Time to Fly

13 11 2014

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Driving up to the festival grounds I had my eyes peeled.  We were running late and crawling through the traffic trying to get parked and onto the field where the balloons were launching and I didn’t want to miss seeing the balloons in full glow.  Is that one!  No – just a tower light.  That’s definitely one.  There it is – look at it!  No that’s just a tree lit up by a parking lot lamp.  I scoured the darkness around us because you would think that you’d be able to see hot air balloons glowing in the darkness.  Nothing.

And then we got parked and made our way to the ticket booth and gates.  Ahh.  There we are.  Tension was released, and it was like everything was right in the world now.  I found them.  And I just knew.

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Since this was our second time visiting the festival, it was slightly less overwhelming.  I felt like we kind of knew the rules – when you hear the zebras whistling….get back!  So I took time to really see what was happening on the field.

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It was a great opportunity to see the camaraderie and teamwork as balloon after balloon was sent on its way.

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Normally things in large numbers kind of freak me out (birds, ants, really bugs of any kind all in one place), but hot air balloons may be the only exception.   Watching all these balloons float up into the sky is kind of a zen experience.

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It was a privilege to be able to attend this great event for the second time and I don’t think it will ever get old.  But next time, we’ll have to go flying.

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Transitioning: Summer to Fall

8 10 2014

Now that green is starting to ease into yellow, orange and red and a crispness is starting to add a little snap to the air, I’m starting to reminisce on my summer moments.

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Maybe I was ‘living in the moment’ and really living in the experience rather than thinking about how I was going to re-tell the story.  Or maybe I was too busy trying to pack as much activity into the warm weather as possible that I rushed through one activity in search of the next.  Either way, Fall is approaching, and with the changing of the leaves brings just enough transition that it’s made me pause in place and gather photos from the summer.

Everyone goes through the transition from Summer to Fall.  Preparation for hibernation perhaps?  The excitement to bring back over-sized sweaters, cuddly scarves and of course those Fall boots!  I have a love-hate relationship with said boots.  I spend my days admiring the different boots that I see prancing down the street – chocolate brown, black, wedge heel, flat stomping boots, sleek and stylish high-heeled boots.  Needless to say, I have boot envy.  I see everyone looking fantastic in their fall boots – really the perfect accessory for fall outfits.  But whenever I find myself on the hunt for the perfect boots I end up frustrated and sad because, after all, I carry my height in my torso.  I have short legs and athletic calves.  The worst combination!  Which essentially means that boots don’t fit me – even the ones with extended calf sizes :(

But enough about the boots.  I find myself on a tangent as meandering as the paths I hope to stroll through this Fall – stomping through all of the fallen leaves and hearing that satisfying ‘crunch crunch crunch‘ as I walk.

Finally I’m looking back at what took place this summer – a summer that took Seattle by surprise with day after day of 80+ degree weather.

Seattle Sights:

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The Great Wheel

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Kayaking around Alki

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Making Discoveries!

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Alki Sunsets

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Great Friends…

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And Ferry Boats.

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Mt. Rainier Sunsets

Exploring the ‘wilderness’ of Port Orchard:

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Whirlwind Work Trips in Chicago:

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Chicago Art

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Chicago Architecture

Home (Vancouver):

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Vancouver Icon – ‘Canada Place’

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Sunsets at Vancouver Harbour

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Deer Lake Park

Food – delicious, beautiful, tasty morsels of goodness!

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Neapolitan Style Pizza

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Farmer Fresh Artisanal Snack Plates

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Chocolate Covered Figs

It feels like the summer was over in a blink but at the same time, with so many consecutive days of sunshine, it seemed like it was gorgeous day after gorgeous day – which puts a lot of pressure on a person.  Especially a person from the Pacific Northwest, where you cannot take sunshine for granted and on each sunny day you feel pressure to kick yourself out of bed and DO something.  Anything really.  You’ve got to head straight to those walking/running paths, be in or on the water, be at the farmers market every weekend, and eat and drink on every patio you come across.  By the time Fall arrives you’re just exhausted from all of those sunny days and secretly wishing for a rainy day so you don’t have to feel so guilty for spending a day inside watching movies (or a How I met your mother/Orange is the new black/House of Cards marathon).  

LOVED summer.  LOVE summer.  But (as I look right and left and duck my head) I’m kind of ready for Fall.  I’m sure in a month, when Seattle descends into its Grey season and there are more rainy days than not rainy days, I will take back those words – but for now, after over 40 days of 80+ degree weather this summer – I’m ready for an excuse to have a lazy day.





Just Another Day in the Neighbourhood

11 07 2014

It is crazy how things can become familiar so quickly.

A few months ago I hadn’t done any International travel in almost 10 years, and now four months later I’m jetting back off to Geneva, Switzerland.

