Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

xmas 2014

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:01 PM 0 comments
Xmas dinner, playing 7 Wonders of the World on xmas day, and lobster dinner on Boxing day ... all here!

Hippo and Saffy's xmas 2014 presents:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 xmas tree decorating

Posted by Hippo Bean at 4:27 PM 0 comments
Tree decorating ...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

GreenDestiny's turn

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:04 AM 0 comments
Another victim, one by one the cars succumbed to the season's car flu and because of the holidays, refused to run ... poor chick repell ... I mean, GreenDestiny. Over heated, get well soon!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Periwinkle caught on camera

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:34 PM 0 comments
by the Hippo:

See Periwinkle being rescued

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Turkey day 2014

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
Another year, another turkey ... and ham ... and cooking ... and same old crowd.

turkey

turkey

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Pacifica view

Posted by Hippo Bean at 2:26 PM 0 comments
Never thought about taking photographs of the Pacific ocean view from our townhouse windows, so here they are:

morning view
Morning

morning view
Morning

morning view
Morning seen through window

morning view
Sunset

morning view
Sunset

morning view
Sunset seen through window

morning view
Sunset

morning view
Sunset

morning view
Full moon over neighbour's house

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Monster Afternoon Tea

Posted by Hippo Bean at 6:01 PM 0 comments
A Stevism, A KeyAnt, A PeaceGirl, a Jurrasic Park Attendant, a samurai and the Hulk constituted Hippo's Monster Afternoon Tea party. The Samurai with his authentic Katana won the contest. The monsters consumed all the tea cakes, half a pumpkin pie, curry chicken and minced beef pies, ginger sugar cookies, Portuguese egg custards, halloween cupcakes, and red velvet sponge cakes, and downed great quantities of coffee and tea. Oh, we opened a bottle of Merlot and Brut as well. What was lacking was cucumber sandwiches and scones (cream tea perhaps?). To celebrate D's belated bathday, he received a TowMater toy model and "Four", a Divergent book. All the monster guests got a small pumpkin or gourd. After the tea, the monsters were hungry for proteins. Next time, we must have more meat!

The Monsters at the Monster Afternoon Tea Party:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

a night in Paris

Posted by Hippo Bean at 7:00 PM 0 comments

I had quite a few of things to check off in this trip. The usual luggage that might or might not make it, the airport pickup, the desert castle tour, the flight to Tel Aviv and the Jerusalem tour. All turned out fine.

I pulled over the window covering and saw bikers in red and blue along the hayarkon street. Today is the bike race in Tel Aviv. entire families were out on bikes. I so envied them. Over the sea, dark clouds overhead with thunder and lightning, and it was pouring. When the clouds parted and the rain stopped, I took a short stroll along the promenade again. Very sad and reluctant to depart from this place. I so loved it here. Didnt want to leave the nice hotel, the view of the tel aviv promenade and the mediterranean. If israel was any closer, I'd have come back on weekends! I so love israel.

Surprising that the security at Ben Gurion wasnt tight. I was asked a few questions and got a yellow ticket with security code 4 for my luggage and 3 for my passport. Guess the Hippo wasnt much of a security risk.

The flight to paris was again on an almost empty plane. It landed on time and passport control didnt take time at all. The guy simply stamped my US passport without much of a glance or any questions. Took the CDGVAL to terminal 3 and followed the tripAdvisor's reviews to follow the blue line all the way to the Ibis hotel. Ibis was another good choice. The cheapest airport hotel in Charles de Gaulle, no frills, just a comfy bed, good size flat screen TV, a table and chair, place to put my luggage and a small closet behind the TV to hang things. The bathroom was small but adequate. And everything inside the room worked. I love hotel rooms like this. I opened the window and it was raining a little and the outside air was humid. Inside the room, I didnt hear any jet noise. I had a good night sleep and woke up early to make my journey back to terminal 2 to catch my double-decker Air France Airbus home.

