Rudolph was not to be found

A sign in NW Lake Rd, Camas
A hug before the cut
Christmas tree decoration
It´s time to open the presents 🙂
I saw in lots of movies the tree on the car
Cookies decoration was a serious job
They asked for ugly sweaters
We had lot of fun decorating those pig cookies
Opening our presents
Playing in Downtown Camas

Maybe you were reading my previous posts so I’m going to tell you the end of this story and I couldn’t find Santa Claus or his star reindeer Rudolph, although I think I was never that close to doing so 🙂

However, I received a wonderful birthday and Christmas gift that was a visit from my daughters after almost a year of not seeing us. So sadly Santa and her boys took a backseat 😉

For the three of us, Christmas in winter was a novelty, we let ourselves be surprised by all the rituals and the truth is that we had a lot of fun.

One of the main ones was the search for a real tree, honestly the idea of cutting one for that purpose gave us some concern but we accepted the rules. We chose a beautiful one and something very pleasant is the aroma that was when entering the living room where we put it together. My promise is to keep it with its decorations and put water on it until its leaves begin to fall even if this is in August 🙂

Another big difference was the time to receive our gifts. The custom, at least in Argentina, is that at minute zero on the 25th the toast is made and gifts are opened. Not here, the gifts are also opened on the 25th but after breakfast, if we were anxious until that moment, I don’t even want to think about the families with children who want to open those tempting gifts under the tree.

Something that was also very funny and surprising was the amount of songs dedicated to Christmas that are in the market. Our favorite was: Let it snow, a phrase we use a lot 🙂 Barnaby also played various songs on the piano for the occasion and that was wonderful.

Other rituals were the ugly sweaters, something unthinkable on hot Christmas in the southern hemisphere 🙂 and the other was the preparation of cookies for the neighbors.

We learned after Christmas that something usual is to go sing in front of the neighbors’ houses. I think it was fortunate that we did not know in time because we probably would have gone for songs 🙂 . I am glad to continue maintaining a good image in the neighborhood 😉 

Anyway it was a dreamed Christmas, this time far from the ocean in Valeria del Mar, but again the four of us together.

Happy Holidays

In the footsteps of Rudolph

Mt Hood covered with snow

Barnaby took this picture, he takes better photos than me but it is great to have him in my team 🙂
Our selfie with special effects
My snow shoes
He took pictures of me and I took from him
Beautiful trees covered with snow

Trip to Mount Hood

This is the first December that I am spending in the United States, in a normal year (and this obviosly is not one), at this time of the year, we would already be in Buenos Aires enjoying the spring.

The difficult thing about the Pacific Norhwest in winter is that daylight hours are very scarce (My mantra is: for these forests to exists it has to rain a lot… although sometimes repeating to myself it is not enough 😦 ) But as for every rule there are exceptions , and every once in a while there are sunny days, and during these we take advantage of being so close to places where winter has already taken over.

This trip was to Mt Hood which which is located in Oregon State and is one of my favorites. Snow for me is something totally new and I enjoy it as if I were a child :). Actually I try to enjoy everything that is presented to me in life 😉

I have never skied, and I think I will leave it for another life because at 50 plus I think a lot about my bones (it is amazing how thoughts change over the years 🙂 ) however I found snow shoes to be the best option and excellent exercise.

I wrote at first quite naturally about December; and honestly cannot believe that Christmas is almost at our doorstep. And these trees that seem to be decorated for the occasion made me think that I have a better chance of finding Santa Claus and his reindeer Rudolph in this area more than in South America. I will keep investigating to see if this is so or not. I am intrigued to know about Christmas is like in the northern hemisphere 🙂 I will be sharing my progress 😉 see you soon

Stop 2020, I want to get off

A little over a month ago we took a few days to get to know the Umpqua River area in the state of Oregon. It was a short but wonderful trip because the area is beautiful. Unfortunately it is one of the areas affected by the fires and where many people had to be evacuated. To this day we still do not know how things are doing there 😦

Very sad

When I started writing this blog, the main idea was to tell about my trips and the experiences during them, adding my opinions, feelings and moods. Today I felt the need to talk about this place and also to be able to express the sadness that all this produces in me. For several days we have been living under a cloud of smoke (as a result of other fires in Oregon) so prospects at times seem dire, so what would be better than to travel again.

From the window of our house

Before all this happened I was about to write about the trip, but I was putting it off for different reasons. However, today I wanted to remember how much fun we had and hope that it rains soon and all this ends as soon as possible, although the damage is immense: those acres of forest will not be recovered, not the animals that lived there and not to mention the people who have lost their homes and some even their lives.
This article is a tribute to that wonderful place where we spent some incredible days, in these times of viruses, losses and lack of environmental awareness.

We started the journey south of the Umpqua River, passing first by the Rogue River, which is on the way. We made different stops to walk a little, and one of them was Mill Creek Falls, an incredible place where we found these immense rocks, which, after climbing them, gave us this beautiful view of the river.

Every time we go up or down rocks we think we are too old for these adventures 🙂 although we insist 😉

We thought that the place was fantastic, and something that caught our attention was how different the forest (being extremely dry) was compared to the rain forest that we had found in the Olympic National Park on the previous trip.

