The truth about road trips

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Road to Everywhere. Cruising our way through the cloudy Splügen Pass, a mountain border made nearly invisible by the misty weather that day.

We’ve been offline for a week: Drove through 4 countries in one day, wandered through legendary castles, forests and sped through heart-stopping autobahns…celebrated the great-grandfather’s 87th, visited a UNESCO Heritage City, hunted for Steinpilz and ate half a roasted duck, got hooked on Leberknödelsüppe, had our very own Oktoberfest with an accordion player. Drank even more.

Taught my kids that seasons change, and so does the view in different countries, the cultures, the schnapps, the language, the weather—but never the need to say thank-you.

We passed over the Alpine range twice and stopped to smell the bright yellow flowers at the top.

Splügen

Here, we took a break from the 8 hour drive to enjoy the sunlight atop Splügenpass, the mountain border which divides Italy and Switzerland. Going there was a drive through thick fog and rainy weather.

Truth be told, I was scared to venture on the invisible path which climbed higher into the clouds, but still I trusted my husband’s good driving skills. The return trip a week later was much easier—sunshine and bright green illuminating the now-visible zig-zag path, making it more of a joyride.

In a way, I loved the fact that we were disconnected (from the internet), and free to just enjoy each other. With no social media access, there was no news from other continents, no updates to share, no other lives to compare with, but the joy of our own special moments, and our fun-loving kids.

Time for hugs at "Mittelpunkt", the exact middle point of Germany
Time for hugs at “Mittelpunkt”, the exact middle point of Germany

In the car, of course the husband and I bickered (8 hours a day is a long way to drive!)…but we also made up, played Who Am I games, read novels (me reading aloud because it was less scary to look down at the book than through the windshield while racing down the autobahn…) and listened to really corny music on the radio.

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I’m addicted to mushroom hunting! So are the kids 😉 In search of steinpilz (funghi porcini) behind an old castle in Germany.

And the truth about long-distance road trips with family is that they do test your parenting patience, your marriage, your endurance and tolerance. They leave you with those rugged memories of both adventures and misadventures.

on the road again
Leaving Switzerland. After a week of being on the road, still all smiles. And what gorgeous weather we were welcomed back to in Italy!

Travel is EXHAUSTING when you’re a mom—but I am grateful for the chance to show my kids that the world expands, and home is where the LOVE is—wherever we may camp.

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Notes on Twitter and Trains

wb2Did you know that, as a boy, Jack Dorsey, was fascinated—no, obsessed—with trains? And that, his interest in the dispatch center and the way they communicated eventually led to his invention of the popular social media tool, Twitter? It’s been told that as a kid, he often hung out at the train track with his brother, waiting to capture them zooming by on camera.

Yesterday, for something different and fun, we travelled old-school style, in a very old, original steam locomotive engine!

photo of our train track by wikimedia
photo of our train track by wikimedia

The Weisseritz Valley Railway, or Weißeritztalbahn dates back to 1881. Although the track has been reconstructed due to severe damage with the 2002 flooding, its locomotive and cars are the original, basic design. It’s a great way to see the Erzgebirge mountain views here in Saxony.

And today, it wasn’t about getting to any destination at all. This was purely for the excitement and enjoyment of our transportation vehicle. Winding through all that nature, I couldn’t help but feel like we’d time-traveled back hundreds of years ago. (Interesting read: What nature does for your productivity.)

wb1We simply took the train to the very last station (about 45 minutes one way), stopped for lunch at a Greek restaurant, ate way too much Suvlaki, and then rode the steam engine  right back.

My son was fascinated, as usual. My daughter, her first time to ride the train, watched just as intensively as we chugged up the trail that followed the Weißeritz river, and waved to everyone who stopped just to see the steam engine go rolling by. I’ll bet they were also surprised to see three Asians waving back at them from inside the locomotive!

wb4We’ve ridden countless trains since Karsten was born, been to the German train museums numerous times, and when there is an opportunity to watch one pass, we do so with all the hurrah and excitement. Aren’t kids a great reason to start doing things “just for fun” in your adult years?

I hope that, as we greet the first few days of 2014, if you have made new goals for yourself, mapped out and marked destinations you’d like to reach, that you remember to enjoy the getting there, too.

Happy new year; happy journeys!

wb3http://www.weisseritztalbahn.de/

wb6P.S. Speaking of Twitter, you can find (or connect and follow) me here. 😉

Waking up in Wonderland

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Sleep-ins, as all moms know, become something of a distant memory once a baby is born.

But today, I welcome my 8-month old’s wake up call, her whining to go outside.

Because today we are in the “City of Pines”—that lovely, cool climate escape called Baguio. I slip into some comfy strolling clothes, and then push her out into the sweet-scented open.

