Just a Little Bird Watching

23 06 2015

You just never know when wildlife is going to appear at your window.  Recently there have been videos bouncing around with orca whale sightings in Burrard Inlet – which have made me SUPER jealous.  One day I hope to be in the right place at the right time.

In the meantime, I shall pack the camera on random errands….just in case.

And although I do not have any whale sightings to report, we did manage to have quite the bird watching day recently.

First we enjoyed the sights of a sleepy Saturday morning aboard the Southworth ferry.
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And although we had only planned to run some errands in Port Orchard and have lunch in Poulsbo, we took a little detour to Seabeck to enjoy the views.

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We caught a Sea Gull enjoying some lunch…

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And a Great Blue Heron that looks like she’s curtsying for an unseen audience…

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And then we were WOW’d by a Bald Eagle sitting on a telephone pole, like he was overseeing his pride lands.

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I am still impressed at how big these eagles are.  You can’t really tell when they’re circling up in the sky.  But, when this eagle started getting harassed by the crows and took to the skies for a little bit of size intimidation…well it’s pretty obvious he’s just a little bigger than the crow.

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I’d be pretty intimidated if this was coming at me – talons first.





Non-Manditory Family Time

3 06 2015

I am sure it is the same with other siblings, but it has taken almost 30 years before my younger brother and older sister and I have truly bonded to each other.  No longer are we forced to spend time with each other by living in the same house, or by being squished three kids in the backseat on family vacations or because we just happened to see each other at school.  Now, as my younger brother approaches 30,  the three of us live in three different cities: Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA and Houston, TX  – we have finally come to the point of leaning into each other.  We share our stories and want to know updates.  We send a flurry of cat photos back and forth to each other, since we have all ended up with a cat(s) of our own – which I secretly feel is a competition we play to see who has the cutest, most personable cat.  We each have a different answer…go figure. We ask for help, we share our successes and we actually look forward to seeing each other.  I’m sure our parents are happy to see that their children have finally, after almost 30 years, figured out how to do more than just tolerate each other because we have to.

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This year is the first year since we lived together in our family home that we have all seen each other more than twice a year.  I guess that’s what happens when you scatter in all directions after high school, and then even further after University, and then when conflicting significant other familial responsibilities come into play, well, we would be lucky if we saw each other at all during the year.

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So we’ve come together and during my trip to Vancouver we bonded over all you can eat sushi, spring rolls and pho, calamari and bellinis, ketchup and salt and vinegar chips.  Perhaps we have realized that our deep bond is through food…and cats.

I left Vancouver, speeding away on an Amtrak train back to Seattle, feeling like we’ve made peace with our little trio, which, as a middle child who’s role is the peacemaker, made me feel pretty good about how we’ve all grown up.

My train ride photos: From Vancouver BC to Seattle, WA

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The “White Rock” of White Rock, BC

 

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Fields of Gold

14 05 2015

Tulip Festival?  Yeah, that’s exactly what a 16 year old boy wants to do

I detected just a hint of sarcasm when my friend Kyle said this to me after I spoke of our detour plans to cap off our West Coast Spring Break adventures.

Heading back to Seattle after spending a night in Vancouver – it just made perfect sense to stop in at the Skagit Tulip Festival…especially on a week day.

The festival runs April 1 – 30 and hundreds of thousands of people visit each year to take in the immense colour story that takes place.  But, mother nature has a way of marching to the beat of her own drum and there was talk of an early bloom in March.  So since we were passing by anyway, we took a shot and although we were a little early in the season for the rows upon rows of colourful tulip fields, we did get to experience the fields of gold filled with daffodils standing tall….without the weekend crowds.

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Well, Kyle was pretty much spot on.  After an initial nod of appreciation to the seemingly unending yellow fields, Jonathan followed me around the planters filled with early tulips and hyacinth and watched as I crouched down low to get up close and personal with these perennials and tried to capture shots of the buzzing bees busy pollinating up a storm.

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He thought maybe he’d have a little more luck of some sort of entertainment tagging along with Nathan, but those hopes were short lived – as soon as we crossed back onto US soil Nathan’s phone was back ‘online’ and without the fear of exorbitant roaming fees, he was back to work and could be seen ‘enjoying’ the view weaving through daffodil fields aimlessly while talking on his phone.

Jonathan found himself drawn back to me and my honey bee stalking.  After some frustrating moments trying to capture my bees with a camera with no auto focus, I gave up, manual focus requires the guaranteed stillness of plants.  But even that isn’t guaranteed – one stiff breeze, or even a gentle sway, and everything starts to get a little fuzzy.