And so you can see a little more of this beauty I’ll share these videos with you 🙂

They are cute but I think I have to take classes with a film director 😉

Another place to highlight within the area is a place called Natural Bridge, where the Rogue River literally disappears from our view because it passes through what was once a lava tunnel. Really magical.

The southern part of the Umpqua is not as developed as the northern one. The roads are more precarious and you don’t meet many people. We stayed in a place where there was no internet and no telephone connection. At first we (especially me) felt like something was missing; it is incredible how addicted we are to technology and how we feel short of breath if we are not connected. Then when we lower (I lowered :)) the anxiety and we look around us we feel free and happy. The house was on the edge of the river, so I took the opportunity to draw (a new hobby), take photos, read and be unplugged. We really enjoyed the tranquility. We were also lucky to have two nights with a clear skies where we could see constellations and a large number of shooting stars that left us amazed 🙂

This is the Umpqua river passing by the house

One of the days we went for a hike of 6.4 kilometers one way and 6.4 kilometers back (8 miles in total) to Fish Lake, a totally remote place in which during our entire journey we only passed one couple. It gave me a bit of anxiety not having a connection of any kind and being practically alone in the world … a bit exaggerated, right?

Anyway it was worth the strenuous hike because the lake was gorgeous and there was noone around.
These are the photos of the walk.  If you look closely, you will see the burned trees from other fires of who knows when 😦

Then we took the Rogue Umpqua Scenic Byway (the northern area of Umpqua) which, as I mentioned, is much more developed, with an impeccable highway and where very close to the road you find waterfalls and places to stop and enjoy nature.
We indulged ourselves and settled in for one night at the Steamboat Inn, an inn with cabins, beautiful views, delicious food, and very warm employees. We fell in love so much that we had planned to return in October to continue visiting other places that we could not visit this time. Unfortunately, the area and the inn were affected by the fires and according to what I read on Facebook some of the people who work there had problems with their homes 😦

A place to fall in love

 I hope that all this improves soon, that you understand that my post today was not the happiest, but I want my blog to reflect how I am feeling, both with the happy moments and those that are not. Anyway I try to see the positive despite everything that is happening these days.
Here are my drawings, I need a lot of practice but I feel proud of them because I spent more than 40 years without encouraging myself to draw anything. So I’ll keep trying. Thanks for joining me again. See you soon.

A visit to the Olympic National Park

2020 has changed many of our normal activities and how we travel is one of them. In our case, we have decided to make short road trips that replace the one long one that we have been doing every year. These new trips need to be close to home and have some kind of camping feel (only because we are bringing all our food to very well equipped rental houses; so maybe it is best to call this glamping 😉 . However we still have the spirit of adventure.

We chose for this visit the west part of the Olympic National Park, a beautiful place where we were very lucky to have good weather, not so usual there. I love maps so I want to show you which part of the world we visited 🙂

Our first stop was in Aberdeen, a small city where Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) was born. I was never a fan of the band but to tell you the truth Grunge with bands like Pearl Jam (my favorite 🙂 ) and Soundgarden, among others, changed music in the 90s. Ramdomly all came from Seattle.

The “monument¨¨” of Cobain´ s air guitar that I couldn´t resist playing 🙂

After lunch, our trip continued to Lake Quinault. When we got there we went right away to take a look at the lake and took hikes on the Kestner and Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail. We saw signs warning of bears in the area, and since it was nearing sunset, I thought it was dangerous, a little bit irrational of me 🙂

The next day we continued exploring the area. We went to Fletcher Canyon Trail, a place a little further where we did not see any people or cougars (according to the posted signs they live there). After that we took a more relaxing hike in the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail that started in the forest and finished along the lake. It was interesting to see huge fallen trees that were blown down by the strengh of the wind. So you can imagine how strong the winds blow there to make those trees fall. And another interesting is that no motor boats are allowed on the lake so it was great that there were no noises.

Our day finished with a nice fire under a sky full of stars. We looked at constellations and we tried to find the Neowise comet… Mission Impossible 😉

I think that I need to make better videos 🙂

The new day found us taking Highway 101 again to Kalaloch, but before that we stopped at Ruby Beach, a beautiful beach with kilometers (or miles) to walk and walk. One of its characteristics are the stones of different colours that with sunshine appear even brighter. Also we were lucky to get there at low tide so we could see a bit of what goes on when the sea is out just for a little while.

We also went for a hike in the Hoh Rain Forest, an amazing place with giant trees covered by moss and surrounded by huge ferns. We chose one of the routes close to the river. This is an area where it rains most of the year so we were very lucky to have a lot of sun shining through the trees

After checking in to a nice cabin in Kalaloch, another great place with a beautiful beach, we took a walk to look at the sunset. I am a big fan of sunsets.

Our trip continued by going to Rialto Beach. Driving Highway101 I was surprised and a little scared too (maybe because of the speed) of the trucks carrying big logs. Here are some pictures that give you the idea of my fear. Trucks, bears and cougars are not my favorite things to find on the road 🙂

Rialto Beach is another incredibly nice beach; we walked a lot keeping in mind the low tides, and we got there I felt I was receiving a gift from nature as we walked on the seaside rocks that seemed to be sculpted by an artist, in this case the artists being the wind and water. A very nice environment.