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Newark Airport with NYC in the background

The all day/all night flights can’t faze me anymore and after leaving Seattle in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday and arriving in Geneva early Sunday morning, I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  Although I napped my way through a 6 hour flight to Newark, during my 8 hour flight to Geneva I’m not so sure there was a lot of sleeping done – more of a haze I think.  Well my haze must have been exactly what I needed because I was raring to go with a walk along Lac Leman, morning cappuccinos and pastries and a sunny afternoon into sunset into late night of eating and drinking champagne on the balcony.

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Quiet Sunday morning streets on Rue de Rive

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Sunday Sister Moment

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My first trip to Geneva I felt like I was in another world.  I dreamt of french phrases and so day and night I was swimming in a world that I couldn’t quite understand.  I struggled to keep my eyes open at night and I woke up at 3AM almost every morning.  It was a slight understatement that I wasn’t adjusting to the time change very well.

I don’t know if it’s because the streets, the restaurants, the apartment were all familiar to me now, but it felt like I was just in another neighborhood at home.  Crazily enough I didn’t experience any jet lag and could truly enjoy the day to its fullest – and stayed up way later than I would normally have at home (possibly because my sister and I discovered ‘Orange is the New Black’…).  The french didn’t phase me as much as before and most of the time I didn’t even really hear it around me – or at least take notice of it.  And all of that french dreaming from last time did me well and hammered those french phrases into my head so that when it was time to order ‘un boîte de huit macarons’ – it was right there at the tip of my tongue.

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Laduree Macarons

We allowed ourselves one full day of Geneva Sightseeing before we had to get down to work.  So we packed in a train ride along the Lac Leman lakefront, a trolley ride through Old Town Geneva, and a boat ride along the Lake to see Geneva from another perspective.

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Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) waterfront

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L’horloge Fleurie

As we rode through Old Townmy favourite part of Geneva, I came to realize that the last time I visited I did a fantastic job of sightseeing!  And also reminded myself how much I love old towns and window shutters.

 

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Our boat ride was a little breezy, but so great to be out on the water.  The asian tourists didn’t seem to have the same feeling as we did – they spent the first half of the boat ride taking selfies and the second half they all fell asleep!  Ok, well I can’t really complain about them taking selfies…..


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But to fall asleep??!!!  They missed out on a great hour (seriously it was only an hour and they couldn’t stay awake) on the water.

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Thanks for a great day of sightseeing Geneva!  If only you had had Jet d’Eau standing proud – it’s a good thing I took so many photos last time.

 

 





I Miss You Vancouver!

12 05 2014

When you catch it from its good side, it’s hard not to fall in love with Vancouver, and really hard not to reminisce on the great times you’ve had there and think about all the summer patio moments you’re going to miss.  But again, you have it catch it from its good side.  The previous times we’ve visited this year it’s been grey, rainy and made you want to get home and curl up under the blankets (even if those blankets are 3 hours away).  But Vancouver when it’s sunny?

Ohhhh…  It’s hard to drag yourself away.

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Lost Lagoon – Stanley Park

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Spring goslings

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Brother & Sister Time!

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Spring Buttercups

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Nesting Trumpeter Swan

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Balancing Turtles

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Lost Lagoon – Stanley Park

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Vancouver Skyline from Lost Lagoon

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Second Beach Views

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Nature’s Art Gallery

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Balancing Rocks





Sisters Reunite!

19 02 2014

After all of my practicing… ‘Je voudrais un boîte de douze macarons,’ I got to Laduree and I froze.  Strawberry marshmallow, salted caramel, rose petal, coconut passionfruit, pistachio, praline, lemon, chocolate coffee…..?  How am I supposed to choose only 12 with all of these flavors? Easy solution I guess….’quinze macarons s’il vous plait’.  I just couldn’t leave without a box of 15 macaroons.  And, they almost all made it home.

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During my time in Geneva, I spent a couple afternoons just wandering the streets and looking at the buildings.  If you’re in a place for too long, everything can start to look normal.  Trams and cable lines, futuristic light bulb-looking light posts, french signs, and hundred year old buildings.  So after 2 weeks I kind of had to tap back into my wide-eyed wonder of seeing Geneva (and Switzerland) for the very first time.

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This hundred year old building was my home for 2.5 weeks.

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My sister and her husband were my hospitable hosts and her cats kept me company at night.  Of course, I had my responsibilities while I was there: lift everything that was too heavy for my sister (a lot of things – I’m much stronger), care for the cats which consisted of entertaining them at 3am when they wanted to play, maneuver my body around theirs at night so as not to disturb their slumber, clean up after them when (not if) they were sick, groom them, clean their litter box…and play paparazzi and take hundreds of photos of them.

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Oliver

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Moosh

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And the most difficult of all tasks….keep my sister company = sit at outdoor patios and drink cappuccinos, eat truffle-topped cheesy delights and Chantilly cream and Nutella-laden desserts.