A Nostalgic trip! So sentimental ...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If Israel were any closer

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:00 PM 0 comments
According to google, it would take about an hour to walk from the gordon beach to st peter's church in old town of jaffa. I've made it in a 40 minutes slow walk, in the cool early morning air. A few people were out jogging with their dogs, working out on the exercise machines on the beaches, or otherwise taking a stroll and drinking coffee by the seaside. I loved this walk. The promenade was designed perfectly for strolling by the sea, with views of modern highrises on one side and the cool open Mediterranean on the other. It's paradise! It's the promised land! The magnificent view of the Jaffa hill appeared bigger and clearer as I inched closer to it. The Port was already busy by the time I reached Jaffa. I climbed the stairs to the hill. Arriving, I came first upon the zodiac fountain next to the st peter's church. The church pink facade was interesting and inside, the altar had a modern piece that represented the sun and stained glass windows with figures of saints all around. Very pretty and modern church. Some tourists were praying and singing inside the church, an interesting contrast, kind of a mixture of past and present, traditional and contemporary, old jewish songs in a very modern church. up on summit hill, the Pillar of Faith was as i remember it 22 years ago, bone white, imaginative, and full of significance. the carvings on the pillar on one side showed Abraham with Isaac bound for sacrifice; on the other side, it showed Jacob’s ladder; and the cross-piece on top displayed the conquering of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites. the monument represented God’s promise first made to Abraham, then to Isaac and Jacob, and realized through Joshua. What a wonderful piece of art full of meaning and exactly what this land was about. The view of Tel Aviv from this vintage point was breathtaking. I remembered it all. Since I didnt do it the first time, this time I've walked through the maze of the zodiac streets, narrow streets lined with artists shops, each street named after the Jeweish zodiac, each street with blue signs depicting the zodiac sign and name of the street. In the afternoon I swam in the shallow refreshing waters of the Mediterranean on Gordon beach right in front of my hotel The Renaissance. Later in the evening, I strolled along the promenade again, towards north this time. There's a public swimming pool, the Gordon pool, where people were doing laps at night. Past the Tel Aviv Marina, the Hilton hotel had its own private beach and pool, and a small park with very green lawn on a small hill. Back to Gordon beach, people were still playing volleyball, jogging and taking evening walks, just like me. I loved the atmosphere here. Poeple simply enjoying themselves. carefree. full of healthy energy. fun loving. life loving. no signs of rockets. It was a good relaxing day in Tel Aviv. Too bad the Benetts werent here. it would have been nice to see them again and enjoy the promised land with them. They are so fortunate to live in such a wonderful land. the Hippo sooooooooooo love Israel. If Israel were any closer, I'd go every weekend!

Tel Aviv photos:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

holy jerusalem

Posted by Hippo Bean at 10:00 PM 0 comments
I remember the drive up to Jerusalem 22 years ago as our bus rounded up the hill, we sang Yerushalayim Shel Zahav ירושלים של זהב (jerusalem of gold) and Hevenu Shalom Aleichem הבאנו שלום עליכם (we bought peace to you). The air was cool and crisp as contrast to the humidity of the rest of israel. This time, there was traffic and loads of buildings along the highway. Except for traffic congestion and more buildings, not many changes in these 20 some years. Today is Sukkot, the feast of tabernacles, and many jews are out in the holy city, Hasidim wearing their round fur hats, and the road up to the old city was blocked, so we had to climb the hill on foot to the zion gate to enter the old city. This actually gave us an excellent opportunity to slowly appreciate the view of the Kidron Valley, with the Mnt of Olives on our left and the old city walls and Mtn Moriah on the right. memories resurfaced as I've seen all these before and I remember it all and felt quite sentimental to be the holy city again. We first visited King David's tomb (he wasnt actually burried there but most probably further south in the City of David), men and women were separated, then we paid a brief visit to the Last Supper room. 22 years ago this room was empty except for us, and we entered it through a winding staircase. A section of the room was cordoned off as it was believed it was a remain of a 2000 year old street or something. I remember we went all quiet and a woman in our group started to sob, so forcibly as if she was repenting her sins or was sorry Jesus was about to be cruxified. It was a moment I'd never forget. Today this room was packed with loud tourists. We next headed to the 4 Sephardic Synagogues in Jewish quarter. we walked through the old cardo, with few remaining columns standing. I didnt want to do the via dolorosa this time, nor see all the Christian churches again, nor enter the moslem quarter as it's too busy, loud and annoying. I've wanted to only be in the jewish quarter, much more civilized, clean and quiet and without all the hassling from the vendors. The western wall was packed with tourists and i didnt even bother to slip my prayer wish paper on the wall cracks. We exited the old city through the smelly dung gate and visited the excavations of the city of David, my first, a fantastic archaeological site, with an entire palace wall intact, walked through the entire Siloam channel, looked down into the Warren's shaft, and walked the narrow Hezekiah's tunnel, and ended up in the Siloam pool in the gihon spring. The mtn of olives, mtn moriah with the dome of the rock on the temple mount, נחל קדרון the kidron valley, situated between the mtn of olives and mtn moriah, with the Yad Avshalom (absalom tomb), Zechariah's Tomb, Garden of Gethsemane (Γεθσημανή, גת שמנים‎) where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus' crucifixion, the Church of all nations overlooking the valley, all familiar to me. Oh, I've been here before and seen these ancient monuments, the landscape of the holy land, and the bible stories, again, became real and alive.