I think that I did better in this video 😉

On the way to Rialto Beach we passed Forks, a city in which the main commercial activity is lumber. Even though for some years now there are other reasons to visit Forks. This has to do with a movie called Twilight, pretty famous among teenagers and based on the book of the same name. Forks was vampire territory and La Push the werewolves. The movies (there were three) made these places a must-see for tons of fans looking for the places where this fantastic story took place. But one of the things that caught my attention was that they were not filmed here but it seems that nobody cares about that. My memory of the movie is the song Supermassive Black Hole from Muse, I went to watch the movie with my daughters because at that time they were teenagers but I had to Google the story because I erased it from my hardware a long time ago 😉

We drove to La Push, a place that we read that is a “must” to see, but unfortunately it was closed to private cars. I have a theory about that: I think that they thought that we belonged to the vampire group and I have no idea why they thought that 😉

Just a theory

We spent our last day in Kalaloch in a very relaxing mode. Taking advantage of the nice weather we walked on the beach during the morning and we only encountered a bald eagle nest (no people around). Later we checked again the low tide times and went for another beach walk close to the Kalaloch area. We tried to fly our kite but believe it or not, there was not enough wind. We had exceptionally incredible weather. And if you are asking about the water temperature on the Washington coast, it is as cold as in Oregon.

We finished our day watching the sunset close to a nice fire and thinking about coming back to continue visiting the amazing Olympic National Park.

Thanks again for coming with me and to Barnaby for his patient correcting my English 🙂

See you soon 🙂

Exploring Oregon: Coos Bay

The pandemic has changed our lives in many ways. The simple and “normal” things like to go to visit friends and by the way give them a hug, or just go out became complicated to do depending on where you are living.

Something that we were used to doing was to travel and this blog is about that: telling about trips to different places with their curiosities and how adventurous they could be for us.

Today we have no idea when we can go to Argentina (my favorite place to travel) so I don’t know when I will see my daughters , family and friends who I miss a lot. While we are waiting until we can take a plane there, we have started very slowly to take shorts trips by car. We are lucky that in this part of the world it is summer (although you are going to see pictures of us in warm clothes 🙂 ) and that we can go out: keeping socially distant and wearing masks. The times that we are living in today require us to travel only where possible, always being safe and why not fun

Newport , Oregon

Last week we went to Ashland in the south of Oregon where Barnaby’s Dad lives. I have been several times to this cute town in the summer and the winter and that means that one of these days I should probably write an article about it. As the place is far from home (around 400 miles) Barnaby thought that we could combine the trip with a short visit to the Oregon coast. Every time that I tell people (specially in Argentina) that we are going to the coast, they imagine sunny, hot days and of course getting into the water. Nothing is further from reality. If you have never been in the Pacific North West I have a secret for you… the coast is windy and the water is incredibly cold. I put in my toe every time that I go there (call me masochist or just naive ) and every single time the water is freezing 🙂

Despite this the Oregon coast appeals to me a lot because it has other attractions. Cannon Beach, for example, is one of my favorite places there. It is located further north than Coos Bay where we went this time. It is around 3 hours from Ashland and was a new place for both of us.

Because of the pandemic we decided to rent small houses where we can bring our food and cook there. I have a huge advantage because I travel with my personal “chef”. He knows how to prepare delicious dishes and he is always looking for new recipes to surprise me 😛

He made dough for Argentine empanadas to celebrate May 25th, a patriotic holiday

We stayed in a house where Sue and her husband (owners of the place) lived downstairs and who asked us if we wanted to go crabbing because they had all the equipment. In this part of the United States it is a very common activity and for us was something new to do. I had one condition for going, only being in charge of taking pictures. However I was brave enough to haul up one crab ring and the next photo is proof of that 😉

Working hard 🙂
Ready, set, go 🙂
The big moment when the crab ring comes out of the water

Crabbing has some rules. The first one is that you need a license which has different prices and durations depending on the state where you live. Another rule is that you can’t take more than 12 crabs per day and they must be males and be at least a “certain size” (this does not have a double meaning 😉 ) and if those conditions are not met, you have to return the crabs to the water although some of them were moving quickly that way on their own.

Sue measuring the crabs

Another fun and beautiful thing to do in the area was to visit the State Parks: Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.

Shore Acres had a gorgeous rose garden with a big variety and also a Japanese Garden. The park had places to see the ocean from the cliffs, picnic tables or if you wanted to hike, they had some trails where you could be in the middle of the forest or looking at the ocean on the same walk. Awesome!!

Shore Acres
Beautiful roses
Japanese Garden

Cape Arago was at the end of the road passed the other parks. Here you can walk, go down to the beach, see the starfish if the tides allow you and sea lions on the rocks. But something completly unexpected was to see whales both evenings that we visited the park. It was a gift for the eyes that I can’t share with you because they were not very visible in the pictures that we took.

Cape Arago on the first evening. I wasn’t exagerating about the wind

On the way back home we took the scenic Highway 101 where you go through different towns and you have stunning views of the coast. We stopped in Heceta Beach which is known for its big dunes. I can’t tell you if there are dunes or not because it was so foggy and windy that nothing was visible there. Very funny

At least the sign was visible 🙂

The next stop was Neptune State Park where we walked on the beach and then we continued to Newport to have lunch.