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Well, there’s only so long you can drag a teenager around in the flower beds, so we headed out for lunch in La Conner – chowder and fish and chips by the waterfront – something a little more exciting than flowers to our ‘foodie in training’.  Well, another visit during peak tulip season is in order, but perhaps we’ll leave the 16 year old at home.

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Spring Break: WestCoast Style

5 05 2015

Spring is here!  And with Spring comes Spring Break.

Now, it’s been years since I’ve thought about Spring Break and that’s only because I happened to visit Lake Havasu City during Spring Break and got to witness the shenanigans that took place – drunk guys wearing boxes on their heads, girls sporting pasties and old men showing off what they’re working with in waaaay less clothing than they should be wearing.  And before that, when I should have been one of those dancing beach bombshells (kidding) we didn’t really have ‘Spring Break’ – those of you at SFU know that what we had was ‘Reading Break’ – which doesn’t really inspire spontaneous trips to Cancun or Cabo or some other spring break sounding place.

Well this year, Nathan and I took Jonathan, who is now 16 years old, out for Spring Break – WestCoast style.

First up:  Victoria, BC

After narrowly missing the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria because we just HAD to stop for the ‘Best Fish & Chips’ at JJ’s Fish House in Poulsbo, we found ourselves basking in the sun on the upper deck as we motored our way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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After an hour and a half we found ourselves in downtown Victoria – which brought back memories of Spring Break like times from yesteryear….first year university and all the girls went for a road trip and found ourselves in Victoria.  We all chipped in to stay at Paul’s Motor Inn (which I saw this trip) and after, probably more than a few drinks, found ourselves on the stage at a Karaoke Bar singing Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  And I think we made it through a verse and a chorus before somehow the song was over already and we were being ushered off the stage….still haven’t figured that one out. Ha!

Well for this trip to Victoria, we took the opportunity to walk the harbor and take in the Parliament Buildings.

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After a quick overnight, we were back on the road and headed to Tofino, BC.

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Now, this is the second time we’ve been here with Jonathan so we knew the drill.  Our first stop was to rent a couple of wetsuits and boogie boards.  And after a quick lunch on the water we were suited up like seals with hoods, gloves and booties ready to brave the balmy 48 F waters of the Pacific Ocean.

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Cox Bay Beach

 

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An hour and a half later we dragged ourselves out of the water.  I was still on an adrenaline high – for a girl who can’t really swim and isn’t the best at water sports, I was riding those waves all the way onto the beach!  Now Jonathan on the other hand, well turns out his gloves had holes in them, so after an hour in the water he ended up with white hands and what locals would call ‘The Claw’.  It took a soak in the hot tub and another couple hours inside before his hands started to resemble something other than an arthritic old man.

Our second day in Tofino we decided to ease back on the water activities, at least those as physically demanding as hurling yourself at an oncoming crush of water to see if it’ll let you go along for the ride or if it’ll twirl you around and spit you out on the other side.  So we went on a boat ride in the middle of rainy/stormy weather to enjoy the Hot Springs.

And after a bumpy, slightly nauseating ride where we saw eagles, harbor seals, seal lions and a glimpse of a sea otter, we found ourselves at Maquinna Provincial Park and just a 2km walk through a WestCoast rain forest from the Hot Springs.

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We arrived to the Hot Springs platform and change rooms about 45 minutes later and although there was a slight sulphur smell in the air, the view was enchanting.

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There’s something about sitting in geothermically-heated hot springs with the rain falling down on you as you hear the roar of the waves crash against the rocks around you that just seems a little crazy.

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After a soak and then watching some adrenaline daredevils jump from the rocks into the waves…we headed back to the dock…

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…where we were greeted by our ride home!  After enduring the hour and a half ride jostling in the waves to get there, the Sea Plane – with its 15 minute trip time – never looked so good!

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View of the Hot Springs from above

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It was a gorgeous way to see the coastline and a perfect way to cap off our time in Tofino.

The next day it was an early morning drive to Parksville – a stop in to see my parents – before hopping on a ferry to Vancouver, BC.

I always forget how beautiful and peaceful it is on the Island – I definitely took it for granted growing up there – but I never forget how fortunate I am to have called Vancouver home, even if just for a short time.  It’s just gorgeous!

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View of Coal Harbor from the Westin Bayshore

And so there you have it – ferry boats, boogie boarding in wet suits, marine life, Hot Springs, sea planes, mountain views and all you can eat sushi (not shown but definitely eaten):  Spring Break – WestCoast Style!

