Someone explain to me what the Panda Projects are!

When I started with the idea of having a blog, I wanted to write about traveling (in fact several of the articles were about that) to show different places and what had happened to me in each of them. Totally personal experiences, because different things resonate with each of us.

2020 was, as we all know, an absolutely challenging year due to the issue of the pandemic (unfortunately 2021 still is) and being a worldwide phenomenon forced me (us) to stay at home. Before this unleashed I had prepared myself with some elements to make some art because having spent other winters at the PNW I wanted to be prepared for the rainy, grey and short days … later I realized that those ideas they would help during the confinement.

Some projects that I invented were: taking photos for a month and at the same time in the backyard of my house and at sunset, painting flowerpots, drawing, learning to knit , taking photos of the neighbors’s flowers … all solo activities.

But at a certain point after talking with friendly people (on Zoom) and where we all agreed on how much we missed (among other things) traveling, it occurred to me to make a collective game on Instagram and Facebook. I named that Panda projects (Panda because of the pandemic, I thought it was more cheerful and I think we all love Pandas;)) and Projects in plural because I unconsciously knew that he would not be the only one. And I was not wrong 🙂

My solo projects

The first project was something that I felt was simple, because it did not involve traveling but rather opening a window, a door or perhaps reviewing old photos and incidentally, doing a little cleaning of our files. I’m sure you have thousands of photos around and you think: “how did I not delete this before” 🙂

As I am fortunate to meet people who live in different parts of the world (and this was thanks to travel), I asked friends from the northern hemisphere to send photos of the fall which was the season we were going through and those of the south of spring . And the slogan had another detail: whoever wanted could write a feeling or thought in reference to their photo, or to autumn or spring.

The result was a lot of wonderful pictures, enthusiastic people and I was even surprised by the occasional poets 😉

All this work was published for a month on Instagram and Facebook and in the end I put together a collage (or rather four ;)) with all the photos that I was receiving classified by seasons. A beautiful project that I think everyone who participated also liked. The idea was to travel with our eyes.

Those were the Spring pictures

And those were for the Fall

And these are some of my photos of autumn in different places … the one who was doing the cleaning was me 😉

I have only words of thanks to all of these friends who made this game possible. The collective projects are spectacular because they keep me in contact with people and also generate a commitment to each one who gives me something of their own, such as photos or words.

I am happy to bring a little good energy to the world. And if you want to see who participated, and who wrote in their photos or where they were taken, I invite you to look at my Instagram @lauztullio and find out much more.

After this project others came; I’ll keep telling you or maybe you know why you were in one of them; this was possible because many of you joined the game. Many, many thanks to all of you for that 🙂


I ❤❤ Walla Walla

One of my favorite activities is traveling. I love not only knowing new places, but also being able to talk with the people who live in them because that enriches my life and also always gives me the opportunity to learn something new. The pandemic, as we already know, greatly reduced the ability to move freely, however with Barnaby we were taking advantage of everything we could by taking short trips and by car. The destination we chose for this opportunity was a place that has long been on the travel list: Walla Walla, in the state of Washington, a region known for its wines but that has, like every place, an unknown history.

It’s a four-hour drive from where we live, so halfway, in Goldendale, we made a technical stop at one of my favorite wineries: Mary Hill, I’ll show you some photos since unfortunately I can’t buy you a glass of wine;)

Mary Hill Winery in Goldendale

To tell you more about Walla Walla I need to give you some historical data and I hope you do not want to yawn … History was one of the subjects that were not among my favorites, but as the years go by it seems more and more interesting … maybe because I also started to be part of it … that’s a very good theory;)

Downtown Walla Walla

During the expedition that Lewis and Clark made on the Columbia River, they passed through the region of the Wallah Wallah River, which in the Native American language means Many waters and they left that name for the place. For some time the city changed the name to a man who does not remember him with much affection and after that he returned almost to the original, but this time without the final h 🙂 WALLA WALLA.

In 1878 fifteen delegates met to write the constitution to make Washington one of the states of the United States, however they had to wait until November 11, 1889 for this to happen. Could we say that Walla Walla pioneered the planting of seeds of independence and these days of grapes :)?

