the august cocktail hour: sultry days & sunflowers {escape to iceland tomorrow!}

Friday, August 12:  Welcome to my almost-finished house for our final happy hour of summer! This is our last time to mingle before I head off to Iceland tomorrow.  Come right in, get comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink.  I’m sorry to say I haven’t graduated from my Moscow Mules (vodka, lime juice and ginger beer); I’ve been quite content to drink these since our last cocktail hour.  I imbibed on some strawberry daiquiris when I visited my sister in Maryland this month.  If you’d like one of those, I’d be happy to whip one up, or I can offer wine, beer, or even some soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.

It’s been the most hot and humid summer imaginable, so I think we’ll just sit on our new counter stools at the bar. They finally arrived after our last happy hour. 🙂  It’s nice and cool inside, so it will be much more pleasant.  I’m sad to admit that we’ve hardly been able to use the screened-in porch because it’s been over 90 degrees and very humid every day.

Our counter stools are in!
Our counter stools are in!

Tell me about your summer. Have you been on vacation or explored new areas close to home?  Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  How’s your garden?  Have you had any special family gatherings?

summer flowers
summer flowers

I’ve been to a couple of movies, some wonderful, and others not so Absolutely Fabulous. My favorite was the intense and moving Dheepan, about an ex-Tamil fighter who cobbles together a makeshift family to escape his war-torn Sri Lanka.  He becomes a refugee in France. His “wife” and “daughter” are strangers to him and to each other, but they must pretend to be a family in order to get papers to leave.  He ends up in France working as caretaker for a rough property where a lot of criminal activity is taking place.  He doesn’t want any part of it, so he keeps his head down and tries to avoid being noticed.  The movie shows what it’s like for a refugee family to arrive in a new country without knowledge of language or customs, and to be cast into difficult, and even terrifying, situations.  I think it should be required watching, especially for certain people who want to close borders and build walls, those who would prefer to ignore the suffering of others.  This kind of sentiment is running rampant in the U.S. these days, and I find it appalling, heartless, and sickening.

I went to see Absolutely Fabulous and though it was funny in parts, I found myself getting annoyed by its overall silliness.  Actually, the only reason I went to see it was because I had met Joanna Lumley in Oman in 2012, and I wanted to see her again. 🙂 (absolutely fabulous: a surprise encounter with patsy stone)

At home, on Netflix, we finally watched the cute movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, partly filmed in Iceland.  I always enjoy watching movies and reading books that take place in our holiday destination.  The movie was quite charming, and really got me psyched for our trip.

We also saw the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith as accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu.  He uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play.  Though I don’t often enjoy movies about sports, I found this exceptionally well done as it depicted the relentless attacks on him by the NFL, a powerful organization.  I’m always for the underdog!

On the last weekend in July, Mike went with his high school friends to Ohio, so I took the opportunity to visit Sarah and Alex in Richmond.  Sarah moved into a new apartment at the beginning of June and I hadn’t been able to see it yet, so after we met for lunch at Mom’s Siam, we went straight to her house to check it out.  She hasn’t gotten it fully furnished or together yet, but she’s slowly getting settled.

Mom's Siam
Mom’s Siam

Alex and Ariana met Sarah and I for dinner at The Black Sheep, mainly because I had a craving for their marvelous chicken and dumplings.  We had a great time.  Alex looked quite handsome with a new haircut given to him by Ariana. 🙂

Alex, Sarah, me and Ariana at the Black Sheep in Richmond
Alex, Sarah, me and Ariana at the Black Sheep in Richmond

By the way, we found out our prodigal son Adam is now in Maui.  We knew his retreat in British Columbia ended on July 11, and we assumed he was still in Vancouver until we got a call from him on Tuesday, July 19, telling us he had bought a one-way ticket to Maui on July 12.  He’d been there a week already and was working on a banana plantation for a room and fruit.  When he called, he had just started working at a hostel four hours a day in exchange for a room. He eats food from the free shelf, where visitors leave behind food. He’s always believed in living in a world without money, and I guess he’s doing just that, sort of!  I don’t understand it and never will, but he’s got to live life according to his principles and I have to say I admire him in some ways.  On the other hand, I know he has credit card debt, so he’s not fiscally responsible nor is he actually living without money!

