Jane's Travel Blog

New Chapter: Explore the World


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The City of Hong Kong

Although Hong Kong has some of the best hiking we’ve done, the shiny skyscrapers and small local shops captivate as well.  The “Happiness Dispensary” still has me wondering.

I spend many days wandering through new neighborhoods soaking up the new and old of the culture. One minute I’m walking by designer-dressed business people and the next I’m watching a storekeeper sweep the sidewalk with a straw broom. This city seems to give energy instead of drawing it from me. I never get tired of it.   

Another contrast in this cosmopolitan city is that they still use bamboo scaffolding when constructing or repairing any building. It’s odd to see a 21st Century building wrapped in really old technology.  It was used to build the Great Wall. The upgrade–black zip ties instead of rope. I guess…why change what works well?

Bob travels on the Star Ferry to the YMCA for his workouts. He’s an “elder,” so it’s free. The government wants its elders to be out more, so they make it easy. The U.S. could learn something from Hong Kong when it comes to elders and transportation. (Ya gotta love the word “elder.” It oozes respect and wisdom.)

I’ve found a wonderful yoga studio. I always leave early so I can wind through the neighborhoods soaking up the energy of the streets.

We have a few days left in Hong Kong before we are off to Thailand, and plan to use every minute, hiking, exploring and visiting Kristin and the fam.  I could easily stay here another month. So enjoy a quick look at a bit of Hong Kong.

And have a Happy New Year! 

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Hong Kong – First Week

Country # 10

Continent # 5

Chicago to Hong Kong

Our plane landed in Hong Kong 8pm, Nov 1st. That’s 6am Wisconsin time. Yep, a 14 hour time difference. The obvious question–“What’s it like to flip your internal clock?” The short answer, not easy. Those circadian rhythms hold tons of power.

We arrived at our apartment by 10pm and I was tucked in bed by midnight thinking I’ve got this. I’ll sleep through the night and be on Hong Kong time in the morning.

Nope!

2:37am. My eyes pop open. I am awake, wide awake, outrageously productive awake. I pretend to sleep until 4 and finally get up and read the Washington Post.

Needless to say, I’m crabby as the day unfolds. This is when you know you’ve married the right guy. Bob loves me for better or for time zone change.

We grocery shop and adjust to our teeny tiny apartment. It’s the smallest and most expensive to date. However, it is the best shower ever. The proportion of shower to apartment is ridiculous. Seriously, the shower could be a small office. No complaints here. With my challenges adjusting to the time change, the rain shower is a small bonus.

A huge plus in traveling to Hong Kong right now is family. Our niece Kristin and her family are living here for three years. They’re just a short scenic ferry ride away in Discovery Bay.

So on day two, I jumped on the ferry to visit Kristin and the family. Discovery Bay….

A few day later Bob and I returned to Discovery Bay, and we all hiked to Tiger’s Head and then on down to Mui Wo for what turned out to be a five hour hike. As we climbed many stairs to reach the trailhead continuing up to Tiger’s Head, it became obvious we’d lost our Norway mountain hiking grit. We hiked a lot in the UK, but not in the steep mountains that keep you in tip-top shape.

A little humility and a day of sore muscles and I’m ready to tackle more of the many mountains of Hong Kong. Most people don’t think hiking when they think Hong Kong, but this city has some of the best hiking around.

On another note, I’m becoming quite confident when it comes to the markets. A little pantomime, a little pointing, and a friendly smile and I’ve purchased tasty fruits and veggies. The skills are building.

My circadian rhythms are starting to align and I’m looking forward to more time with family, a new yoga studio, a Chinese cooking class, and of course, more hiking.

Until later.


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Time in England

Hythe has been our home for five fast and fabulous weeks, and we look forward to our last ten days before we visit the US.

I’ve been busy visiting my traveling friends. Winnie and I spent a week in London seeing all the sights with appropriate wine stops along the Thames. I think Westminster Abbey was my favorite. Sooo much history and Winnie knew most of it. Very impressive!

A week later, Melanie came to Liverpool for a conference, so I hopped a train north and spent a long weekend playing with Melanie and the Beatles. We rode the Mersey Ferry and checked out the Beatles Museum. Beatles music plays everywhere and I couldn’t help but break out in song many times. Saving Melanie’s iPhone from an unexpected dip in the sink kept us busy as well. Liverpool and London are cities not to miss.

While I was gone, Bob continued to discover all the great walks around Hythe and Southampton. He walked to one of Henry VIII’s castles guarding the entrance to Southampton Water. He followed the ruins of Southampton’s medieval walls, as well as visited the elaborate grounds of a royal estate on the water.  

Bob and I rode the Red Jet Ferry to the Isle of Wight and hiked on top of the White cliffs of Wight (not Dover, but Wight). Our hike took us to a monument for Alfred Lord Tennyson. The ocean views mesmerized us and I needed to be careful not to trip. It felt wonderful to be hiking after all my “city time.”