The map of our walk in the holy city:





Holy City photos:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

desert castles

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
My desert castles pickup did show up and on time. I was worried that i wouldnt have enough time to do the castles and get to the airport on time since I've changed my Tel Aviv flight to an earlier one, so I've called zaid tours the day before, to change the pickup time to 7:30. They were very polite and totally customer oriented.

The drive to the first castle took only about 1 hr. Qasr Kharana was a very small rectangular structure that was most likely used as an caravanserai, or an Inn, a resting place for traders, than a true castle. It had 2 stories and many archways. The architecture looked more moorish. We didnt spend much time there and hurried on to the next. Amra was even smaller but the inside was decorated every inch with frescoes. The small inner dome was beautifully painted. It reminded me of the painted rockhem churches in Ethiopia. However, the paintings showed secular art instead of religious. Amra, built in the 8th century, was both a fortress and a residence for the Umayyad Caliphs. It was interesting, different and quite impressive. Another half hour we reached a fork, iraq to the left and Saudi Arabia to the right. The driver asked me which way I preferred to go. Neither looked appetizing, so I said "let's stick with Jordan". We went left. 5 minutes later, we came to the town of Azraq, which meant blue for it used to have a lake with plenty of water. Qasr al-Azraq was a real castle built with black basalt. The biggest of the 3 desert castles on this tour, it contained an inner courtyard surrounded by rooms on 2 levels, and towers. All the 3 castles were very different from each other and from the crusader castles of kerak and shobak. I've enjoyed all the castles on this trip, but even the Hippo, a castle maniac, had had enough of castles on 1 trip. The driver bought me a very dark and thick Jordanian coffee and we drank it alongside the highway facing distant desert hills. He's from the desert. he told me he disliked the city but had to work, and he longed to be back to the desert. he drew me a map of Jordan on the sand to indicate where we were. "to the north is syria and lebanon. lebanon very small. and on the west is palestine." Hippo thought 'hee hee, yeah, palestine alright. I'll be there tonight'. "on the east, after all this (indicating the long arm of jordan), all this desert, is iraq. and here is saudi arabia.".

The flight to Israel was not full and the actual flight itself only took about 25 mins. Walking down the ramp at ben gurion, heart-felt memories resurfaced. I've been here before and walked on this ramp before. Israel, Israel! The drive to the hotel, zig zagging through the Tel Aviv highrises, showed that not much had changed in these years of my absence. The Renaissance hotel proved to be an excellent choice and decision. Although it's very expensive, it's right on the beach with direct beach access, and I was put on the 9th floor, facing south where I could see the tel aviv promenade all the way to Old Jaffa. At night the promenade was illuminated and so was the St peter's church on top of the jaffa hill. The view was spectacular, and smallLeo and I sat on our room balcony every night to admire and enjoy the view with a cup of tea. Below us, on the promenade and beach, people jogged, played volleyball, strolled on the beach and there were several restaurants right in front of the Mediterranean. I loved this hotel. The amenities were great, the service totally customer pleasing, location superb, with a supermarket, small grocery stores and a bakery just across the street, for water and snacks. Dont mind going back again.

Desert Castles photos:




Tel Aviv photos:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

lowest point on earth - again!