Thank goodness, he’s been good about calling us once a week to let us know what’s going on.  He seems very happy and says he wishes he had gone to Hawaii back in October when he first thought of going.  I wish he had; he would have saved us and himself a lot of money and heartbreak.  Who knows what will become of him, but I’m happy that for the time being he seems at peace and is actually working, even if not for money.  This past Tuesday night, he called to tell us he is starting to work for a ceramic artist helping to sell his very expensive ceramics; he gets an hourly wage and some commission on any sales.  Slowly, slowly.  I’m trying hard to have no expectations and to continue to send love his way.

On Friday morning, Sarah and I went for a hike on the Buttermilk Trail along the James River.  The trail was quite muddy as it had rained overnight.  We then went shopping at Target, where I bought her some new bedding, a hair dryer, and bath towels, all of which she needed and was thrilled to have. We also had lunch together.

Later that afternoon, I drove an hour south and visited with my dad and stepmother in Yorktown.  We had dinner together and chatted until I went up to bed to read my book, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  I hardly slept all night because I was near the end and couldn’t put it down.   My lack of sleep made it hard to get off to an early start, as I planned, to drive to Salisbury, Maryland to visit my sister Joan on Saturday morning.

Here’s my review of State of Wonder on Goodreads: I loved this book about Dr. Marina Singh’s journey into the Amazon jungle to find her former professor, Dr. Annick Swenson, as well as to find answers to the questions surrounding the death of her colleague, Dr. Anders Eckman. They all work for Vogel, a pharmaceutical company in Minnesota, and Marina has worked with Anders for 7 years in a small lab. Forty-two-year-old Marina is involved in a kind of secret relationship with 60-year-old Mr. Fox, the CEO of Vogel, who is not a doctor but an administrator. She calls him Mr. Fox, which speaks to the type of arm’s-length relationship they have. Mr. Fox sends Marina to look for Dr. Swenson because her research to develop a drug in the Amazon is taking too long and Vogel is getting impatient with her lack of communication about her progress. Dr. Swenson is doing research on how the Lakashi women can bear children even into their 70s. Marina’s other mission is to find out what happened to Anders and to possibly recover his body to send back to Minnesota.

Of course, I love any kind of story that takes place in exotic locales, with characters I can understand. This is an adventure and awakening story, a kind of journey into the “heart of darkness;” I found it immensely compelling and I love Ann Patchett’s writing.

I’m now reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, which I’m enjoying, as well as a book my sister recommended by Dan Harris of Good Morning America: 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.  I’m also making my way slowly through The Mathews Men by Bill Geroux; though it’s well-written and interesting, my books of choice are not normally non-fiction.

In Salisbury, we sat out at Joanie’s pool bar, where my brother-in-law Steve served us up some mixed drinks.  My nephew Seth and his girlfriend, Julia, hung out with us too.  It was fun to visit with my sister and to hang out by her pool on Sunday too. 🙂

me, my sister Joan and my nephew's girlfriend
me, my sister Joan and Julia

On August 4, after a number of failed attempts to meet in May and June, I finally met with a lady who runs a wine touring company.  She asked if I’d like to try out being a tour guide for her company.  I agreed to give it a try on Saturday, August 6.  I went with tour-guide Jim, who showed me the ropes; we took a group of ten 30-something ladies on a bachelorette tour of 3 wineries.  Our first stop was Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, where the owner warmly welcomes guests into the main tasting room in the living room of her c.1820 house.

Zephaniah Vineyard's tasting room
Zephaniah Vineyard’s tasting room

Next we stopped at Stone Tower Winery, set on 306 acres atop Hogback Mountain.  This is a large more commercial enterprise, and though beautiful, was not as appealing to me as the other two more intimate wineries.

Stone Tower Winery
Stone Tower Winery
pond at Stone Tower Winery
pond at Stone Tower Winery
vineyards at Stone Tower Winery
vineyards at Stone Tower Winery

The tasting room was quite chilly, so we ate lunch in a cavernous and only a little-less-chilly room with live music.  We couldn’t easily sit outside as it was hot, humid and spitting rain sporadically.  The young ladies seemed to be having a wonderful time.  This venue is much less homey than the other two, although the setting is lovely.