Neptune, cold and windy in the middle of summer 🙂

After this nice and short trip we came back home with lot of energy and with something clear in our minds: we have to continue doing things to enjoy life. While keeping in mind what’s possible and staying safe. I hope that you liked this little adventure that we took. Thanks for travelling with me.

See you soon on the next adventure

Vietnam and Cambodia (Last chapter)

Here I go with the last part of this unforgettable trip that we were lucky to do in February of this so unusual 2020. When the cruise ended, we were taken by minibus to Siem Reap, a city which is in itself interesting but also the closest place to the ruins of Angkor Wat, the most famous ruins in the area, although not the only ones.

On the way there we made a stop at what they called the “happy room” which was nothing more or less than the bathroom 🙂 . There we took the opportunity to take a photo with our guides during the days that we were on the ship, Mr. Huyh from Vietnam and Mr. Smiley from Cambodia, two fantastic guys on all the excursions we took during the trip. I also don’t want to forget Mirko (who I don’t have a photo of) a super fun German who was the host during the cruise. Thanks for making our trip amazing.

These were our wonderful guides on the cruise:  Huyh from Vietnam and Smiley from Cambodia

Once in Siem Reap we separated from the group with whom we had spent the week and continued the journey on our own.
The experience on land was good; we settled in a hotel on the outskirts of the city whose rooms had a certain uniqueness… all the bathrooms were outdoors, not only the part of the shower but also the toilet … a different experience to be sitting “to meditate” and be surrounded by nature 🙂

Another interesting thing was that all the trips we took to the city center were in tuk tuk, so that was very fun and exotic, in fact even our suitcases traveled that way as you see in the photo.

On many turns I seriously thought that we would lose them 🙂

Those who visit the city of Siem Reap probably do so to see the temples such as Angkor Wat and the ones nearby such as Ta Prohm, Preah Khan, Neak Poan, and Banteay Srei, among others.
The history of their construction (like their destruction) is very interesting and, as they were abandoned for many years until their reconstruction came, what struck me powerfully were the trees, as they made their way into the middle of the ruins. The force of nature, really impressive.

I was amazed with the trees

Maybe many years ago you saw the movie Tomb Raider (if you didn’t watch it, don’t waste your time, it’s really bad) but one of these famous trees appears in it … obviously I’m not the only one that caught your attention 😉

One of the must-do visits is to go see the sunrise at Angkor Wat; there we met again with the folks from the cruise, and unfortunately, perhaps because I was half asleep, I did not take any pictures with Eloise, Leyla or Sandie, but we gave each other many hugs, something that seems like a fiction now, since it’s no longer normal to do… How I miss hugs!!

And here are photos of the temples, of the sunrise and us with our guide whose name we can’t quite remember; what I can say is that he did a super professional job, he showed us hidden things inside the temples, he told us the history of the them and also some things about  the Cambodian culture.

Everyone waiting for the sunrise

And a little more of the temples. I loved this image, as I imagined it was a mom sharing a book with her daughter 🙂

And here I show you again the drawings of the temples made by Robyn Diener. Great, right? I’m still in love with her collection :). I also made a collage with one of her drawings and my photo. Yes, I am a big fan.

I see these drawings and I still get emotional
And here I put together the drawing of Robyn with my photo … beautiful, right?

After a few days in Siem Reap we took a plane back to Vietnam to visit the cities of Hoi An (which I loved) and Hue.
Many people told us that Hoi An was super touristy and that perhaps its authenticity has been diluted. For me it was one of my favorite cities: decorated with fabric lanterns of different colors that gave life to the streets, with a huge and chaotic market and with exquisite food.

What do you see? Chaos or a motorcycle and bicycle dance? 😉

Another of the fun things we did was go get custom-made clothes within a day, it was a different experience, very strange, but it is one of the typical things to do in the town.
After two days we decided to go to Hue, a city that I did not like at all. We arrived, and I don’t know if due to the contrast with Hoi An, but I felt overwhelmed and sad. We had a hard time finding a place to have a drink, and I also realized the importance of karaoke in Vietnam. I never thought that I would find karaoke spaces open to the street, side by side, competing for who can play the “music” louder and who could shout more while “singing”. If when reading this you think that I am an old lady because of this comment, you are absolutely right 🙂 . It was a painful experience for the ears.
Having traveled so much with Barnaby made us know just by looking at us that something was not right and that it was time to set course for a new plan. And so we did, we changed plane tickets and went a few more days to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and it was thanks to that that we had the culinary experiences that I told you of in another of my posts.

The trip from Hoi An to Hue, nice, isn’t it?

Our trip to Hanoi in the original plan was to be able to visit Ha Long Bay, where it is recommended to take a boat and spend a few days near those monumental rocks. This allowed us to do some activities such as kayaking, spending a day at the beach, visiting the interior of one of the rocks, which was an amazing experience, and enjoying a few days of relaxation. There we met Barbara and David, a very funny American couple that I hope we can see again when everything improves.

Back in the capital, we started to settle down for a long trip back home. In the taxi on the way to the airport, I took these photos of the traffic, which is still a curiosity for me.