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
They said I looked 10 years younger already. The hagard Hippo liked that, so I put more mud on my face. it stung a little.

I remember the water being thicker, but on this side of the dead sea, it felt thinner but still very oily. for the second time I floated on the dead sea, this time on the jordanian side. I've covered my body with black mud, and put some on my face, hoping it would make my skin smoother and younger looking. The dead sea didnt smell bad here. I remember it smelling really suffocating on the Israel side. probably because it was July when I was there. We stopped to photograph Lot's wife statue, the pillar of salt. Lot must have had 2 wives and both of them must have looked back to sodom and both turned into pillars of salt, because there was one in the israel side and one here!

for our last supper, we again had traditional bedouin cuisine in a local joint. 14 enormous comfy chairs surrounded a huge rectangular table, with 3 big circular metal serving plates on it. again, it started with pita with lots of little dishes for dipping, hummus, albergines, white beans, cucumber and tomato salad. But this time, we had very tasty and even hot falafels and 2 deep fried meat dumplings. Very yummy. We had a choice of an individual entree. I chose the samsaf, a traditional jordanian/palestinian dish of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt, on a bed of rice. It wasnt as delicious as I've expected, but it was a satisfying meal. Too bad they didnt have any jordanian music or dancers.

Hippo floating on the Jordanian Dead Sea

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

aqaba

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments

Driving down the highway into Aqaba, we could see the city sprawled out in front of the red sea, with Eilat on the right, and Egypt further down. On the left we could see Saudi Arabia. The city, although bigger than Eilat, had no highrises and it felt small. I ventured into a public beach and being a local holiday, everyone was out swimming and enjoying the beach. I felt totally out of place there. The tourists went the hotel private beaches instead. On this side of the red sea, the water was littered with coke and other plastic bottles. I've seen the red sea before and being on this side, I wasnt impressed. Aqaba, the name conjured up Alladin and arabian nights, but the city itself wasnt much to sing about. however, I had my best lamb kabat here at a outdoor cafe, just across from our hotel. We could finally have seafood for dinner, and I've ordered a whole dorade. It was very bony but yummy.

Aqaba photos:


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Thursday, October 09, 2014

rain in wadi rum

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
today a Jeep 4X4 drive to the desert to wadi rum in a cloudy day. The negev on this side looked the same as in the Israel side with rocks the same shade of colors as on the other side. Our camp was only about a 10 min drive from the visitor center. My experience of desert camping went from luxury first class in wahiba sands, with individual tents with en-suite, to mid class small communal tents (and i slept outside under the stars) in the moroccan sahara, to totally basic camping in wadi rum. There's only 1 long tent where everyone slept in it. I didnt do the camel ride this time. Besides, the camels were heading towards the dark thundering clouds with flashes of lightning. I headed the other way, back to camp. And simply no other camel ride could top the one I took in the Moroccan Sahara. the sand dunes here at Rum werent very tall but the sand as fine as in Oman. Our bedouin dinner was a slow cook of chicken, lamb and veggies, in a pit covered with sand. the meat was so tender it felt off the bone. The sunset was hauntingly beautiful as all sunsets were in the desert. We built a soaring fire and sat around it. This time there was no drums playing, only songs and jokes telling. The moon was full so it was very bright at night. Later we walked to the top of a sand dune to appreciate the depths of the desert night. but our reverie was broken by very loud Spaniards who wandered in from another camp. We pulled our mattresses out to sleep under the open sky, but it started to rain, so I pulled mine back in to the tent and suffered the snoring all night. I sighed when I thought of my night under the stars in the Moroccan desert. Probably because wahiba sands was my first real sand desert experience, I still prefer it over the others. This time, in wadi rum, the magic was gone and I wasnt as awed as the other times.