House sitting has a great perk, neighbors! Ursula and Richard had us over for coffee when we first arrived. Saturday, we had them over for dinner and it turned out to be Richard’s birthday, so Ursula baked a scrumptious apricot-plum-almond cake.

After an early dinner, we headed out to hear Coal Porter, a bluegrass band. It was a wonderful evening.

And to end…

A Few Fun Facts about Fabulous Hythe.

(I so want this town to start with an “F”)

  • The Hythe Pier is 700 yards long.
  • The pier train is the longest running pier train – It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • King George VI rode the train in 1944, and Bob sat in the same spot. (I think that makes him famous too.)
  • Sir Christopher Cockerell, the inventor of the hovercraft, lived in Hythe.
  • T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, lived in Hythe in 1931-32.
  • Bob Weisenberg and Jane Marko spent 7 weeks in Hythe in 2016.

 


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Catching You Up a Bit. Stockport, Beccles, and Hythe.

We are loving our housesitting experiences in the UK. It’s been more moving around than we’re used to, but totally worth it.

After our first two brilliant house sits (using my new British lingo)  in magical Peebles, Scotland, we moved to Stockport, England for a two week house sit with Kimba, the white German shepherd. The house was next to Woodbank Park and Kimba and I took daily walks along the river. Kimba enjoyed the smells and squirrels and I soaked in the nature. Bob explored the surrounding area with a local hiking group, delightfully named the “Peaks & Northern Footpaths Society”.

We then took the train southeast to Norwich. Actually, we stayed just outside the town of Beccles with Bob’s friend, and now mine, Lucy Edge and her husband David. They live in a beautiful farm house with a classic formal English garden. I was in heaven.

Now, don’t think US farm house (for my family, it’s NOT the Kelley Farm house) but think English stately 1700’s farmhouse, complete with a gravel turnaround driveway.

We enjoyed a delightful four days with Lucy and David chatting over wonderful dinners discussing yoga and whatever came to mind. Lucy has written a few books, and her first novel, Down Dog Billionaire is a fun read. Check it out.

After a too-short visit with Lucy, we jumped on the train and headed southwest to Hythe, Hampshire for a seven week house sit for Sandy and Colin. No pets this time, just a fun garden to tend and a house to enjoy. We’ve been here just over two weeks and are loving the quaint village on the bay.

Hythe is across the bay from Southampton. One of Southampton’s claims to fame is that the Titanic sailed from here one time. We have plans to check out the Titanic Museum before we leave. The Mayflower also sailed from Southampton.  And today, many of the major cruise ship companies sail out of Southampton as well.  You can see them all coming and going right in front of the Hythe dock, two or three per day.

Sandy and Colin set us up with tickets to tour Buckingham Palace so we were off for a day trip to London four days after we arrived. We toured the mews where all of Queen Elizabeth’s coaches and horses are kept.  The golden glam of the Diamond Jubilee coach was my favorite. We toured the staterooms of the palace, and yes, they are very stately. Oversized oil paintings, red royal carpet and pink silk lounge chairs line the rooms giving a, well, “royal” feel.  No photos allowed, so you will just have to imagine.

We are settling into Hythe, relaxing and enjoying the scene.

So know you are caught up on our travels through the UK.

Stay tuned.


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Peebles, Scotland

A new chapter in our life experiment begins – housesitting.

So far… MARVELOUS.

We arrived in Peebles, Scotland. Hannah, the homeowner and her parents John and Molly greeted us with wide smiles and a cup of tea. We met our charges, Rusty the dog, and Ernie & Sparkles, the two cats. We learned the basics about the house and Hannah showed me the dog walking route through the field and into the woods. I get to take Rusty on this enchanting walk every morning.

We settled in for the our two week house sit, slept soundly in the country quiet and I woke refreshed and ready for my first walk with Rusty. There was a light rain to start, and the sun was peeking out before we finished. We have since learned that this is called a “sun spell” as in, “There will be periods of sun spells today.” We are learning if there’s a sun spell, get outside, because you just don’t know how long the spell will last. There are rain spells too. It’s all good, you just need to be prepared.

We caught on to the habits of our menagerie and Bob’s a sucker for Rusty. He gives him lots of belly rubs, and for those who know Bob, this is an amazing thing.

The hiking here is first-rate. If we wanted, we could take the “best-hike-ever” every day. That’s a little joke we have. After a hike, we often say, “That was the best hike ever.” Now we say, “I know I said this about the last hike, but this really was the best hike ever.” The rolling hills and woods keep us wanting more. I didn’t think I was a country girl, but maybe. I’m loving it.