Lewis and Clark

Now it is a smaller and very touristy town with the highest concentration of wineries within the state of Washington. It has the advantage that everything is very close, so you can visit several wineries if you organize yourself well. It is no longer like in the old days, you spontaneously stopped for tastings. Now everything is with prior reservation for protocol reasons and seeing the positive side of the matter, that allows the hosts to dedicate more time to you: )

In three days we visited: L`Ecole, Pepper Bridge, Caprio, North Star, Abeja, The Walls, Three Rivers and Reininger. Not bad, right? They all feature excellent wines and knowledgeable, friendly people with a passion for what they do.

It is always nice to take a walk through the vineyards and to be told how they make their wines. And many times it happens that when they discover that I am Argentinian or because they have Malbecs among their strains, they mention Mendoza as a reference. It makes me proud that Mendoza wines are so well regarded … the reality is that they are excellent. When these conversations take place, I always take the opportunity to also name the wines of Salta and that wonderful place that is Cafayate 🙂

One of the wineries that most caught my attention was the one that many people called the anti winery: EL CORAZON in the center of the city. Probably due to the simplicity of its building and decoration and the strange labels on its bottles. We arrived at the place because people from other wineries said we must visit it and they were right: the wines are delicious and Kathy our host made us feel very comfortable. With this place we closed our visit to wineries and we promised to return to see the ones that were pending 😉

Thanks very much for joining me on this mini trip of total pleasure with wineries and good restaurants 🙂

Small but rewarding adventures

Last week there was heavy snowfall across many parts of the United States and Washougal, Washington was no exception. For me it was the first time that I experienced a storm like the one we had … well, not only for me, I heard that something like this had not been experienced for 100 years, which was a first for all of us who live in the area 😉

Our house is near what is called Columbia Gorge, a very windy area and combined with wooden houses, they are not the most pleasant things for my taste. Perhaps in this matter of feeling like a girl I have in my head the story of the wolf blowing the house of the 3 little pigs … who knows …

Beyond the night storm and because the wind had calmed down, I felt like going to enjoy the snow walking around the neighborhood. This time I came out a little warmer and not in pajamas and barefoot like last time 🙂

It was very fun to meet one of my neighbors, who as soon as she saw me she threw some snowballs at me and suggested that I make little angels in her yard. Then I went on my way and she stayed with her grandfather building a snowman. I did not clarify that my neighbor is a real girl and not like me, who am a girl at heart;)

The third day the situation was different. When I opened the window I saw that everything was covered in ice, I can’t explain how beautiful it was, so I put the crampons in my boots, essential accessory in case of ice so as not to slip and fall (I have experience in the matter 🙂

Look at this deer skating for not wearing crampons 🙂

It is very interesting to see frozen plants and leaves, as well as cars and furniture with stalactites or stalagmites (I never knew which was which :)) and it seemed to me that it gave a serious frame to my writing to use these words instead of saying bits of ice hanging from different items 🙂

The table looks like it has a tablecloth and I wondered where the birds have taken refuge

One of the things that most impacted during the walk, were the explosions that were heard when the ice began to melt and fall. I recommend for these cases to stay away from trees and houses if you don’t want to get wet or hurt;)

I took all this as a little adventure and the advice for life is never stop opening the door to go play, enjoy what you have around you. See you soon and thank you for joining me on this tour 😉


Today is Friday and it is snowing in Washougal, WA which is where I live. For a week the weather forecast announced this snowfall, which is going to last all weekend and I was and still very excited. Snow for me is something different, something I experienced for the first time in my 50s and every time it snows I become a baby and do baby things but under my responsibility … and that’s good 🙂

Earlier today, I wrote to myself that I would not want to have regrets some years from now about things I could have done today, such as why I didn’t take advantage of a sunny day, a conversation with friends, a candlelight dinner in the backyard of my home or like today: the snow. I keep thinking lots of times and I’m sure something similar happens to you that I should have enjoyed more things, when Demonia (that’s the name I put to my mind :)) starts up, the SHOULD HAVE appears and make a lot of damage on things that are unchangeable because belong to the past. But we have the opportunity of the here and now to do something different and enjoy the small and big things in life 😉

At what point do we stop being children? At what point did we stop being present and began to say: tomorrow I have to do this and next month the other … I think it all started at school with homework and was reinforced over the years, living many times on automatic pilot with no emotional education.

