure it out, but for now just don't have the time.  I'm going to ask one of the young students in my class for some help this week.  A blog post without pictures is pretty boring, I think.  

The language school I'm attending is a good one, and I'm learning a lot.  The classes are taught in Italian, and that's a challenge.  I'm having the new experience of being the slowest one in the class.  It's humbling, for sure.

I've connected with a couple people here through a social website called  I met a really interesting man who was both a sports and a travel writer for the Denver Post and then retired in Rome two years ago.  He's traveled to 100 countries and has some really interesting stories, as you might imagine.  I also met an interesting woman who was born in the Czech Republic, whose parents fled the country to Ethiopia as political refugees after WWII when the communists came into power.  After one of the earlier military coups in Ethiopia, her family was stripped of their passports and forced to leave that country also.  She lived in the States for a while and also in Rome a couple of times.  This Saturday, she's going to guide me around Ostia Antica, the location of the harbor city of ancient Rome.  So I'm making new friends, which is the most enjoyable part of traveling for me.

On Sunday, I'm going to visit my friends near Bari in the Puglia region of Italy for a week, and then at the end of the month I fly to ChiangMai, Thailand, to spend at least two months there.  These are places I've been before, so my posts won't be as frequent until I start to visit new places, but there will be a few.  SO STAY TUNED FOR MORE (WITH PHOTOS)!

Sunday, November 8, 2015


It's a good thing I bought a weeklong pass for transportation around Rome (which includes buses, trains and the subway),  because it took five trips on the metro for me to find my way to the train track that would take me to Tivoli, where I wanted to tour the beautiful Villa D'Este.  At the least, it was a good re-orientation to the metro and train systems in Italy. I actually remembered to validate my ticket before I got on the train. 

Tivoli is situated on the Aniene river, about 30 minutes to the east of Rome by train, in the Monti Tiburtini hills where the climate is fresher than Rome's. For this reason, the area was popular from ancient times onwards with Rome's moneyed classes, who built summer retreats in the area.  Modern Tivoli has around 50,000 inhabitants, and spreads out far beyond the crumblingly picturesque historical center. The fourth century BC town wall is still visible, as are temples from the second century BC.

When I arrived, I stopped at the train station bar to ask about a bus to the Villa.   There was an Austrian gentleman there asking the same question, and we were told it was an easy walk to the Villa.  We introduced ourselves and decided to venture out together.  Meet Ernst.

The Renaissance Villa d'Este was built in the 1550s for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, the son of Lucretia Borgia. Built over a Benedictine convent, the palace was intended for entertaining and contains lavishly frescoed reception rooms.  The frescoes are well maintained.  Here are some examples of frescoes that adorn the ceilings of the alcove windows overlooking the garden terrace.  

This unusual fresco was at the base of one of those alcoves.

 A small chapel was decorated frescoes all around and above.   

The main attraction for visitors, however, is the breathtaking garden. Designed to impress the Cardinal's guests, the Villa d'Este's gardens are composed almost exclusively of water features.  There are fountains of every description to dazzle the onlooker.  The centerpiece, the gigantic Water Organ Fountain, cascades down a huge drop, into quiet shady pools.

There were six of these large pools at the bottom of this fountain, and I would have been very content perching on the rim of one of them, soaking in the serenity of this beautiful water garden.

The detail on the Water Organ Fountain was amazing.  I thought these two fellows looked a lttle bored with their station.

Here are a few of the other fountains I especially liked.

The view from the garden of the town and surrounding countryside was pretty spectacular.

It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon away from the hustle/bustle of Rome.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


I had an ambitious agenda planned for my last day in Paris, starting with a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral.  There was quite a crowd already when I arrived at half past nine.

I don't have access to the Internet at the moment, because I'm writing this in reflection at my mother's house in Michigan, so I can't provide any historical background, except to say that Notre Dame is on the Ile de Paris, which at one time was all there was to Paris.  

There are some impressive stone carvings at the entrance.

And inside there are some very beautiful wood carvings of scenes from Christ's life.

The detail is really amazing.

And the stained glass in European cathedrals is always beautiful.

Outside, this man was surrounded by TV cameras and reporters and had five cars in his entourage, but I don't know who he is.  Can anyone tell me?

I headed for the Rodin Museum next, but, to my great disappointment, it was closed.  I usually check opening hours before heading out but forgot on this day.  There were vehicles going in an entrance drive and a very nice man there allowed me to step inside and take a photo of "The Thinker".

The Opera House was next, which is a beautiful building on the outside and inside.

The theater is red plush!

The ceiling of the theater is a work of art.

There was a special ballet exhibit and works of art about dance were plentiful.

For lunch, I returned to Maison de la Truffle and had a delicious sampling of goat and brie cheese laced with truffle, green salad and wonderful French bread.  I hoped to bring some of this delicious cheese home, but it wouldn't have been allowed through customs because it's made with raw milk.  Anyone who lives in a country that requires milk used to make cheese to be pasteurized can testify to the difference it makes in taste.  The brie in France is so much better than anything I've tasted in the U.S. 

What trip to Paris could be complete without a cruise down the Seine?   This is the type of tour boat I took.

You get a different view of Notre Dame from the water.

We went under a series of bridges, all of which had a story from history.

It was a great way to see some of the city's great architecture.

I couldn't resist one more view of this most famous Paris landmark.

I ended the day in the best way possible...sharing a delicious meal with my two Parisian friends, Nathalie and Caroline.  It was a wonderful evening, and I think this picture reflects our enjoyment.  I'm very fond of these wonderful young women and grateful for all they did to make my visit to their beautiful city so special.

And this is where my jouney ends.  I return home enriched by my experiences, with a treaure trove of wonderful memories of the very special people I met and the beautiful places I've seen, and feeling very blessed indeed.