Some photos are blurry but I wanted to show the city in full activity

This was a trip that I enjoyed doubly, as I had told you when I started writing about it, it was not a place that was on my list of favorite destinations, and I am still happy about Barnaby’s insistence to do so. It was very different from a cultural point of view and therefore of enormous learning, the greatest of all is that we should be more grateful for what we have. Remembering the kindness and smiles we had from Vietnamese and Cambodians make my heart happy. As well as the new friends we made around the world (Ilona, Alan, Brian, Sandie, Eloise, Leyla, Ed, Leeanne, David, Peree, Robyn, Chris, Barbara, Sue with whom I keep in virtual contact and who I hope we see again when the pandemic is over).

Returning home

Thank you for joining me once again on this wonderful adventure and again thanks to Barnaby for helping me in the English version.

See you soon

Everything has its Side B

First of all I want to thank you for all the greetings and beautiful messages I received on the news of the approval of my residency in the United States. They truly filled my heart with so much love.

My friends Fanny, Val and Cherie sent me congratulations

If you know me and have spent time with me you know that I will tell you about the good things that happen to me but I also like to give some space to the not so good things.  In this article I want to focus on those.  Because life is a movie, but there’s a very wide variety of  cinematographic styles 😉

Something that’s very interesting is that what you think of as normal, when you change your culture, whether it is because you travel or go to live somewhere else, can be not “so normal,” and it is at that moment that errors, misunderstandings and even funny things arise about cultural differences. I am convinced that there’s nothing better than laughing at yourself.

Do I tell them or not? Well, OK 🙂

Here we go. I went to Portland three times before moving there. Those visits were in the summer, in which I relived the majestic skies, extra long days and walks through the forests.
But when we moved, we did it in January, that is, in winter, and I’ll tell you a secret … for these beautiful forests to exist, it takes a lot of rain … daily and constant rain during the months when it is not summer. But this isn’t the worst thing; the sky is constantly gray and the days are extra short (from 8 to 4). So the first weeks were tough; we still went out like always but the feeling of confinement became difficult. I know that some will understand perfectly what I’m talking about. In Buenos Aires (I take this city as an example because it is where I lived) it rains two days in a row and then everyone gets depressed on the third day and obviously everything is canceled until the rain passes. If you did that in Portland, you could never leave your home.

Visiting wineries in Oregon. I ask you not to miss the detail of the color of the skies.

Another topic was English, although with Barnaby it is the language we use to communicate (often with a few words from “rioplatense”, the Spanish of Buenos Aires ¨¨¨¨:) , when you have to go shopping and understand people (rather than speaking because you can say whatever), it was not easy at beginning. At the same time I discovered that there are things that I cannot pronounce or what is worse: I say them wrong. For example, the word “sheet,” which is a sheet, I pronounce as though it were shit, that is, I say “shit.” It made you laugh, didn’t it? I am sure you can imagine the scared face of the sheet salesman when I said the magic word ¨ 🙂 but I found the way because  now I use the word “linen;” it’s not as common but with my accent it’s exotic, someday I will be able to pronounce that other word correctly 😉

Another of my great surprises were the hours of the restaurants and the dinner time in general for everyone around here. With Barnaby, perhaps because we first lived in Buenos Aires, our dinner hours are between 8.30 and 9.30 at night, wherever we are. In the United States, dinners are between 6.30 to 7.30 at the latest, and although it may seem like a lie, it’s something I still can’t get used to. So the restaurants were closed at 9 or at 10 if it was a weekend. Very strange to me.

Fred Armisen, the actor from Portlandia.  If you never saw the show I suggest you watch a few episodes so you understand what this city is all about.

Another thing that I did wrong was to assume that many people spoke Spanish, and there I made two million mistakes, until I understood that the polite way of approaching the topic was to ask if the person spoke Spanish like I do, or “como yo” (“yo” is pronounced like “show” in Buenos Aires, rather than “yo”). Once a very nice young man from a burger place said to me in Spanish: “not like you ma’am, but I do speak Spanish.” I loved the answer and it made me die of laughter.

Let’s move on to the area of driving and traffic. Although I had driven for many years, to drive here was like a new beginning since the way one drives in Argentina, at times completely crazy, is not correct here, and if you were to drive that way here, you’d have a ticket as soon as you started the car. As an anecdote, the first time I drove and came to a STOP sign I asked Barnaby if you really had to stop (the answer is yes). Another new thing was making left turns from a two-way street without a  traffic light; at first I was terrified and I just didn’t do it, but I came to understand that people wait their turn and everything flows OK. Once I was not sure whether I could turn, and I waited a few minutes trying to make a decision.  There were a few cars behind me and none of those folks thought to honk their horn; it was a totally different experience 🙂 . The horn is used here only to give notice of something, although I am not a “honker” I learned that here it is not appropriate to honk at any time, nor to stick my head out the window to let an insult fly… Here’s another one: you have to yield to pedestrians ALWAYS, basically because if you don’t, you’re going to pay a huge fine.

I feel very safe driving 😉

And finally I’ll tell you two of the remaining differences in the way that Argentines greet one another (at least we had done so until now, I don’t know how it will be in the future). I realized that personal space here was very important, and as soon as someone was too close to you, they apologized. The first months I lived here I was always too close to everyone. Kissing acquaintances and strangers on the cheek, by way of greeting, was something I had to get out of my code of ceremony and protocol 😉 . I’ll tell you two anecdotes, starting with the bad one. Barnaby introduced me to his neighbor Barbara while she was in her car on her way out of the driveway; instead of shaking hands, which is the way to greet someone, I put my head in the window to kiss her on the cheek. I think the lady is still trembling with fear. A good way to start my socialization to the neighborhood.

