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Beijing, China
Oct 11th, 2009 by Kate
This park was one of four built along side the Forbidden City for the royal families.  The hill we are on is built of the debris from when they dug the moat around the wall (and also is rumored to hold a stash of coal).  The building in the background all lit up is the northern gate to the Forbidden City, and all the dark area behind it is part of it.  It is massive, over 6000 buildings!

This park was one of four built along side the Forbidden City for the royal families. The hill we are on is built of the debris from when they dug the moat around the wall (and also is rumored to hold a stash of coal). The building in the background all lit up is the northern gate to the Forbidden City, and all the dark area behind it is part of it. It is massive, over 6000 buildings!

Flowers.  That will be my lasting memory of Beijing.  There are flowers everywhere!  I know – not what I was expecting either.  But there they are – lining every freeway, in planters on every sidewalk, in giant arrangements in front of every office building, hotel, and apartment building around.  I figured it was in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the PRC, but our friendly driver Mr. Pei said no, every summer through fall there are flowers.

 Beijing is very very interesting.  We’ve been here almost a week and have enjoyed it enough.  The streets are all boulevards – very wide and grand, not surprising when you think that they make it a habit of marching 1 million-odd soldiers down the street for various reasons.  Visually, compared to Shanghai, it is a very low, very spread-out city.  Apparently for years and years no building could be built higher than the Forbidden City.  They have broken that rule now, and don’t get me wrong, there are a million tall hotels, office and apartment buildings, but they aren’t really really tall like in Shanghai.  There are quite a few parks and green spaces here too, and many of the buildings really look like Chinese buildings (in comparison to Shanghai where they were sky-scrapers or French looking) so you really get the feeling like you are in China.  I’m not sure though that even with the grand streets, park, historical buildings and flowers that I actually think that it’s pretty here.  I don’t know why, it has all the right ingredients to be a beautiful city, but to me it’s just not, I can’t put my finger on it.

 

The Red Columns of Tian'anmen Square

The Red Columns of Tian'anmen Square

We spent our first day here checking out Tian’anmen Square, which is as massive as you’ve heard.  With all the crowds, it took us almost an entire day to walk across it.  Plus we had to stop about a half million times for people to take pictures with the girls.  We did score some awesome “Mao watches” for a song after some hard-core bargaining but alas one has already stopped waiving and we are sad. 

The main entrance to the Forbidden City, with Chairman Mao watching over us!

The main entrance to the Forbidden City, with Chairman Mao watching over us!

Obviously, we learned no lessons from our little adventure in Suzhou!

Obviously, we learned no lessons from our little adventure in Suzhou!

 The city is so massive it really takes forever to get across town to the various tourist “sites”.  This, coupled with our promise to the girls to only do one major attraction a day has made it so that we’ve only just scratched the surface of Beijing.  Sadly, we are leaving tonight and never did make it out to the Olympic Park to swim in the “Cube”, but as we say to ourselves in each city (as we lament the things we didn’t get to)… “It’ll give us something to see when we come back someday!”

Oh Nacho, so quick you are to forget your alligence to Mexico and take up the Chinese flag!

Oh Nacho, so quick you are to forget your alligence to Mexico and take up the Chinese flag!

I SUMMON MY MINIONS!
Sep 9th, 2009 by Tessa
I summon you minions...

I summon you minions...

Pigeon "falconry"

Pigeon "falconry"

What’s the only thing better then a puppy or a school of giant koi bigger then my leg? A FLOCK OF CHEEKY PIDGEONS!

One of the markets we went to was along side a beautiful river. The water was so clear it almost looked like you were gazing into liquid glass. There was  a traditionalstyle,  vermilion bridge stretched across the length of the river. Under the bridge was a School of MASSIVE koi. One of the vendors at the market sold fish food. As we walked over to bye some, I kept my eyes on the ground, marveling at how clean the street was. We bought some food and hurried over to the river. The river was more like a large canal. The sides of it were made of river rock and cement with some grass poking out here and there. The ideal place for pigeons. We stopped at the steep slope and started throwing the small round pellets at the koi. The pigeons on the rocks slowly gathered under us to catch all of the poorly aimed pieces bouncing off of the slope. The foraging pigeons in the market behind us started to close in from the back. We were quickly surrounded on the wide sidewalk, about 10 yards away from the closest stall. Flustered by the pigeons and half flustered by my Mom hollering at them and running away (pigeons and camping without air mattresses are her week points), I started throwing the food as far as I could to get them away. My mom laughed.  ”You know you could probably get them to eat out of you hands!” She said as a joke, but I can never tell so I put some food in my hand and held it out thinking, what the heck! These pigeons have got to be the cleanest pigeons in the world!. Phoebe quickly picked up on it. After a little, I decided to try something cooler. I put the food in my hand and stood up with me hand in the air. Five  pigeons instantly jumped onto my hand and ate right from it.