I love the boys and girls at that age that everything surprises them, who go out for a walk and stop hundreds of times to look at a flower, or an ant or whatever they crossed their path and living the PRESENT with absolute naturalness. For some time now I have been trying to do the same, stop when there is something I like, get out of bed to take a picture when the colors of sunrise leave you with your mouth open or like today: go out in my pajamas and barefoot to feel the snow and cold outside. Go out and laugh at myself 🙂

Looking and being aware of where we are can take you just a few minutes and those minutes are really worth it, because when you remember what you did you smile again, you return for a little while every day to be a child.

Have a nice weekend enjoying a little more of what you have around.

Enjoying nature watching birds

Perhaps due to the pandemic or early retirement or a third and inexplicable reason 🙂 we began to be interested in birds.

At first timidly putting some feeders on our deck and learning that different types of seeds attract different birds. The challenge remains to recognize who our guests are for breakfast and lunch 🙂

Someone who thinks he is a bird 🙂

One of the benefits of living in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) is the amount of wildlife around. Who would have imagined (starting with me) that I was going to enjoy nature so much . I used to be tremendously urban, a city bug … or at least I was until 5 years ago when I moved to this part of the planet.

As we felt that it was not enough to see the birds that visit us daily in our feeders, we began to visit bird refuges that are a very short distance from our house. It is a fantastic activity in winter when the sun rises after days of constant rain 🙂 and also, if you are curious, a great source of learning.

Some of our guests to eat 🙂

This is my basic equipment for a good observation: backpack, camera with good lenses and binoculars;)

Taking good photos of birds is a challenge, it requires a lot of patience and taking the shot at the exact moment of the flight so that the photo is not blurred and the objective is clearly seen. This whole introduction is to tell you that you will not see too many photos of birds but of the places where some live and others spend some seasons 🙂

These two pictures of the bald eagle were taken by Barnaby in the shelter we have close to home in Washougal …. Impressive, don´t you think? Clearly he made a better job than me 🙂

And if you are not a fan of birds, I know that many people are apprehensive of them, walking these spaces to just take a walk is also a good idea.

This is the rear of the Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge in Washington that is currently closed for modifications in favor of Columbia River birds and fish. We have this wonderful space 10 minutes by car from our house 🙂

A summary of our hike through the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area in Oregon.

A beautiful Sunday at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington.

I hope you have enjoyed these walks and have aroused some curiosity about birds. See you soon with more adventures and thank you for joining me.

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 🙂

A little more from Cambodia

Before coming back to my trip I want to say that last week was a little hard for me, maybe because we had tickets to go to Buenos Aires at the beginning of April, and of course we couldn’t go; maybe because April 2nd is the anniversary of the Malvinas war, and this is a very sad day remembering that a crazy man sent into an absurd war (like all wars are) very young men with no military preparation. And among all those mixed emotions I received a letter with a pendrive of 36 drawings that recapped the Vietnam and Cambodia trip Robyn Diener, the artist, was on the cruise traveling with us. You can’t imagine how much I cried with that letter in my hands:  it symbolized all my pain and gratitude and it was a relief to let all my emotions out.
I saw Robyn drawing in her sketchbook during our excursions and with Chris’s help (her husband) she converted all her work to jpg format and had the generosity to send them from Australia to the United States. I have lot of gratitude for that.

This couple is Robyn and Chris 🙂

Here are some of her postcards 🙂

Now after all this emotion I can continue telling more about the trip. If you had thought that traveling by tuk tuk or rickshaw was exotic, you have no idea how exciting is to travel by ox cart. Something very unusual.
We disembarked and lots of carts were ready to take us to visit a local temple. As you are going to see in the pictures we travelled two in each cart and a person with some expertise drove, or rather, guided the oxen. It seemed that it wasn’t a usual way to travel because people in the streets were taking pictures of us. We were the attraction. Anyway, the experience was fun and, besides, pretty uncomfortable 🙂

This is my video of the ride

We arrived at a local temple and we participated in a ceremony and received a blessing by a Buddhist monk. I’m not a religious person but I felt touched, especially by the petals that they were throwing at us.  We had to take into account was the dress code to visit religious places. Women and men must cover their shoulders and knees. And to voice a potentially controversial opinion, I don’t like when men wear shirts where their shoulders are visible… this could be generational but I don’t like guys in tank tops no matter how buff their bodies are.