The good anecdote is that during that time I got a small piercing, in my ear (I clarify so that you don’t think I would get a nose piercing or something strange) and the boy who did the work would not stop sweating although the place was super cold. I appreciated that I was in the United States  so I did not have to kiss him goodbye 🙂

Thanks for joining me and having a laugh with (and at) me and of course thanks to Barnaby for helping me in the English version.

Some good news during bad times

This whole story started on a cold Sunday in July, 2012 with  Eleonora; yes, the one with surprises … I think that this was probably the first … She asked me if I could speak English because she wanted to give my contact info to an American coworker of Juan’s, her boyfriend at the time and now husband. That was the starting point of this story, of this Life in the Movies.

Just this week I received a letter in the mail with my new status in the United States. As of now I am a permanent resident. This news made us very happy, but not only us, but also our neighbors who quickly surprised me with balloons and a celebratory cake 🙂
The process for my residency started in October 2016:  after the submission of documents, in-person interviews, letters of recommendation signed twice (after our marriage and again last year) by Chris MacMillan, Valerie Ebinger, Andy Friedman, Lisa McCaffrey and Peter Stroeve and in the second stage by Cherie Guppenberger and Sheila Britschgi (my new neighbors and friends) culminated in the arrival of my Green Card. I thank all of them infinitely for the trust they had in me 🙂
And to celebrate this event I want to tell you about my very first trip to the United States.

In August 2014 Barnaby and I decided to take a vacation in his country. That was, as I mentioned before, my first trip to the United States. I think if someone at that time asked me if I would come to live in this country, I would have said no … but many circumstances changed the following year (now I realize for the better) and that is why, among many other reasons, I am living here.

But let’s go back to the trip … The idea was to start in Portland, which is where Barnaby had his house, and drive south to see different places with the final destination being Los Angeles (about 1,200 miles). That was our first “road trip”  Every year since then we’ve continued the tradition of taking a road trip to different places and hopefully this year (such a strange one) we can take the one we had planned for the state of Washington … we’ll see 🙂

The arrival in Portland was emotional:  there I had the opportunity to meet Paige, Barnaby’s daughter, his friends Val, Rod, Lisa, Patty, Jeff and Martin and even his ex-wife, an event that was far from planned, but it happened 🙂 . The lesson I learned through that experience is that it is an investment to travel while dressed elegantly rather than comfortably 😉

What was my impression of the United States? The truth is that everything drew my attention, the very American thing in which everything is big: the stores, the cars, the portions of food, to name a few. A place where everything works and customer service is excellent: that made a huge impression on me. But the Pacific Northwest is also (I use the present tense because I still feel this way) impressive, it has things that made me fall in love, such as, for example, a summer with extra long and dry days, stunning sunsets, many roses, forests next to the highway and spaces full of nature in the middle of the city, and also people who smiled at you on the street … I had had a totally different idea about Americans, and that made me think that it is never good to have preconceptions.

I’m going to tell you that I loved Portland at first sight: the bridges, the Willamette and Columbia rivers, the colors of the sky, the trees, the people wearing weird clothes, Powell’s bookstore which is huge, in which you can spend a whole day, anyway It all seemed amazing to me.

After a few days in Portland and the surrounding area we headed south, our first stop being Crater Lake, located in the National Park of the same name, in Oregon. They say it is the deepest lake in the United States; the truth is that that fact does not matter to me, but the interesting thing was the blue color of the water and that it looked really impressive. To think that there was once there a volcano … I am always surprised by the force of nature. It is on my list of places to return to. 

After this exciting place I had the opportunity to meet Katherine and Wendell, Barnaby’s parents, at a restaurant in Medford, Oregon. Both of them looked very excited, I imagine it would have been a rarity for Barnaby to introduce them to an Argentine 🙂 .From there we drove to California and arrived at the Coast Redwoods park, where we saw some gigantic trees that, as you can see, don’t really fit within any single picture 🙂 .Really spectacular.

We continued towards the wine country; surely you have heard of or even tasted Californian wines (today I tell you that those from Oregon or Washington are just as good and also cost half as much, heh!).  We rented a place in the middle of the vineyards near to Healdsburg in Sonoma. BEAUTIFUL 🙂

To go visit a few wineries Barnaby had the thought that we could explore them by bicycle…. looking back today I do not understand how I survived that experience: the road was full of ups and downs, my physical condition left a lot to be desired and at times it was impossible for me to pedal (obviously on the climbs) … but I did survive and the truth is that it was hard but also very fun, although I would not repeat it again 😉

Remember to always be elegant

Saying goodbye to the wine country, we visited one last winery, in a manner that was to my thinking more civilized (that is, without the bicycles) and we found that they also had planted Malbec and that’s why I took my picture among the vineyards.

 Zinfandel is one of the Californian classic wine grapes

From Sonoma we headed to  San Francisco, a city with which I fell madly in love. The city just appeared as we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge that I had seen so many times in movies: I was fascinated. Here I tried clam chowder for the first time, and in any opportunity I have a chance, I keep trying it in different places and here I have a spoiler: the best chowders are in Seattle but this is for a future story ….