Our last stop was The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards, a family owned and operated winery housed in a refurbished dairy farm. The restored hundred and six-year-old stone and wood bank barn has been transformed into a tasting room, surrounded by eleven acres of rolling hills and woods.

The Barns at Hamilton Station
The Barns at Hamilton Station
The Barns at Hamilton Station
The Barns at Hamilton Station

The tour was fun and the owner has booked me for two tours in September.  It’s very occasional work, she has told me, which is fine by me.:-)

This week, we’re having our entire basement painted.  It hasn’t been painted since we bought the house in 1994 and it was sorely in need of refurbishing. Our boys grew up hanging out with their friends down there, and you can only imagine what disrepair it was in. There were several holes punched in the wall from some wild activities.  As soon as we return from Iceland, the whole basement will also be re-carpeted, and with a new sectional we just had delivered, it will become Mike’s “man-cave.” I’ve gently nudged him out of the living room, where I have my desk and computer.  Now we’ll both have space to work and not be crowded together into one corner of the living room. 🙂

The house projects never seem to end!  It seems they have been going on all year, but I guess it’s to be expected after so many years of neglect.

Several weeks ago, I received my refurbished Canon Rebel back from Canon USA Inc. and I hadn’t had time to try it out.  I’ve needed to decide which camera to take to Iceland, my Canon or my trusty old Olympus.  Wednesday, I finally took the Canon out to Burnside Farms, where the sunflowers are now in bloom.  I didn’t take my Olympus, because I’ve already taken sunflower pictures with it in the past at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area: an afternoon with light-crazed sunflowers.  Below are all the pictures I took with the Canon.  I’d love to know your opinion.  It seems to me that the pictures are sharper than they were before, but too many of them were overexposed and I had to adjust them in post-processing.  Any hints from the photographers out there?  I’d love to hear advice.

Below this batch of Canon pictures are pictures taken with my iPhone 6s.  Which do you think are better?  I think I’ve pretty much decided to leave my Canon at home and take my much-used and dependable Olympus to Iceland.

sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON
sunflowers CANON

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

Here are the photos taken with the iPhone.

Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)
Sunflowers at Burnside Farms (iPhone 6s)

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-sized slide show.

It’s pretty sad when iPhone pictures are better than a camera for which I paid $400, as well as another $300 for a telephoto lens. 😦

Thanks so much for dropping by for cocktail hour.  It was sure great to see you all again.  I really haven’t had a very exciting or interesting month, but I hope to have more adventurous things to report when I return from Iceland.  I hope you’ll share what you’ve been up to.  I may not be able to answer you until after August 25.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!  I’m so ready for fall and cooler weather. 🙂

15 ideas for treasure-seeking in the home territory {the land of the decidedly unexotic}

Tuesday, April 26:  Often while home in Virginia, I wander in daydreams through exotic parts of the world. I run tedious errands in my car or take my daily 3-mile walks, mesmerized by a playlist of music that takes me back to places I’ve loved. I peruse Instagram pictures of foreign places and make lists of where I want to go next. I flip dreamily through travel magazines and watch foreign movies.  I eat out at ethnic restaurants to savor foreign flavors. I read my favorite bloggers who live abroad, and keep in touch with my friends abroad.  I live in a parallel world that is currently out of my reach; therefore, I’m not fully alive in my life HERE & NOW.

I will always yearn to be abroad again, not only to travel, but to live and work in a place, to immerse myself in a culture.  Doing such is a deeper, more satisfying, and often challenging, experience than travel, which feels to me like skimming the surface. It is part of my make-up, I think, to be a nomad, a wanderer, and I don’t doubt that if there are such things as previous lives, I was once a semi-nomadic Bedouin, or a peripatetic nomad, offering my skills to the settled populations among whom I traveled. The only skills I have to offer to foreigners in this life are my English language skills, though it’s far-fetched to call them skills.  After all, I grew up naturally speaking English. I’m thankful for that: my native language enables me to wander. (Of course, I have a Master’s degree in International Commerce & Policy, but no employer has ever been able to recognize the skills I offer in that area!)