You are right 🙂
Here are the pictures at the ceremony

That night there was a pool party on the boat with music, and some enthusiastic people (me included) danced.  The best part was when one of the passengers took off her dress (she was wearing her swimsuit underneath) and got into the pool. Her name is Peree and she‘s Australian and I know all this because even though I wasn’t wearing a swimsuit I got into the pool with my dress… on 🙂 We had lot of fun. Next time I will be more prepared.

The next day we went to the temples of Phnom Srey and Phnom Pros which had lots of wild monkeys; some were big and followed us for food.  They were a little scary, even though you were not supposed to be feeding them. We saw also a photography session for a wedding. The couple didn’t look very happy but I understood that with almost 40 degrees (Celsius), one hundred percent humidity, lots of uncomfortable clothes and the photographer asking for more poses…  I would have had this face too in that situation.

Back on the boat our countdown started:  the cruise was almost over. We had dinner with our new Australian friends Ilona, Alan, Sandie and Brian, people who made us laugh a lot.  Barnaby and I hope to see them again to have more fun.

And here I am in a picture with some of the people who worked on the cruise, serving food and making our lives very easy there. Such a nice and kind group who always tried to make me laugh. “Arkoun,” which means thank you in Khmer, to all of them.

And thanks to Barnaby again for helping me correct this text and thanks to all of you for coming with me on this trip.

Here we go again

Hi my friends, during the last week I have wanted to come back to my blog to continue with the trip in Asia. I opened a section called Misceláneas but it’s only in Rioplatense Spanish, with some expressions that are only understood in Argentina. Here’s a video from an American guy called Dustin Luke who used to live in Buenos Aires and explained something of the culture from there. By the way I have to say that his accent is impeccable.

So in the last post we were about to disembark in the port of Phnom Penh.  Then we took an excursion around the city by tuk tuk. This is a motor bike with a cart in the back with no windows or doors, it’s like traveling in a bike but more comfortable, but you still have the sensation that the cars, bikes, other tuk tuks are going to hit you. Trust me, there is a lot of fun involved.  Here are some pictures where you can see some of our traveling friends.

Brian and Sandie saying hi

One of the stops was at Sihanouk Memorial dedicated to the King Norodom Sihanouk who left his crown to his son Norodom Sihamoni in 2003. Big bronze statue at the Independence Monument.
Here are some pictures and to my own surprise… I’m becoming more and more used to technological tools… Look at me!! I have a Youtube channel and I posted a great video that Barnaby filmed during our drive.

Barnaby filmed this video during the ride

Another stop was at the Central Market, a place where you can find watches, clothes, bags from very well known and expensive brands but they were fake. Kind of bizarre. I liked the places where they sold flowers and the small stands for exchanging money with windows making the bills very visible.

Are you a football (soccer) fan? If the answer is NO you can go to the next paragraph but if it’s YES, you probably saw Agüero (Kun) in the picture. I found that they have football players in beer cans, in this case from Manchester City. Something funny that happened was that we were asked all the time from where we came, and when I said Argentina, they said “Messi”: they knew that the guy plays in Barcelona but he is Argentinian.

We went to have tea at the Raffles Le Royal Hotel, a very luxurious place which was visited by Jacqueline Kennedy once upon a time;  they kept the cocktail glass with her lipstick mark on it.  Besides they dedicated a cocktail in her honor named Femme Fatale… beautiful name and even though we were supposed to be having tea, I asked for one, I felt that I couldn’t miss the opportunity to try it. It was a shame that I wasn’t wearing lipstick 😉

At night we went around the city in the tuk tuk again. It was an unforgettable excursion, seeing all the very bright city lights and feeling free in those vehicles on such a refreshing night. We had lost all the fear of the crazy traffic. Amazing!!

Another video from Barnaby

After that we had our dinner in our “normal” schedule around nine and two great members of the ship’s crew were waiting for us with everything arranged.  It’s funny that in United States we start barbecuing at 9pm when everyone else is getting ready to go to bed.