Wadi Rum photos:

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Petra one more time

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
The walk through the Ciq during Petra by night last night was magical. In the morning, the rocky walls showed off their true colors of red, deep orange and brown. It should have been one of the 7 wonders of the world. Awe inspiring. No words can describe it. I'm seeing many tombs, the same as I've seen before. But this time, we went even deeper into Petra and saw the residential area and, with temples and houses along the cardo, and made the climb up to the Monastery. It was even more impressive than the Treasury. After the climb of 900+ steps, i turned to the right and what I saw took my breath away. The Monastery façade was enormous and very very tall. The view from surrounding Nabatean hills up there was spectacular. All ochre hills and rocks all around. This was my favorite part of Petra. The valley floor was impressive enough but the Monastery façade was really something else. I sat there with a cup of mint tea and just gazed on the Monastery façade. Afterwards I've walked the ciq again to exit Petra. 22 years ago, I rode on horseback through the ciq. now they didnt allow horses on the ciq. So including the walk in and out the night before for Petra by night, I've walked the ciq a total of 4 times. It didnt get any less impressive each time. We had our dinner at the red cave restaurant just 1 minute walk from the hotel Petra Palace in wadi musa. The owner was a famous person maniac and his restaurant was filled with photos of famous writers, singers and political figures, such as che, henminway. We had the traditional jordanian cuisine of pita bread with hummus and other dippings, a dish of chicken, lamb and veggies. very tasty! The mint lemonade in jordan is out of this world! I had it every day.

the following day Moe took us for a trek that gradually went up to the high place of sacrifice, a different way to get into Petra. We scrambled among boulders and ended up on top of the Treasury where we could see the ciq from the top. It was a fantastic hike and a new view of the rose city. We descended back to the valley floor by the normal route, the same stairs that went up to the high place of sacrifice. I didnt much feel like walking the 1K Ciq again, so Jodi and I took the chariot. It flew down the Ciq in thunderbolt speed, and we felt every rock bump and jolt in our bodies. I've never felt so sore from any rides in my life. After 2 days of climbing, and a terrifying and uncomfortable chariot ride, I've decided on a Turkish bath, the only one in Jordan that have men and women separated. The 15 minutes steam bath almost knocked me out. The scrub was not hard enough and the massage minimum. Not the best Turkish bath but I felt clean and invigorated afterwards. As if the red rock tombs werent quite enough, I also did Little Petra. Not much there except the façade of a major tomb still had the Nabateans columns totally intact. The entrance into it was a miniature 200m long ciq. perhaps the best part of it was the quietness. Unlike Petra which was littered with tourists, little petra was tranquil and peaceful. One could really take the time and wander around without other people in your way. We went inside one water cistern and it was big and deep and filled with dirty water. It was dark and menacing. I got really scared inside it. But a memorable travel moment sitting in the terrace in front of my hotel room, with the almost full moon overhead, illuminating the red orange hills. it was quiet, bright and orange hills in front of me.

Petra photos:


Monday, October 06, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

day of castles and petra by night

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
I dont remember anything of Kerak from my first trip to Jordan. Not much to see here because it's either total ruins or renovated. We drove through below sea level on the mujeb canyon and dam. The scenery was quite spectacular. Shobak followed Kerak as the second crusader castle of the day. I specifically chose this Lawrence of Arabia's trip because it covered both castles. Shobak was even in a sadder shape. But it contained tunnels and we went inside one. It's a bit more interesting than Kerak, as it's in the middle of the desert with only a small town near it, while Kerak was in the middle of a large town, the castle surrounded by houses and highways.

for lunch, Moe provided us with a jordanian hotdog, followed by several veggie pies, one in particular was very yummy and topped with thyme. another one with tomatoes, jordanian pizza? A small cucumber, a banana and an apple each.


22 years ago, I remember the jordanian kings highway, long, smooth, traffic free. We saw bedouin tents with camels along the way. We've made a stop at a large tent that had a few camels nearby and a rollsroyce parked next to the tent. We were offered watermelon and small glasses of hot sweet tea. This time, the Kings highway was busy with cars and buildings along it. However, once we've entered the Negev desert, crowded noisy civilization dissipated , and the silence of the desert took over. The below sea level Mujeb valley with the lovely dam was tranquil and very picturesque. We stopped at a vistapoint that offered grand views of the valley, the canyon and the dam. The lake, created by the dam, was very blue and provided a brilliant contrast to the surrounding orange and brown arid land. Very lovely place.