As for the house sitting, we’re at Hannah’s for two weeks then move up the road to Julie’s house to care for Misty the dog for a total of one month in Peebles.

At the end of July, we take the train to Stockport, a suburb of Manchester, for another house sit for Kimba the dog, and then settle in for a 6 week house sit near Southampton. There are a few days between Stockport and South Hampton where we visit Lucy Edge who has written two entertaining books, Yoga School Dropout and Down Dog Billionaire. Bob met her during his Elephant Journal days. I can’t wait to ask her about her writing.
Our first few weeks of house sitting have been wonderful and we look forward to many more house sits.


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A Bike Ride in Norway

One of our day trips in Norway can be boiled down to “bus–boat–bike–boat–bus”. Obviously, this doesn’t completely capture the breathtaking experience of the day, so allow me to continue.

We jumped a bus to Norheimsund in order to catch the boat. Traveling by bus gave us yet another view of Norway’s emerald pine countryside, as well as a taste for a few of the whimsical smaller towns.

Norheimsund greeted us with cobblestone streets dotted with brightly colored flower pots.

We quickly transferred to a ferry boat.

As we cruised, the power of the fjords calmed my mind. Calm was the perfect mood for the next leg of our excursion–biking the fjord.

We land in the small town of Utne, and it’s a quick stop. The ferry operator walked the bikes onto the dock, waved us goodbye, and turned back to the boat.

At that point, I was expecting some advice or at least a map. Since the ferry operator shared nothing, I asked wide-eyed and wondering, “which way?” He flicked his hand to the right and that was it. We were on our own. Thankfully, Bob always does his homework, so we had a good idea what was to come. The fact that there was only one road from Utne to Herand helped too.

After a few false starts to find that “one road” to Herand,  we hit the road and we’re on our 5 hour/15 mile bike ride.

Simple, right?

Actually, yes. Five hours was excessive time to bike 15 miles,  but I’m so appreciative the of  time. There was so much to savor.

The road winds through farms and countryside, all with the mighty fjord on our right.

The first thing we noticed was the quiet. The birds chirping, the wind in my ear, the quiet and peace of nature. It didn’t feel right to talk, only to listen.  We traveled through a few tiny towns, but even then, no noise. There were very few cars or people, only us and nature and the road.

The Norwegians have mastered “bench placement.”  You can be assured that a bench offers an amazing view, so we stopped at most of them simply to devour the sapphire sky, the mountains and pristine water, and eat our lunch. Food on a hike or ride always tastes so much better. The sweetness of an apple is multiplied. The views captivated us, and it would’ve been just “wrong” to not stop and soak it in.

Sometimes the hills were so crazy steep that my granny gear failed me. Or was it my untrained biking legs that failed me? No matter, walking up a few hills was just part of the day.

The plus side of the hills was the down side of the hills. (Get it?)  Much of this ride required little peddling and the last hill entering Herand felt like skiing down a mountain side. I was grateful for the well maintained brakes on my bike.

We arrived in the sleepy town of Herand and rested in the sun while waiting for the ferry boat to pick us up. Another boat and bus ride and we’re back in Bergen. The bus–boat–bike–boat–bus day adds another wonderful experience to our memories, and proves the magic of Norway.


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The Fjords

As much as we love Bergen, it was time to explore a bit. We jumped on the NSB train to travel through the countryside. We continue to be amazed at Norway’s beauty.

It’s an unseasonable 70 degrees. The lakes become the perfect mirror of stillness reflecting the strength of the snow capped mountains. It’s a perfect symmetry. A light wind occasionally stirs the mirror.

As the train climbs, isolated homes dot the landscape. No foot paths lead to the homes making us think these are summer homes just waiting for their people to return.

The train comes to the end at Myrdal and we switch to the Flam Railway. This railway winds us down the mountain, near shear cliffs, through numerous hand-dug tunnels, and past the first of many magnificent waterfalls. Much of the train ride is at a very steep grade down to the fjord.

We travel to sea level in Flam at the Aurlandsfjorden. The mountains tower over us while the water opens and asks us to travel on.

We enjoy a picnic lunch near the water, then climb aboard our boat for a “two hour cruise”. (Luckily, The weather didn’t start getting rough, the tiny ship was NOT tossed. A little Gilligan’s Island reference)

The seagulls fly near us announcing nature’s beauty. The mountains meet the sea creating a calmness and strength inside you that’s difficult to explain. I feel at peace. Waterfall after waterfall carve the mountainsides. The trees stand tall, holding their ground, as the snow collects at the base of some waterfalls fighting the sun and the falls. The tree line stops, and the rocks are exposed, soaking up the sun. We are in a state of awe as we travel through the fjords.

Norway is truly magical. If you don’t have Norway on your travel “bucket list,” I’m saying, it’s a must.

 

P.S. The trolls are everywhere.