The next day we went to the Royal Palace where the King lives, and the gardens are beautiful and very well cared for. All the buildings were beautiful—my pictures not so much—so I have a video that will show you the place in a better way.

That day we finished by visiting families who produce silver handcrafted objects and jewelry.  Walking around there the kids were smiling and shouting, giving joy to the place.

Thanks for coming with me again.  Stay home, take care and we will continue this trip together and special thanks to Barnaby, my husband, who helped me correcting my English 🙂

See you soon

Strange days

Last Sunday from our home window

Hi everybody, I had resolved for the new year to start rewriting my blog about my trips and living in the northwest of the United States. The idea has been to share stories in a funny and entertaining way.
I had thought to post a new article every week as a kind of routine in my life.I’m pretty sure that everyone made a lot of resolutions for the new year like: lose weight (that topic has been on my list for years with no success :)), learn a language (I’m feeling interested in Japanese), join a gym and GO (this has been removed from my operating system), and travel (impossible nowadays). Those were mine, and probably you had your own ideas.

Nobody thought that, with the coronavirus, our “priorities” would change completely and everything that we had been doing would be on pause. From one day to the other we have had to start a new way of living.
I think that I told you that writing is therapeutic for me. Makes me feel that I’m having a conversation with the person who is reading. Besides it helps me to remember trips, organize pictures, challenges me to write better… just makes me feel good. But last week it was almost impossible to get close to the blog because I was feeling worried and down (not all the time but part of it), and writing about Vietnam and Cambodia was nonsense to me.
We had plans to go to Buenos Aires in April and we can’t;  we are at home, not receiving or visiting our neighbors or friends, we can’t go to shows or restaurants, all the normal stuff that we used to do.  This makes us feel overwhelmed.
But I stopped examining my belly button and started thinking of how other people are living in this particular time. My family and friends in Argentina, all the friends that I have around the world:  in other states in America, Spain, Italy, Australia, Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, Canada and Australia. And besides all the lovely people that we met on the trip in Vietnam and Cambodia.  It just breaks my heart. Are they all doing ok? Because we are fine, lucky to be in a good relationship… maybe you should double check this with Barnaby 🙂 although sometimes we feel anxious to be far from our daughters.

On Friday I called Guille, a friend from high school, and while talking about different topics I said that I felt it impossible to write, that I didn’t have energy but on the other hand I needed to let my feelings out. He suggested to me to write a special article about those feelings and what I am doing during these days.  Sometimes I feel that my body is here in Camas while my heart is divided between here and Buenos Aires. This conversation really energized me and I started to write something special for this week.

Working hard in my new post 🙂

My website’s name is in Spanish and means “travels, adventures and something more…” and this article is about the “something more” that nobody expected which changed all our routines.
So here are the things that that we’ve been doing (it’s not an XXX blog so I will only tell the uncensored things 😉 ).  As background, schools, the library and some of the shops in downtown Camas were closed last week. In general all the shops are small businesses that have been trying to stay alive. Very hard times for them. 

Beautiful downtown Camas

In our case we have been isolated for two weeks, no visitors, but we created a way to be with our neighbors in a common area in which we have enough distance to be protected from contagion but close enough to listen to what everyone’s saying (we are all kind of old).  The interesting thing is that we discovered we were repeating the same conversations two days in a row… symptoms of the virus? Not at all, just old people saying the same things over and over again. We corrected that and the third evening we were very alert about distance and topics 🙂
Besides this, we go to the supermarket and take some walks besides the river:  we are very lucky to live close to nature (forest and river).  We have been cooking a lot, not me, just Barnaby. He has been great looking for new recipes and preparing them. I help by doing dishes and eating, of course.  And he is helping me correct my English for the blog.

Waffles gluten free made by favourite chef

Besides I have my other activities:  photography lessons online, not a very good student but I have been trying to do my best in my homework. And besides I’m trying to learn to draw (mission impossible).