From there we continued to Los Angeles and stayed at the home of Andy, Barnaby’s college friend. The story is kind of funny because when I first met Barnaby in Buenos Aires (back in 2012), he was with Andy, so I had met them both together 🙂

He took us to different places in LA for me to get to know, and I’m a little ashamed to say that, although I enjoyed the city, it is not among my favorites; it felt extremely artificial, but like everything, everybody has their own taste in things.

Strolling around Santa Monica and trying a corn dog

One of the things I liked the most was going to Universal Studios, a place where for a day (or however long you are there) you will feel like a child again. When we went it was very hot but our “skip the line” passes let us avoid the lines, and we also took advantage of the water roller coaster twice to refresh ourselves, a huge thanks to Jurassic Park. 

For the end of our trip, Andy invited us to a somewhat secret place, called the Magic Castle, because you had to go with an invitation and be all dressed up, where everything revolved around magic, very entertaining and something totally different.

I like remembering this trip and I hope you enjoyed it along with me. See you soon and thanks for joining me on my adventures. And of course thanks to my husband for helping me with the English and be my partner in crime 😉

Still exploring the flavors of Vietnam

Before concentrating again on the food tour, I want to tell you that a few days ago I received a surprise gift from one of my friends from Argentina. It’s not the first time that Eleonora has surprised me, and I think that doing it again will “leave me dry,” a rather old phrase that means giving someone a heart attack 🙂 . I love the Italian exaggerations that course through my veins.

Giving a bit of the back story (and it is not an “ass story,” a concept that I will explain sometime), she and Juan appeared by surprise in Portland for our wedding (only surprising me because everything had been arranged). That day I almost had a heart attack. This time finding this beautiful package delivered to my house, taking into account that we do not know when we are going to see each other again because of the virus situation, it filled me with joy but also moved my cuore. Thanks, Ele!!  And for the moment I prefer not to have any more surprises 😉

How well this body cream would have served me during the visit to the rice factory 🙂

OK, now we get back to the trip. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and as we had made a change of plans, it turned out that we had a few more days to visit it than originally planned.
Because we were feeling brave we hired a food tour by Vespa…. yes I know, the traffic and everything else … but I would have missed something truly authentic if we had not encouraged ourselves to travel the crazy streets on a motorcycle. And today I can say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. We were picked up at the hotel and before going to eat we posed in a few places and started the adventure.

Continuing on our way to food, our first stop was at a place where the specialty was Bahn Cuon, which is like an empanada (turnover) of very fine steamed rice dough, which can be stuffed with vegetables or meat or both. To eat it, in addition to using chopsticks, you dip it in a broth, and it really tasted delicious. It should be noted that we did not choose either the menu or the places, they took us to restaurants known for each specialty, checking with us beforehand if we had any dietary restrictions.

Our second stop was at Bun Cha Huong Lien, a mythical place because it was visited by Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama, and from that moment, the place has become hyper-touristy.  It may not be the best bun cha on the planet but it is impossible to be in Hanoi and not go there.

The historic visit

Here I show you a bit of the tour from one place to another. As I mentioned earlier: an unforgettable experience.

And I dared to make a video while traveling

From there we continued on to try pho cuon, again the main event was rice dough but cut and assembled in a different way. Simply impeccable.

Writing about this makes me hungry
The guys happy to be photographed
I was surprised by paparazzis… but did not care 🙂

From here we went on to a place where we were served fish and snails and although it seems unbelievable, I tried one … full of sauce … luckily I have no picture of this event 🙂
But I do have a picture of the guys who drove the Vespas and guided us on the tour, who did everything wonderfully. They drove the Vespas with great skill, not going very fast and making us feel very safe despite the chaos of the traffic. I tend to think it was an organized chaos.

The end of the night was with my favorite dessert, egg coffee, where I also tried coconut coffee, which is served cold and I didn’t like it that much. We were already full but something sweet always feels good.

On the next day we chose an excursion, a little less risky, that consisted of shopping at a market in Hanoi and then cooking those delicious dishes that we had been trying throughout the trip. It was an unforgettable experience for two reasons.  The first is that the markets are very different: the noises, the products, the disorder, while we were looking at the fruits or waiting for us to be attended by motorcycles with people who were also shopping. And obviously the smells that are special in any market that you visit. I am particularly sensitive to what I smell.

And the other thing we learned is that preparing Vietnamese food takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. It was a lot of fun having a cooking experience with other couples from different parts of the world: Australia, Germany and Indonesia. And the geniuses who were the true cooks who made all the preparations. A real pleasure.

A sample of the experience
I do more posing than cooking…. that’s how I roll  🙂 🙂

Thank you very much for having accompanied me to eat in Hanoi, I hope you liked it and I’ll see you soon. And special thanks to Barnaby who helped me with my English and supports my crazy ideas 🙂

Flavors of Southeast Asia

I have been and still am a fan of Anthony Bourdain and his programs, in which he travels the world trying out different foods, some of which had never crossed my mind to try.  His program was really entertaining because, in addition to the food, he talked about the history of each place he visited.  Bourdain was a great admirer of Vietnam and its food, and having been there I agree that some flavors are unique to Vietnam, as well as to Cambodia.  It’s a shame I can’t share my opinion with him on Instagram 😦

When we arrived at Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) we first stayed in the Hotel Sofitel for one night.  That next morning we went for breakfast in the hotel, and I can assure you that never in my life have I seen a hotel with so many options for breakfast.  There were sections devoted to different cuisines, such as Asian, in which my favorite was the dim sum.  Also there was a French pastry section, Italian (were they’d make you a pizza to order), and American with bagels, french toast, and omelettes.  Really impressive!  If I had thought at that time to go on a diet, it would have been an impossible mission.