I agree wholeheartedly with a quote by my heroine, Freya Stark: “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” I love mornings in new locales, where a whole day of experiences lies in wait for me, full of delightful surprises.

In Northern Virginia, and in Virginia at large, I often walk around with blinders on, not noticing, or even caring, what my homeland has to offer in the way of natural beauty, history, and culinary and cultural experiences.  Being abroad is the high that we adventure junkies crave, and when we’re home, we often find life excruciatingly boring.  This is, of course, a fallacy of my mind, a lazy way of thinking.  Life is only as boring as I allow it to be. I’m finding that if I open my eyes and continue to throw myself out into the world, even my constricted world on the east coast of the United States, I can indeed find mini-adventures.  I just need to be open to possibilities.  I need to get up and go.

On this day in April, after a long spell of dry weather, and going quietly crazy in a house full of contractors and deconstruction, pounding and loud music, I venture out to Burnside Farms, a cutting garden where one can pick flowers.  I’ve heard the tulips and daffodils are in bloom.  I’ve never been to this place before, so I drive out west about a half-hour to Haymarket, Virginia.  Here I find some pretty scenes, even though the fields are quite dry and the tulips are past their prime.  My first inclination is to write it off as disappointing.  But with my camera, I’m able to find bits of loveliness, bits of the exotic.  What lends beauty to the scene are dramatic clouds moving across an azure sky, colorful flags, close-up details of the tulips that are still blooming, and the garden’s Dutch theme, with its windmill and wooden shoes.  Even the baskets for picking flowers and the colorful jars and vases sold for making flower arrangements are inviting and fascinating, if one pays attention.

Burnside Farms
Burnside Farms

As a person who seeks stimulation in life, who is always eager to discover new places and experiences, I’ve been giving thought to how I can go treasure-seeking at home.  How can I open my eyes to find the exotic in my backyard?  Here are fifteen ideas:

  1.   Look for inspiration everywhere.  I find inspiration in Virginia is For Lovers: Virginia’s Travel Blog, local Welcome Centers and tourist information centers, photos people post on Instagram and Facebook, Moon Handbooks from Virginia, D.C., Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and the other surrounding states.  I pick up brochures everywhere I go.  I talk with friends about places they’ve been and loved. Virginia is a state of lush greenery, mountains, beaches, rivers and forests, not to mention history.  Also, as northern Virginia is a suburb of Washington, D.C. there are plenty of cultural activities and ethnic restaurants and I can find multitudes of ideas in the Washington Post Going Out Guide.  I also belong to Meetup.com photography and wine-tasting groups, and though I don’t go out often with the groups, I do borrow from their ideas for outings.  There is also the fabulous Virginia Wine, which lists all Virginia wineries, Cideries and Meaderies.
Dutch wooden shoes
Dutch wooden shoes

2.  Seek out something that is unique about a place.  Rejoice in defining features.  In today’s outing, I find a display of jumbled wooden Dutch shoes, suggestive of the Netherlands.  In my foreign travels, I always manage to find something unique about a place that distinguishes it from any other.  In Oman, frankincense and silver jewelry, camels and souqs, and abandoned ruins.  In Kathmandu, Buddhist chants wafting out of every shop.  In Vietnam, abundant offerings of fruits and flowers to the Buddha.  In Cambodia, cheap but enjoyable massages on every corner and ruins overtaken by nature.