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The breakfast buffet at the hotel’s restaurant smells of buttery croissants, homemade jams, and finely brewed coffee. That, mixed with Asian aromas from the giant spread: garlic-spiced longganisa, honey soy chicken, fish fillets and a large pot of steaming congee. I spy salted egg, banggus and ampalaya ensalada…

But we’re not up this early to eat—not just yet. We’ll wait for the sleeping boys and then pig out later. I’ve packed my camera, so we’ll go revel in this morning hour.

We catch mist rising; cascading streaks of early light. Hints of a perfect day awaiting us, its sun-showers spraying through a forest of impossibly tall pines.

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More pretty things on the pathway: beds of flowers, decked with frosty Christmas beads and giant glass baubles, a wishing pond with dancing kois and invisible water nymphs. At its bottom, a thousand coins glisten.

Dare I make a wish?

And still more pretty things: Paved up-hills and down-hills, winding roads to travel on foot. Further on, we overlook a silent lake. There’s a sprawling golf course in the distance, nestled in this carpeted playground of vibrant green.

Baguio city, tucked away in the Cordillera mountain ranges,  was once the recreation destination for US soldiers, when they held bases around the country. Because of its high altitude, the temperature is always pleasantly cool. Today, it’s just 17 degrees, a refreshing change from the usual humidity we’re used to.

My baby basks.

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She is silent, enjoying, taking in the peace and stillness of this wonderland. Every now and then, she coos a little, and when the hotel staff greets her with a good morning, she eyes them suspiciously before breaking just a half smile from an upturned, pouty lip.

She’s a bit suplada like that.

I scold her for being unfriendly, but maybe she just needs to get out more. We turn down towards an open road, continuing our stroll until it’s time to sleep again.

And this time, I welcome her dreamy midday slumber with a nap myself.

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As partial payment for a project I did for the Philippines Dept. of Tourism this year, I was given a four-day complimentary stay at The Manor. This charming luxury hotel is located at Camp John Hay and—besides other delicious things—serves the most amazing gourmet salads.

http://www.campjohnhay.ph/

Not Quite a Tsunami

Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales

Pundaquit

Somewhere between multiple typhoons, floods, and other seasonal September weather, we tripped to Pundaquit beach in Zambales.

From a distance, the son and I watched giant, forceful waves rushing, clashing, thrashing at the shore.  But my husband, he had to swim right in.

“Is it a tsunami, mom??” gasped my son, as he teetered on tiptoe, behind a bamboo fence which stood between the beach from the bar.

“No, not quite,” I reassured him, and we watched his dad grow smaller and smaller as he ventured further out.

Securing a spot at the bar, I could oversee both my little boy as he played in the sand, and my big boy, as he maneuvered a surfboard through the reckless ocean. Stealing photographs of him from afar (he doesn’t like his photo taken at all), I was content enough to meet new friends over a couple of cold San Mig Lights and Thai prawn soup.

When it looks this dramatic and beautiful, I can stare at the shore all day. Have you seen some awesome forces of nature lately?

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How to get to Pundaquit beach

 

First Week Back in Manila

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It’s midday—not even rush hour and I hold my son’s hand as we briskly walk a few blocks, past bumper-to-bumper traffic, holding our noses from the fumes, and defying the heat of the sun in search for an empty taxi.

I’ve gone to town with Karsten to try to set up Internet for our newly-rented apartment, which is on a different side of the city. Only about four Kilometers away, but it takes 40 minutes to plow through traffic.

After finally hailing one, we get in and sit tight. The driver doesn’t try to negotiate a higher price to our destination. At least one thing has changed since we were last here—for the better.

I subconsciously hold my son close to me, strapping my arm over his lap like a seatbelt. He’s not used to sitting in a moving vehicle without being tied down to a kiddie car seat. We’ve only been back in this country a couple of days. He’s enjoying the change.

“Ma’am, are your doors locked?”  the driver calls back, and turns to check the locks—which I’ve already secured, an old habit.

But I still shift uncomfortably. This isn’t your backstreet or dingy side of town. It’s urban Makati, the busy commercial center of the metro. High rises fill the streets; suited businessmen come and go. And yet…

“Just in case of hold-uppers,” he adds.  “They like to stand on the corner and nab people in traffic.”

“But there’s a lot of guards in this area, no?” I ask.

“Yes, ma’am,” he sighs, “but sometimes they are part of the hold-up, too.”

I hold my son closer.

Welcome back to crazy, chaotic Manila.

Ian Wright Sews Pictures

It would be a shame to travel the world and not capture what you see in either photographs, sketches, or words.

Globetrekker’s funnyman Ian Wright keeps some of his paintings and sketches online at his blog www.ianwright.tv, but he recently started sewing, too!

“My wife bought me a sewing machine,” he told me, during our interview last year (read the full article here) and I thought it quite comical, till I saw the finished products on his blog.

The tapestries are delightful colors of detailed beaded work and whimsical designs. See for yourself!