 





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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Sister Slave & Task Master

15 07 2014

When I was at Newark Airport I received a call from my sister.

“Make sure you check out the bathrooms at the airport!”

Not the typical demand one would normally get from their sister while on their way for a visit.  Well, the true reason for my visit to Geneva this time was to help my sister, and her two cats, move from Geneva, Switzerland to Houston, Texas.

Now, somehow we didn’t take any photos of our day (or the craziness that led up to that day) but take a few minutes to think about this.

Imagine this:

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Moosh

And This:

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Oliver

Being stuffed into carriers, taken from their home of 2 years, bundled into a cab with 6 suitcases (one freaked out Mom and one calm and composed Aunt), and surviving 20 hours of International travel.  It’s enough to make a regular person a little crazy, much less two cats who have no idea what the hell is going on.  Plus, they don’t understand when you tell them to ‘plug your nose and blow’ to pop their ears!

Now let’s back up a few days.  After Nicki and I enjoyed pastries and pastas, bottles of champagne and pretty much eating and drinking everything that was left in their apartment we had to get down to the serious business of getting her and her 2 cats packed up and ready to travel.

I kept telling people that I was going to be a Cat Companion (what a sweet gig right?), well it turns out I was really there to be a Sister Slave and also Task Master.  I watched my sister pack and unpack and repack her suitcases, move things from one side of the room to the other, from one room to the other, and keep adding things to her list, but never crossing them off.  Pretty soon I had to put my foot down.  STOP.  You need to start crossing things off this list.  What’s next?  What do we have to do today?  We can’t keep putting that off until tomorrow, we’re running out of tomorrows!

Luckily, the apartment was being packed up by professional movers, so we didn’t have to deal with the 150+ boxes that ended up being packed up and sent off the balcony to the waiting moving truck on the street.  But because we had to be in the apartment while the movers were there, we ended up being cooped up in a single room with the cats so they couldn’t escape.  It wasn’t too bad when I hung out with the cats in the master bedroom, reading and lazing away the day.  But when we moved to an empty shell of a room, sitting on an air mattress next to a portable litter box….well, things started to become a little more real (and kind of depressing).

And then came the ‘Cat Chores’ and this is where the Sister Slave comes into play.  I didn’t realize that when I showed up it meant that I had to do all of the crappy jobs.  I had to clean and disinfect the litter locker, clean out the litter box (daily), chase the cats around the apartment spraying them with dry shampoo and anti-allergen cream.  ‘Make sure you massage it in everywhere Traci – especially their butt’ – what?? I didn’t sign up for this.

And then there was the silent screaming…  We had to take both cats to the vet a couple days before we flew out and although just 2 blocks away from the house, Moosh (the grey tabby) was so terrified he started shaking and silent screaming (panting) and Oliver (the orange tabby) wouldn’t stop meowing.  Needless to say, the vet prescribed some Xanax to calm their nerves – supposed to last 8 hours a dose.  Supposed to. 

Travel Day FINALLY arrives:

4:00AM: Wake Up Time

6:00AM: Corral the cats and force Xanax pills down their throats and then watch Moosh foam at the mouth and drool all over the floor, before stuffing them both in their carriers.  (Here’s hoping the foaming stops before TSA has to look at him).

6:15AM: Cab arrives and the driver looks concerned as he looks at us –  two people, two cats, two lap top bags and six suitcases – and then looks at his wagon.

7:00AM: We’ve managed to wrangle our suitcases onto 2 carts and each have a cat.  And then Nicki puts Moosh’s carrier on the top of her cart……and he falls off.  Whoops

8:00AM: We’re in the gate waiting to board the flight and Oliver sits quietly in his carrier.  The drugs have calmed Moosh enough that he isn’t terrified out of his mind and actually knows what is happening and so he’s turning in circles, meowing and trying to claw his way out – yep this is much better than a silent cat.

9:30AM: We are finally on the plane.  Cat carriers under the seat and settled in for a 9 hour flight to Newark.  And the drugs seem to be wearing off of Oliver and he starts meowing, and meowing and meowing.  And if you know orange cats you know how vocal they can be – good thing we brought a pillow case to muffle the sound.

10AM – 12PM EST/6PM (Geneva Time):  Cats are meowing.  The drugs wore off within the first hour of the flight.  There’s attempts to claw and chew out of the carriers.  Nicki keeps prodding me and telling me I have to watch the cats.  I keep telling her that they need to learn how to self-soothe.  And there are multiple times I’m asked to check and see if they peed, smell their butts, soothe them and take them to the lavatory to let them stretch their legs.