3.  Seek out the wonders of nature. Observe them up close and at different angles. Here, I find tulips and daffodils.  I go often to local gardens, national and state parks and arboretums.  In California’s Joshua Tree National Park, I found the jagged leaves and wild-armed silhouettes of the trees for which the park is named. In Oman, the rocks and date palms and wadis.  In Korea, tea plantations.  In Lake Langano, Ethiopia, the acacia trees, big skies and pumice stone shores.  In China, pinnacles of rocks and rice terraces.

tulip
tulip
tulips
tulips
tulip
tulip
fringed tulip
fringed tulip

4.  Marvel in grand landscapes.  There are plenty of grand landscapes to be found in Virginia, from mountains to beaches to rivers, forests, and meadows.  Here, at Burnside Farms, is a landscape found commonly throughout the western part of the state: rolling farmland bordered by stands of trees. Whenever I drive west from the suburbs, I marvel in Virginia’s green undulating fields often bordered by white fences or dotted with cows.  In Oman, I found stark moon-like mountain landscapes, endless sand deserts, the ocean along the rocky east coast of the country.  In China, it was the karst formations along the Li River.  In Korea, it was the wetlands of Suncheon Bay.  In Jordan, magnificent Petra, which seems to go on for an eternity.

field of tulips
field of tulips
cartwheel tulip
cartwheel tulip

5.  Observe the clothing people wear.  In America, I love fashion because anything goes.  I of course favor Anthropologie but there are many choices everywhere.  Wherever I go, I look at what women wear, because I’m a textile lover and I adore a kind of loose, bohemian fashion.  I’ve never been a fan of high fashion; it bores me.  In China, I loved looking at the fashionable Chinese girls, though the clothes were always too tiny for me.  In Oman, I loved the scarves and abayas of the Omani girls. In Myanmar, I loved the fabric skirts worn by local women, the longyi.  I couldn’t stop looking at the boldly colorful saris in India.

pink tulips
pink tulips
lavender tulips
lavender tulips

5.  Look for man-made monuments and memorials, ruins and museums, and historical buildings and battlefields. Today, I find a windmill on the grounds of Burnside Farms.  In Philadelphia recently, we found the buildings marking the birth of our nation, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  We recently spent two days wandering around the battlefields of Antietam, where I learned much about that fateful day of battle during the Civil War.  There are plenty of these places everywhere, and I’m surprised by how well-done most of them are.  In Paris: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre.  The Mezquita in Cordoba, the Alhambra in Granada.  The ruins, abandoned and beckoning, in Oman.  In Greece, Delphi and the Meteora monasteries. 

windmill mania
windmill mania
daffodil field
daffodil field

6.  Take note of forms of shelter: houses, tents, huts, treehouses.  Here at Burnside Gardens, the only shelter is a tent.  As the garden closes when things aren’t in bloom, it doesn’t make sense to have permanent shelter.  In Ethiopia, I found tukul huts and enjoyed drinks in a treehouse bar.  In Oman, buildings were made of concrete to keep cool air in and hot air out, often behind a large concrete gate for privacy.  In Rethymno, Crete, the pretty little apartments lining alleys, each with potted plants and window boxes outside. In Dallas, many homes are built with beautiful local stone, or simply faced with it.  In the western part of Virginia, I can find log homes and old country wooden houses with big front porches.  I love how houses vary with the materials that nature provides.

daffodils
daffodils

7.  Take note of the myriad creative ways people display foods, flowers and other items.  Here, tulips are charmingly displayed in a wheelbarrow.  I love to visit markets to see how fruits and vegetables are displayed, or how dry goods are displayed in shop windows. I love wandering the streets of small town America, looking into shops.  There’s Eastern Market in D.C., and then there are the Chinese and Japanese markets, the Turkish Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the Khan Al-Khalili bazaar in Cairo, the Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona.  I love the displays of textiles and souvenirs by locals at Bagan’s temples in Myanmar.  Even when you think you’ve seen it all, you can find someone’s uniquely creative display that makes you smile.

a wheelbarrow of tulips
a wheelbarrow of tulips

8.  Notice how people carry things.  What kinds of bags, baskets, suitcases, purses are the norm?  Here, there are baskets provided for picking flowers.  In Ethiopia, people carried baskets on their heads.  In China, people devised all kinds of imaginable ways to carry huge loads, either with slings on their backs or on rickshaws or overloaded bicycles.  In India, every animal imaginable was put into service to carry commercial goods.  Colorful cloth bags are carried by women from Mexico to Vietnam.  Women in Myanmar and Ethiopia carry long bundles of sticks on their backs.

baskets for picking
baskets for picking
flower-picking baskets
flower-picking baskets
tulips
tulips