My homework: backlithing photos

Something that I enjoy a lot is working in my yard. Some years ago in Argentina there were people saying that talking to the plants made them grow healthier and nicer…. I was kind of skeptic about that, so I am not doing this, besides in which language do I talk to them? What happens if the plant misunderstands what I’m saying? I prefer to keep silent 🙂 

Some of my plants

Something else that I do is listen to podcasts.  I do this in Spanish so I can’t recommend many (just the Ted Talks) just to say that there are thousands of topics and people and if you find whatever helps you, try it. It’s a very entertaining activity.There are people organizing online courses, museums that give virtual visits, and of course you can read or watch movies. I will try a new app called House-party to have conversations with several people simultaneously, for now it’s an experiment.Try to keep busy with things that you enjoy and make you feel happy. Stay at home, but watch out for too much news and too much information (sometimes fake), which is not healthy.
I want to express my gratitude to all the people working in health, on the battlefront:  you are our new superheroes. Thanks a lot!

Thanks for reading my blog.

P.S. As I am posting this, the state of Washington has ordered all people to stay inside and closed all non-essential businesses.

The Asia trip continues

Before starting with tales about the trip I want to share something that I have been thinking during the whole week, related to the coronavirus. It crossed my mind that I could be kind of shallow if I spent my time writing about trips and seemed not to be concerned about this big topic (I’m still in the real world).
In my case (and probably yours, as reader) I have been feeling the need for something different than news, which sometimes is not helpful. And because of that I decided to write my weekly post, which is therapeutic for me.
We are living in uncertain times right now, when we are supposed to be at home, so why don’t we take advantage of doing things in our homes that we never find time to do? Besides we are in a time when we need to open our minds and souls; we are all human, and any of us could get this virus, or any sickness;  there are no frontiers more dangerous than the mental ones.  Let’s have more solidarity;  let’s be more empathic. Let’s take care of ourselves to take care of others.

Here is my space to read, write and learn new things

Now after this comment, come with me to continue exploring Vietnam.
The next day out of the boat we chose an excursion to go to a silk factory.  Vietnam produces a big quantity for export.  Most of the production of the family that we visited went to a French designer.
It made an impact to see those noisy and old-fashioned machines where people manually chose patterns, combined the threads, and everything else to make the cloth, besides the all the previous manual work collecting cocoons and dyeing the silk. 

The family asked that all the visitor wore masks

To get to the factory we had the choice of going in a van or a rickshaw. If you know me just a little you will guess that I chose the latter for my transportation 🙂 . So much fun going in this little box behind the bicycle!  I was a little scared at the beginning because bigger vehicles drove very close to us, but soon I relaxed and enjoyed the experience. That was the first of many times in strange transport;  I will tell you more in other posts.

Kids were very excited when we passed in the rickshaw, so cute 🙂

When we finished the silk factory visit we went to Evergreen Island:  hot and humid weather but worth the experience. We walked through lands where the majority of people are farmers:  rice and chiles are the main crops.  They have two very well defined seasons: wet in summer and dry in winter. Our visit took place in dry season, so we had the opportunity to see the crops drying in the sun like the picture shows.A little piece of information: Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice behind Thailand.
The kids we saw were very cute—I need to say that I like kids a lot—they were excited to see us and always said “hello, hello” when we were walking by. There was also a mobile shopkeeper that had whatever you might imagine on his motorcycle.  Look at the picture to see if I’m telling the truth 🙂

That evening there was a show on the boat performed by the Traditional Vietnamese Lion Dance Show, which was very entertaining, and at the end they invited people to join them dancing Gamgam Style from Psy (a big hit some years ago).  I went to dance like crazy, and I was very lucky that my new friend Ilona from Sydney danced with me:  the picture shows us tired but happy.

Ilona and me, dancing queens 🙂

At some point in the trip we crossed the border by water into Cambodia, actually called Kampuchea. That morning Immigration came to check our passports and visas on the boat, something so easy and quick, a very different experience from the usual to enter a country.
The boat crew was Cambodian.  Their language is called Khmer and they have a special way of greeting called Sompiah. People don’t shake hands or kiss, they make a little show of respect by putting their palms together and bowing slightly.  If they are saying hi to equals, the hands are close to the chest, and closer to the chin if they are greeting parents or older people. It was very disappointing that everyone put their hands in the chin position to greet Barnaby and me:  clearly we are old :D. Here’s a video to learn a little more about this topic.