We ended the day in Petra, in a hotel that was 700m to the entrance to the rose city. 4 of us did Petra by Night. It's also one of the highlight of the trip, and I even brought the Daiso flashlight that shined in different colors, just for this. We walked through the ciq under an almost full moon high above the sheer vertical rocky walls. 500 candles lined our way. It was like almost in a dream as we navigated in the narrow path between tall dark rocky walls, and made many stops to photograph the moon in the rocky walls openings. The walk ended in front of the Treasury, with about a 100 candle lanterns laid on the floor in front of it. We got there late and all the carpeted seats were taken, so we settled on the dirt floor in front of the Treasury, right next to the musician. Sitting with lanterns all around and with the imposing Treasury in front of us, only illuminated by the candles and by the moon, was surreal. Fiona's backpack knocked one of the lanterns out but luckily she didnt catch on fire, so we've made a joke about her being baptized by fire in Petra. They played jordanian rebab (bowed string instrument) and flute to entertain us. It was a magical way to see petra.

Crusader Castles photos:



Mujeb photos:




Petra by Night photos:

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Jordan one more time

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:00 PM 0 comments
22 years ago I went to Israel for 2 weeks and crossed the border to Jordan for 2 days. This time I did the reversed, Jordan in a week and flew direct to Tel Aviv for a 3 days stay in Israel. I remember the visa worries for the stans trip but this trip was filled with even more anxieties. First the rockets shooting in Israel. Then the Air France pilot strike which kept me checking the flight status online every day. I even researched alternative flights in case the Air France flights were still cancelled. Fortunately to my ultimate relief, the rockets ended and the strike was called off 3 days before my departure.

To my delight, I flew in an Air France double-decker. The plane was huge! I was on the last row on the upper deck. The window seat had a drawer below the window to store things. Very happy to have that extra space. the 3 hrs layover at Charles de Gaulle was pretty much the same as previous times. Same terminal. The flight from CDG to Amman took a longer than normal route to avoid the air strikes in syria. The Airbus 380 went south, cut through the alps which at 35000 ft above on a somewhat cloudy day, still looked spectacular. Between the cotton white clouds and nestled among the hills, i spotted tiny swiss hamlets that reminded me of lauterbrunnen. the sunset just below the adriatic, the dolomites when we cut through venice heading towards athens was sparkling. it was completely dark by the time we went over cairo, past the red sea towards aqaba. saw long narrow lines of lights and multiple bright cities, the night line was probably the jordanian Kings highway.


Arrived in Amman around 9PM and the ride from Queen Alia to the Toledo hotel was pleasant in the evening lights. The evening was brilliant. On the way I've spotted Ikea, Safeway, and the usual McDonalds, Starbuck, KFC and Pizza Hut. English everywhere, even on street signs. It seemed every other car was a mercedes. A single woman driving alone, head uncovered. What liberation! I love rides like this. always enjoyed immensely the first ride from the airport to the hotel in a strange city, taking in the first sights of the new city. And at night, it had a mysterious soothing effect. Amman! I remember the night 22 years ago, the street filled with jewelry shops, we bought roasted water chestnuts from a street stall. The Marriotts had gorgeous rooms and wonderful buffets. This time a local hotel overlooking the King Abbulah I blue domed mosque. King abdullah II picture on the hotel wall. no arrow pointing to Mecca inside the room. 5AM prayers followed by catholic church bell ringing. Jordan!

22 years ago I missed Jerash and I've waited this long to visit the archaeological site. Jerash was on a hill and the drive up in the early morning was refreshing and the air was cool and crisp. The hadrian arch, the south entrance to jerash, was already impressive. the whole complex was not big but the oval forum, surrounded by an intact colonnade, was beautiful, and I could imagine what it was like in the days of Jerash where inhabitants walked daily through this impressive oval plaza. I walked on the cobblestones of the 800m long cardo maximus lined with corinthian columns, with remains of shops and vendors on both sides, thinking how I finally made it here and was very very content. The south amphitheater adjacent to the Zeus temple, could sit 1500. The Artemis temple still had several intact corinthian columns, and they looked reddish and pink in the early morning sun. The north theater was even bigger and could sit up to 3000. The cathedral floor had mosaic depicting animals. The Hippodrome, the Nymphaeum, the baths, the agora, all were still intact. Truly an awesome archaeological site, and the Hippo was very happy to finally made it here.