9.  Seek out the ways people try to make beauty of their surroundings. Here at Burnside Gardens, I find colorful jars and pots and a pretty display of flowers.  Enjoy gardens, trees, window boxes, potted plants, furnishings, paint colors. Look for bonsai or topiary or water gardens. Do people paint their homes colorfully, as in Nepal or India or San Juan, Puerto Rico, or do they put Azulejos, ceramic tiles, on their buildings as in Portugal? Do they put fancy wrought iron gates at the entrance to their properties?  Do they display paintings or photographs on their walls?  Check out street art, or urban murals, displayed on walls to bring beauty to otherwise blighted areas.

10. Try out every mode of transportation. Here in America, I mostly drive my car as our public transportation is not great; however, I’ve often taken metro or taxis. One of the best things to do in the USA is take a road trip (Road Trip America).  I’ve taken horse-drawn carriages in Savannah, Georgia, tuk-tuks in India, motorbikes in China, rickety buses in Egypt and Cambodia. I’ve ridden bicycles all over China.  I’ve been pulled by an ox in Myanmar and ridden a donkey in Jordan, as well as strolled atop camels in Egypt.  It’s always fun to take some kind of boat when possible, sailboats or motorboats in Annapolis, Maryland; ferries in Greece or China; long-tail boats on Inle Lake in Myanmar.

11. Check out sidewalk vignettes.  I often like to check out window displays on sidewalks, as well as people gathering in small groups.  In China, I found groups of old people on sidewalks, either playing games such as mahjong, or doing exercises to music on the street.  In Pokhara, Nepal, I found people lounging in chairs reading newspapers or children studying on the street near their parents’ shops.  While driving through small Indian villages, we saw men asleep on platforms covered in red spittle from betel leaf or women asleep on the concrete floors outside of a train station while rats scrounged around them.  Street performers are in abundance on sidewalks in European towns, as well as in American cities.  I love to look at newspaper and book kiosks in any city.

12.  Try local cuisines, bakeries, wineries and craft breweries.  Though there isn’t much to eat at Burnside Farms today, I do help myself to a Coke Zero and a Reese’s Cup.  We have so many ethnic restaurants in northern Virginia, being a suburb of cosmopolitan Washington, D.C.  I love to try Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and Lebanese food, as well as farm-to-table restaurants that offer fresh foods right off of local farms. I love eating at small locally owned restaurants in all my travels, and I’ve enjoyed wonderful meals in Nepal, Japan, Cambodia, Myanmar, and especially Greece, Turkey, Spain and Portugal.  Besides ethnic and locally grown food, there are plenty of wineries and craft beer places where we can take tasting tours, seeing the countryside and enjoying a bit of a high while we’re at it.  Sometimes it’s fun to eat a light dinner in and go out just for dessert.

13.  Seek out cultural events.  We’ve gone to see numerous plays at D.C. theaters.  We also like to attend music by local bands at Friday Night Live! in Herndon.  I’ve been to Jazz in the Garden at the National Gallery of Art.  There are cultural events every weekend around Washington, but we don’t often venture out to them.  Maybe we’ll try to do that more. In Portugal, I loved seeing Fado; in Spain, Spanish guitar and flamenco, as well as local dancers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Kathmandu, Nepal.

14.  Anything looks good at sunrise and sunset.  Go anywhere during this time, and enjoy the view!

15.  Walk.  Get out of any vehicle and use your two feet to take you through a place in an up close and personal way. Hike in nature, in forests, wetlands, or in the mountains.  Do an urban hike, just starting at some point in a city and seeing where you end up.  I’ve done this in Washington, D.C. and in Toledo and Barcelona, Spain; Evora and Lisbon, Portugal.  This is where you really notice the unique and interesting things a place has to offer, always on your feet. 🙂

I don’t know how long I’ll stay at the home-front before deciding to venture off again into unknown territories.  But for the time being, I’ll try to make the best of being at home, by seeking out the treasures that are here in abundance, if only I open my eyes. 🙂

On the side, of course, I’ll still be planning my next adventure abroad.   Coming up soon: Iceland. 🙂