12:30PM (EST)/6:30PM (Geneva Time):  We made it off the plane and I made it through Customs.  Nicki and the cats have to be ushered downstairs to be processed back into the country so I leave her with her two cats and suitcase, to go collect our other 4 suitcases before they need to be rechecked into the next flight.

1:00PM/7:00PM:  The last 4 suitcases to come down the chute are ours. I have 5 suitcases stacked on 2 carts and sit down to wait.  And then I get a call from Nicki’s husband – apparently she got released outside of the baggage claim area and can’t come back through.  I’m on my own with two carts and the line up to exit through customs is growing by the second.  Picture me running down the line with one cart, parking it, then running back for the second cart and running it to the back of the line and leaving the first cart on the floor until the line catches up with it.  Trying to figure out how to push these two carts at the same time, I make a friend who offers to push one of my carts.  Low and behold, 1 person + 5 suitcases = Agricultural Check!  I’m about to move these carts over when my sister comes running out from nowhere, waving her hands, ‘that’s my sister, those are my bags!’ – no cats in sight…. Now we both get ushered to the Agricultural check and she says to the officer, ‘Remember me?  Remember me?  These are my bags, this is my sister!’  I looked at him doubtfully and asked, ‘Do you remember her?’  A couple of questions later he tells us to turn around and exit (and we hear grumbling from people behind us about how we managed to talk ourselves out of the X-ray).

1:30PM/7:30PM:  So we’re home free.  We take refuge in a family bathroom and release the cats from their carriers.  Moosh is starving and can barely wait for me to get some food out of my bag.  The drugs have made Oliver mean and he keeps hissing and swatting at Moosh.  Nicki lays out a pee pad and sprinkles cat litter on it, hoping to encourage potty time before our next flight.  No such luck – so she starts spraying this Feliway spray in and around the carriers to prevent territory marking.  All we need to do is go through security one more time, get on another flight and then 4 hours until we arrive in Houston.  No problem.

2:00PM/8:00PM:  Cats out of the carriers and carried through security.  No problem.  Hands swiped and tested since we’re traveling with animals.  No problem.  Oh wait, Nicki has a problem.  The cats and I are released and Nicki has to be patted down and analyzed.  So we set up camp on a bench, I do a little work, the cats get a little napping time in, and then a TSA officer comes up to me and says, ‘your sister wanted me to tell you that she’s tested positive twice for bomb making chemicals, so we have to call in a specialist.  It’s going to take a while.’  Ooookkayyy.   30 minutes later she’s released, and the culprit was most likely the Feliway Spray that she has been spraying everywhere for days.

3:00PM/9PM:  Another dose of Xanax forced down and on our way to board.  BEEEP.  What?  Your seats have been
changed, no animals allowed on that row, so you’re sitting in different rows now.  
Initial moment of panic is easily remedied and the man sitting next to me in the middle seat didn’t take too much convincing to move into an aisle seat.  Too bad the man sitting on the aisle looked at us and said, ‘I’m allergic to cats….’  ‘just kidding!’  Settled with both cats sleeping.  What?  Is this what it feels like not to be traveling with two needy cats (or kids?)  We made it until an hour before the flight ended before the meowing, clawing and biting started up again.

6:00PM CST/1AM:  We arrive in Houston and the humidity in the air is as thick as molasses as we leave the plane.  Yuck.  But this time, all we need to do is make a Family Bathroom pit stop, pick up our bags and we’re out of here!  The end is so close.  Perhaps we lost our focus a little bit.  Got a little cocky.  As I’m texting our terminal info, Nicki puts Oliver’s carrier on top of her rolley carry-on and goes to get carts.  And down goes Oliver.  Another cat dropped by their Mama.

7:30PM CST/2:30AM:  We made it home!!  The cats have been released from their carriers for good after 20 hours of travel. Oliver is still hissing at Moosh, but other than that they don’t seem to be too traumatized from the day’s events.

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Moosh finally getting the space he needs

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Oliver sleeping off the drugs

10PM CST/7AM:  Bed Time.  Finally.  After 27 hours of being awake and dealing with (and dropping) traumatized, meowing cats, feeling for wet pee pads, being covered in fur, tested (and stopped) for bomb chemicals, the day is finally over.  One Sister and Two Cats have been moved 5200+ miles.

Success!  Just one more 4 hour flight back to Seattle for me and we’ll call that Sister Favour Complete!

 

 





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.

 

 








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