The breakfast at the Sofitel

During the eight days that we were on the cruise, we had a variety of meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The chef tried to keep the menu varied so that it was never monotonous.  One day he made a special meal dedicated to the street food of Cambodia, which as a trip highlight, but of course I did not try it.  Luckily there were many other nice foods to try instead.

Impressive, right¨?

Our last day on the boat we were at port where we needed to get to an ATM, and we were tempted to get a little snack, but looking at the signs we were a little discouraged (look at the photo) 🙂

I invite you to try to pronounce the food names, let alone know what they contain 🙂

Once off the boat, our itinerary took us to Siem Reap in Cambodia, where we needed to find some good eating, and of course we did.
One was the restaurant Cuisine Wat Damnak run by the French chef Joannes Riviere who uses mostly products from Cambodian farms.  His menu is therefore ever changing as he prepares his dishes with seasonal produce.  He offers two tasting menus (I think we had one with 12 dishes) with small portions and impressive flavors.  In addition, the place was lovely:  a large house decorated in a minimalist style, with a large terrace and impeccable service.  At the end of the dinner Joannes stopped by our table and asked us what we thought of dinner.

Upon returning to Vietnam we went to Hoi An, a place that really fascinated me.  We arrived in the afternoon, and later went on a walk in the town (I’ll tell you more in another post), looking for a place for dinner, when we happened on Le Fe, a really pretty place that had a pond of koi in the middle of the restaurant, which you could feed if you dared.  Here’s my video of it.

Koi always get my attention;  they are delightful and I love it when I see them in the Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires.

The service in the restaurant was incredible.  Our waitress asked us if we knew how to eat each dish that we were served, and when we answered in the negative, we were given a mini-course on how to eat … of which we really took advantage.

I’ll tell you one thing that I learned.  In the following photo, you’ll see some leaves that seemed to me to be decoration (evidently I didn’t understand anything).  You take one of these leaves, add a little sauce and then one of the little round bites which were made of shrimp, wrap it up and into the mouth … it was incredibly delicious and I learned that no part of the meal was to be wasted.

Crab and chicken, which we ate with chopsticks

The next day we signed up for a food tour, in which we were to visit various places for food so that we could try different dishes.  Me met two very enthusiastic young women at 3:00 PM, figuring we would not eat lunch beforehand because we would be eating too much.  A big mistake!!
We started with a visit to the rice fields which are only 10 minutes outside of the city.  Then we went to a kind of factory where a guy was in charge of cleaning the rice and getting it ready for sale:  I cannot describe odor of shit, yes shit, excrement (whatever you want to call it) in that place.  It almost killed me, and our guide telling us things that were absolutely inconsequential to me because my focus was on not breathing through my nose.  That’s when my bad mood started, which when it starts is very difficult to stop.  Anyway, I bring this up because in every trip there is always a side of great enjoyment and a B side, which I also want to share because that is what my posts are about: what I liked very much and what I would rather forget, but that today makes me laugh because, ultimately, it was not so serious.

So that you can see I’m not exaggerating 🙂  What an “ass-face”!!!

As you may have noticed, this tour started poorly and the worst thing is that it continued to go downhill.  Our first food stop was a little cart in the street, with low chairs for seating, the specialty of which was a soup so dark that it looked like tar … I didn’t even try it.  My “asshole face” (this is the direct translation of the Argentine expression “cara de orto”, which is a ruder version of the more common Spanish expression “cara de culo”, or “butt face”, meaning a very displeased face) was even more evident because the soup worsened my mood even more… Now I look back and laugh, although at the time it was not in the least funny. 

The soup is called black sesame;  I love sesame but in this color, no :-).  The unusual thing is that people stopped by on their scooters, buying a little soup in a plastic bag to heat and eat at home.

Continuing with the tour things began to improve and there was a change of attitude on my part … well, I started to smell good things and my hunger passed, that easily 🙂
I am a bread fanatic and in Vietnam, due to the influence of the French, they make baguettes which, just in thinking about them right now, makes me drool like Pavlov’s dog, and no bell is ringing…

The place chosen by our guides was Madam Khahn Bahn My Queen.  It was a little stand on the street with a separate room to sit and enjoy your baguette.  Impressive!!  You can add pork, chicken or vegetables.  That warm bread and its ingredients evidently cooked slowly over open flame makes the bahn mi an unforgettable dish.

Our tour then stopped at a place where we ate bahn cuon, which is like a roll of a very thin rice pancake filled with different vegetables and pork or chicken, if you don’t want to be only a vegetarian.  Very delicious.

The end of the tour was in a really pretty place to have an egg coffee, which is coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and egg … although this seems a strange combination, it’s a delight. 

Thanks once again for coming with me on this adventure. And thanks to Barnaby for helping me with my travels (travails?) in English :).

In my next post I will tell you about my experiences with the food of Hanoi, this time without a B side 🙂