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Patelos: Cheesy, proscuitto-filled dough, topped with sliced truffle

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Mini beignets topped with powdered sugar and drizzled with warm Nutella and hazelnuts

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Baba: rum-soaked brioche, filled with Chantilly Cream and drizzled with Nutella and hazelnuts

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It was a tough couple weeks but we made it through the longest time we’ve spent together in 7 years.  At the end of the trip we both agreed that we had a better time than we both thought we would, and we were equally surprised that she didn’t make me cry (not even once)!

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The Lee Sisters in Geneva, Switzerland





Sometimes It Just Takes One

12 02 2014

It turns out that I had found the Cathedral in Old Town Geneva after all….I just didn’t know I had found it.  I’m not going to say that I was pacing around in front of the Cathedral last time, but I think that’s what was happening.  Maybe I expected a big sign saying, ‘this is the what you’re looking for – the Cathedral’ or maybe I was just too enamored by where all those narrow cobblestone streets would take me.

Nevertheless, I found Saint Peter’s Cathedral.

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Saint Peter’s Cathedral – Old Town Geneva

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As luck would have it, the organist was practicing, and I was treated to an almost empty cathedral full of the rich sounds of the organ.

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Built between approximately 1150 and 1230, Saint Peter’s Cathedral has Romanesque and Gothic features as well as a neoclassical monumental porch.  The Chapel of the Maccabees adjoins the cathedral and is the first example of flamboyant Gothicism in Geneva.

I almost left before I visited the Chapel of the Maccabees, but once I walked through the curtained doors, I knew I had to stay a while.  The room was full of color, from the light streaming through the artistic stained glass windows and the ornate ceiling and walls.  

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Saint Peter’s Cathedral has had a particular spiritual significance since 1536 when it became a major center of the Reformation under John Calvin.  It is now the most frequently visited building in Geneva.

I saw someone scan a barcode and gain entry into a door on the side and it peaked my curiosity.  What else could I see here?

For 5 francs I was able to walk up the narrow spiral staircases to climb to the North and South towers.  It was a workout and it definitely made me sweat and wheeze a little as I tried to climb the stairs faster than the group behind me.  For some reason I felt the need to gain a little distance so that I could take in the experience by myself.

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There is a passage leading from one tower to the other over the nave and under the structure of the metal steeple that houses the bells.

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I decided to head to the North Tower first and enjoy the panoramic view over Old Town, the harbor and (if they were visible that day) the mountains surrounding Geneva.

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The South Tower has a watch room at the top and I found myself at eye-level with the cathedral bells as they were chiming, along with great views of the water and the Jet d’Eau.  

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I spent almost three hours touring the Cathedral.  And I hear I had thought that I could just pass by and take a few photos and be satisfied.   It’s great to travel with company and share the experience with others, but it was a great opportunity to tour the Cathedral during the off-season, and tour it on my own, and to feel like I had it almost all to myself.





An Afternoon in Chamonix, France

10 02 2014

When I think about Europe, I think about how everything is so close to each other.  I grew up taking an hour and a half ferry ride from Vancouver Island to Vancouver, so I know that ferries can get you places, but they don’t usually get you that far.  My last trip to Europe I took an hour and a half ferry ride and I went from England to France – the close proximity just blows my mind!

One weekend we decided to take a quick afternoon trip.  From Geneva, Switzerland to Chamonix, France – just an hour and a half drive and you go from Lake Geneva to the French Alps.

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On the way I saw signs for Milan and Turin.  It’s a strange feeling to start an afternoon in one country, know that your destination is in a second country, but as soon as you cross the border there are already signs for cities in a third country!

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Chamonix, France felt very French to me – for obvious reasons I guess.  You can tell by the style of the buildings, the conversations around you and the number of restaurants that are trying to tempt you with crepes, fondue and tartiflette (a classic french dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions).  I will say this though, we walked into a couple different meat and cheese shops and as we walked through the door I was bombarded by the shops’ smell.  Stereotype or not – it smelled like feet.

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I definitely enjoyed wandering around the snowy village, dodging the skiers and snowboarders while taking photos of my sister and brother in law, who made it look like we should have been in Antarctica with all of their fur.

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I did add a little bit of North American spontaneity to the atmosphere though – a little bit of a snow ball fight, which was more of an ice crystal fight.  My sister said it looked like we were dogs burrowing in the snow drift.  I did manage to make 2 snowballs though – both carefully aimed.

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And lastly, I tried to fit myself into a gondola car.  My idea.  At first I thought no problem, but maybe it was meant for kids or skinny french women to fit into because it was a feat to get both my front and my back through that narrow door.  I made it – and that was after Soup a l’oignon gratinee, des frites and a taste of the tartiflette.  But…..before the Speculos and caramel beurre sale macarons.

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My last impression – the french sure do know how to display their pastries and confections.

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