It was expected that we greet people in the same way which was difficult to get used to…. I am talking about the greeting, not the being older 🙂

After immigration the boat docked in Phnom Penh, which is the capital of Cambodia.  Here we could choose different excursions;  some people picked Tuol Sleng which is known as the Killing Fields, where there is a museum about the Cambodian genocide that took place from 1975 to 1979.  Around two million people were killed: very, very sad. There was a movie with the same name released in 1984 that told the horrible story;  one of the advantages of being older is that I watched it when it came out. Being serious, we didn’t have the spirit to go there, so we chose to visit the capital city by tuk tuk. It was a fantastic way to travel in the city;  here’s a shot of us.

We had a great time on the tuk tuk

Thanks for coming with me on this very educational trip, with a lot of beautiful things and with lots of questions about the reasons that life has been and continues being so hard in some parts of the world.

Discovering Asia

Ha Long Bay- Vietnam

The trip that we took to Vietnam and Cambodia imparted many life lessons;  I enjoyed it especially because I wasn’t really crazy about going there, even though that part of the world intrigued me, but these two countries were not the first on my list to visit.
But when you are in a couple, decisions are taken together, and it was a destination that Barnaby had wanted to visit.  Thanks to his insistence I agreed to go, not completely convinced (besides the corona virus showing up, giving more emotion to everything) but I have no regrets and am very happy to have had this opportunity, and to correct some of my misperceptions about that part of the world… trips are for that, don’t you think?
For many of us it is a long distance trip, we picked only Vietnam and Kampuchea (the real name of Cambodia) for our 18 day journey because we did not want to rush.  It turned out not to be enough time.
I like to show on a map where places are, I used the big globe we have at home (love them!!), and I took a picture of it to show you.

I have to confess that I like geography but I didn’t know where these countries were with certainty.  I knew that they were far away but I really understood that after spending so much time flying there 🙂
If you decide to visit keep in mind that you will need visas for both countries.  In Cambodia the visa is good for a month and for three in Vietnam, but be careful if you are thinking in coming and going more than once, for you will need a multiple entry visa.
My first step in Asia, because it was my debut in this big continent, was in South Korea, at the airport in Seoul.  We flew Korean Airlines and I loved the very cool security video where the guys SuperM do their thing.

The airport was amazing too, maybe because I was excited to put my feet on the ground after so many hours flying or just because the aestethic of the place with the puppets and the design of the stores looked extremely beautiful.

From there we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, the city that used to be Saigon until 1975. We didn’t stay too much time there, but we visited some of the recommended places such as the Notre Dame Cathedral (same name as in Paris, built by the French in 1863) which was being repaired when we were there :(, and the Post Office built by Gustave Eiffel, yes yes, the same guy from the tower.
We walked through a street where only sold books were sold, and I was especially happy to be there because it was beautiful and no motorcycles could enter.  Motorbikes are used everywhere, which made street crossings feel like adventures:  they sideswipe you, you have to walk calmly and never stop;  just go, go, go and good luck.  The sidewalks are full of parked motorcycles and, as in the picture, you will see vendors cooking on the sidewalk and people sitting around in low seats enjoying lunch. All very different but fun, being a pedestrian could be a high risk activity.

I would like to share some interesting things about Vietnam.  For example, it is the second largest coffee producer after Brazil, besides which, they prepare coffee in some unusual ways, for example “egg coffee” which contains egg yolk, condensed milk and coffee (of course) … don’t make a face, it’s delicious, very sweet, so you can treat it like a dessert. They also have “coconut coffee”: very refreshing since you drink it cold. And avocado coffee, which I didn’t try:  it didn’t sound like a good combination for my palate.
Of course Vietnam produces a large amount of rice and they export very good quality pepper. I will post more about the food on this trip that I liked a lot.  Anthony Bourdain was also a big fan!