Nacho Takayama

Looking back on Vancouver
Aug 22nd, 2009 by Kate
 
Nuk nuks off of Stanley Park overlooking North Vancouver
Nuk nuks off of Stanley Park overlooking North Vancouver
Wells Totem

Wells Totem

It was a bit of a shock arriving in Vancouver after our time in the Rockies.  Instead of mountains there were high rise buildings, and instead of watching out for bears we had to watch out for homeless people and city buses…

 That is not to say we didn’t enjoy Vancouver – there are so many things to do and see!  My first priority was to head over to the Grandville Island Market, I read about it in Travel & Leisure magazine a few years ago and saved the article (it sounded THAT good!).  I have to say that it did in fact live up to my expectations – amazing fruits and veggies from farms all over BC, seafood right off the boat, cheeses, meats and the baked goods – AHHH!  They even have an entire space that just makes stocks – but not just your chicken and beef varieties – three different kinds of fish stock, veal, venison… I was in soup-making heaven (if I was only traveling with a large soup pot!).  We spent our entire day’s budget buying little bits of this and that, our favorites were the smoked salmon and the smoked elk, the beef pot pie, the vanilla rooibos tea, local berries of every variety, cinnamon bread and a banana cream tarte with blueberries (however, not as good as Auntie Tasch’s!). 

 I think I’ve already mentioned the amazing sushi in Vancouver on Twitter.  OMG YUM!  And CHEAP – it is so cheap!  We heard from reliable sources that the cheap sushi places get their fish from the same fish market the expensive place do – and I believe it because the fish was awesome.  Seriously, Japan is going to have a hard time beating the sushi in Vancouver.

 We spent two of our four days in Vancouver bicycling around Stanley Park, a huge park to the west of Vancouver’s downtown.  On the first day we explored the interior of the park and enjoyed some beautiful old-growth stands of massive trees and giant ferns, pretty lakes, picturesque meadows, and some giant totem poles.  We had such a great time that we decided to go back the next day and cycle around the entire perimeter of the park, which follows the water the entire way.  It was eight miles roundtrip, and afforded us skyline views of North Vancouver, the port, the inlet to the ocean, and the downtown and Granville Island skylines.  I’m sure others have their opinions, but I definitely think that bike ride is the best way to see Vancouver.

Tess the magician's assistant at Granville Island

Tess the magician's assistant at Granville Island

Phoebe taking Chinese Tea Lesson

Phoebe taking Chinese Tea Lesson

 

Nacho Vancouver

It IS Better in the Bahamas!
Jul 13th, 2009 by Kate

Phoebe & Jack's Ocean Playground

The beaches and ocean here really are quite amazing… the one behind my sister’s house is by Bahamian-standards considered an “average” beach – nothing special – HA!!!!

The beach:  White sand finer than powder, tons of sea shells at low tide, no other people for a mile on each side, sea oat swaying, sea grapes sweetening the air, and in the afternoon, a beautiful breeze from the tradewinds…

The ocean:  When I get back to the real world, I’m going to make an entire box of crayola crayons that are just the shades of blue of the ocean in these islands.  There will be at least 50 crayons in that box.  You know when you are a kid you hear people say “the eskimos have 100 different names for snow”, well we are going to have to come up with new names to describe blue, because it would be a shame to let all these magnificant colors go unrecognized.

Behind my sister’s house, the ocean is literally a playground.  Within swimming distance are grassy beds with conch and starfish, small coral reefs teeming with Nemo and his peeps, sandy bottomed areas with sea cucumbers and other fabulously squishy creatures (hopefully Tess will post about her new best friend, the sea slug – no offense intended Chloe), and an area the girls have deemed “the sand dollar graveyard”.  At low tide, all of these areas are in less than 4 feet of water!  

We take the sea kayaks out about a 1/4 mile, stick our heads in to see if anything peaks our interest, set anchor, and plop on in (for those keeping track – the water is about 84F). 

Yes, indeed it IS better in the Bahamas…

Tessa with one of 100 starfish

Tessa with one of 100 starfish

Nacho Bahamas
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