Our trip started by cruising up the Mekong River, which is long and crosses several countries: Tibet, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.  We only saw a small part of it. We have not been big cruise lovers but this ship was small, just around 60 passengers, mostly from Australia, United States, Canada and Great Britain.  I was the only Argentine. We met some nice people and we had fun and we hope to keep in touch with them. The boat’s crew were very nice, helpful and made the trip very smooth.
We started the cruise on our wedding anniversary and were greeted by a spectacular sunset.  We learned some of the basic and very helpful words like Xin Chao (Hello) Mot, hai, Ba, Yo (Cheers) y Tam biet (Goodbye) and Cam o´n (Thanks)

The next day we went to Cai Be which is a floating market, where we saw (and sampled) how they prepare different rice products;  also we saw some bottled snake wine, which they called the Vietnamese Viagra… we didn’t try that 😉

In the afternoon we visited Sa Dec, a very interesting place where you can see French architecture from the past.  We visited the Wet Market where they sell all kinds of foods, things that you never thought might be edible (I decided not to take pictures of these items).  Here was my first revelation of the trip:  these people lived through several wars for many years, one of the consequences of which was hunger.  Therefore they took advantage of the entire animal or ate everything;  the banana plant is an example, so who I was to judge what people eat?  They have my respect:  I know nothing and I have to be thankful for what I have everyday. That was one of my big lessons of the trip.

Have you seen the movie The Lover, the one that was at the cinemas in the 90s, which was the love story of Marguerite Duras as a teenager with a very wealthy Chinese man called Huynh Thuy Le?  We visited the house that belonged to his family.  Looking at pictures of the guy, they obviously improved his looks in the movie to make the whole love story thing work.

During excursions on shore from the boat, I realized that Robyn, one of the Australian passengers, was keeping a book with her drawings of the different places we visited. I love people that draw and paint so I approached her and asked her to show me her work.  So beautiful.  But the nicest surprise was that, after coming back home, she emailed me and gave me this beautiful present. The house of lover in Robyn Diener’s version. Lovely … I told you that was a very emotional trip.

The art of Robyn Diener

Thanks for coming with me to re-live this journey. There’s a lot more to share.

I want to thank Barnaby Sheridan for helping me in the corrections 🙂

My blog in English (at last)

In 2016 Barnaby and I decided to come to live to Portland, OR after a couple of years living in sin in Buenos Aires, the city in which I was born, raised and spent all my life. He wanted to return to his country and back to his house, and the good news was that I was included :)It was not an easy decision for me, but my love wanted to go back home, some things had happened where I used to work, and that helped me to move forward.

It was a big challenge being 50 years old at that time, with Spanish as my mother tongue, no job after 32 years of working, and moving to a different culture in which, at the beginning, I tried to kiss everyone (on the cheek, of course) instead of shaking hands….quite a difference. Besides, the few times that I had come to visit Portland had been in summer (maybe you know that summers in the northwest of the States are amazing—long sunny days, dry, not so hot, perfect!), but the problem was that we were moving in January so the weather was very different: rainy and gray every day (notice my very proper American spelling of “gray”). 

All those things were little speed bumps for me, but I survived and adjusted.So, in the summer of 2016 I decided to write a blog telling my friends of my adventures in my new world. And the most important thing: in my fifties I started a very “young life,” learning lots and opening new doors that I had never imagined.My conclusion:  don’t be afraid of the passing years, be afraid of not doing things that you love; there are millions of possibilities and a big world (of places, ideas, and people) to explore no matter your age.  Never forget to feed your inner child!

I wrote a few articles in Spanish about our trips because we love to travel, but for a reason I can’t remember—maybe because I’m over 50—I stopped writing.
Now in 2020 I have decided to return to blogging, of course in Spanish, but I realize that during the last four years I have been meeting a lot of people who speak English and could be interested in what I am doing, so I asked for Barnaby’s help to correct my grammar so the posts will be neat and nice.

My blog is named “A life like in the movies” for two reasons. The first is that, when I moved to the US, some everyday situations were for me like watching a movie, for example the enormous supermarkets, yellow school buses, dogs annoyed with postmen, rings to propose marriage, among many others.  The second is that, at this point in my life, I feel like a movie star (kinda!!)

My writing has been informal, giving my point of view about our trips, and trying to add humor in my own special way.
I hope that this project works in my adopted language:  expressions and humor (and those who spell it “humour” will know what I mean) sometimes are not easy to translate and because of this there will be differences from the Spanish version.
Come along and follow me on this adventure!

Barnaby Sheridan helped in the English corrections 🙂