For the second time the Hippo gazed upon the Promised Land on Mtn Nebo. I imagined Moses standing there looking at the land flowing with milk and honey. We could just barely make out Jerecho and Qunram in the hazy afternoon, both places I've been before. The dead sea was very visible in the hazy late morning. Jerusalem, bethlehem and hebron remained hidden from sight. the jordan river on this side was non existing. parts of the bizantine mosaic floor from the old baptistry was still there. a memorial to John Paul II's visit was a column that looked like the profile of an old man - moses? Moses only gazed upon the promised land, he wasnt allowed into it. and the Hippo was there once and about enter it again.

In the afternoon we visited St George (with a painting of St george slaying the dragon of course) in Madaba, and at first I didnt pay much attention to the mosaic on the floor (she's not much for mosaics) but later after Moe explained the significance of the mosaic map, I understood and became interested, and even bought a map. The mosaic map depicted the river jordan and the holy land. cities of major significance, such as Jerusalem and Jercho, were shown bigger on the map, the more significant the location, the bigger it was on the map. Interesting!

For dinner Moe took us to a local joint and we had pita with humus and various small dishes for dipping, albergines, white bean, cucumber and tomato salad. Followed by the local cake which was baked fresh and prepared in front of us. All this for just $5USD. Very satisfying meal and what an experience to sit at small tables laid out on an alley, surrounded by local jordanians. Excellent way to start a trip.

Jordan photos:


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

SpecialToe's luck

Posted by Hippo Bean at 9:00 PM 0 comments
SpecialToe's only been on 1 trip, to the Big Island 14 years ago. He's a smart and well behaved Stuffy, so I thought of bringing him along to Vegas. The hotel room on our last stay at Paris Las Vegas, was on a low floor and it had no view. This time we lucked out by been placed on the 7th floor overlooking the pool, the Eiffel Tour and Bellagio. So SpecialToe sat in front of the floor to ceiling window day and night to observe the vacationers bathing in the pool, and sunset behind the lighted tower. At night, the lighted tower was a spectacular view. On impulse, we've made a reservation at the Eiffel Tower restaurant and were told it was formal. But as it turned out, some people went simply casual. We had wanted a table by the window but there werent any (or the hostess didnt want to put us at one), but our luck continued as our 4 people booth was at a slightly higher level and thus we could see the lights from the strip. Not as spectacular perhaps as by the window, but good enough. We were satisfied. The expensive food was good and sufficient without overwhelming. My house sparkling was cold and sweet and our lobster and crap appetizers were eye pleasingly presented and delicious. Our entrees were expertly prepared and tasted good. The corn and mushroom soup though was a little too thick and creamy for my taste. Their famous souffle (we had raspberry and grand marnier) was indeed perfect. I'm not much of an egg white concoction, but the souffle was very good. Our waiter was very cute and served us attentively and very professionally. However, he failed to bring me my coffee. While dinning and admiring the evening lights on the strip, I've thought of how many times I've been to Vegas. Vegas certainly was one place I've visited the most. Each time with slightly different excitement, with slightly different companions, in different hotels*, and proud memories of the winnings. Purchases this time included a pair of black leather shoes with a row of fake diamonds in front and on the side, and fastened at the ankles with velcro, Zara olive legging pants and a sweater from H&M. Found a fantastic beer glass for Saffy. At Caesars, we wanted to book for Elton John but learned, to our disappointment, that we've just missed it and the tour was over for this year. But he's returning next summer. So we've already made plans to come back next year. I had to try my hands at video roulette, and on the last day, we played it at Aria. Just a few winners here and there during the first few rounds until I've placed a chip on 19 and chips all around it, and on the 2nd spin, 19 came. Then I've moved the chips to 25 and again on the 2nd spin, the number came. Altogether I won $80. Cashed out and happy camper. It seemed SpecialToe had brought us luck. First the hotel room with spectacular views, then a table at the tower restaurant with a view, then 2 numbers came at the roulette table. As a reward, flying back home SpecialToe got his own seat on the plane, and I've fastened his seat belt tight to make sure he wouldnt fly around during turbulence. He sat on his own seat, ecstatic, with seatbelt on, and filled with self importance, drinking his oj with ice, and munching on Southwest complimentary peanuts and mini pretzels. Hm, since we're going back next year for Elton, perhaps I should bring SpecialToe again, for another round of luck. Oh, and there's a huge hippo at the Wynn's soap store.

vegas 2014

*Mirage, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Harrah's, Flamingo, Venetian, Bellagio, Paris, Trump, Hilton Grand Vacations, Vdara, which hotel next?






Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

short stint

Posted by Hippo Bean at 5:00 PM 0 comments
On clear bright dawns, the sun rays penetrate through the east facing windows, illuminating the front entrance and the kitchen, making the abode brilliant and crisp, a refreshing sober welcome in the morning. At dusk, the west facing sky window is reflected on the towering wall behind the couch, a pure image of the soaring abode. I sit in my dinning room, surrounded by the image of Micheangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, carnarfon and comley castles of the northern wales, the California Missions and a panoramic of Cefalu. My most precious travel souvenirs, the crystals, ceramic cups and saucers, shot glasses from all over the world, were all nearby. The mint walls are soothing and cool. My favorite room in the abode. In the evenings, I relax, cuddling my stuffies and snuggling with BigDog on my plush sofa recliner, and contemplate the marble fireplace below Micheangelo's Creation of Man. The mantel filled with my other travel souvenirs, remind me of my adventures in Greece, Wales, Buenos Aires, Chicago, the Camino Mission Bell, Vienna. The photo albums and books the Hippo cant live without filled my green environmentally correct bookcase. I sit on the black stool at the granite breakfast bar doing quick readings with an orange mug of Milo. I will never again find an open kitchen so spacious and bright, with so vast countertops and so numerous cupboards. The mud room closet is perfectly situated next to the front door. When you walk in through the front door, room enough to discard your heavy gear and dump your shoes. Many a times I soaked in the deep tub in the bathroom and never once felt claustrophobic even without a window, because the bathroom is huge, huger than any I've been to. The accentuated white plantation shutters in the light pink bedroom made the room look clean and bright and the Hippo cant say enough what a fantastic idea it was to discard the ugly blinds and horric looking drapes, and put up shutters instead. Yup, best decision ever. The Hippo even got used to sleeping with the sound of traffic and occasional aircraft.

443, the Hippo will have heart piercing memories of you. Together through thick and thin, you've provided me with comfort, relaxation, privacy, freedom to hide, security and pride, and the Hippo shall never forget your beauty and charm. The Hippo is already missing you dearly.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

a strange day on the coast

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:29 PM 1 comments
Since the Hippo had to be out of the house, we decided to drive down the coast to Carmel to escape from the inland heat. The traffic on 101 past Morgan Hill was heavy due to the Garlic Festival at Gilroy and a long bumper to bumper to 156, so we stuck with 101 through Salinas. Steinbeck, of course, immediately came to mind. Carmel was cooler and after a nice mediterranean lunch, which took a while because the restaurant was short staffed, it was already 4PM by the time we finished our lunch. No time to paint town. We simply drove down to the Carmel Mission. D has never been to a CA Mission and the revisit brought back nice memories of the Hippo's mission to the Missions. The Carmel Mission looked even nicer than the first time I've visited it. Walking silently through the church, I reminisced the Chanticleer acappella. At the mission courtyard, I've finally learned that Father Junipero was actually a Spaniard from Majorca (or maybe I knew but forgot?). I bought a Mission lotion, made with immaculate waters from the Lourdes Grotto. the rose scent smelled nice. I later discovered that I took the bath and shower liquid soap instead! Doh! Ater a brief drive to the beach, we drove the 17 Miles Drive, my second visit, and made stops at various spots. Pebble Beach Club was fantastic. All rooms faced the ocean. D and M said the calamari at the club restaurant was very good. Spanish Bay, although looked very nice, had no ocean view. M discovered some strange looking marine life, rubbery, transparent and blue. We didnt know what it was. Then we drove by the nice coastal homes and I put on Dylan. On our way back, we debated if we should go to a In-n-out but decided to do Bubba Gump in Monterey. D bought M an otter stuffy while we waited for a table. Didnt know M was an otter fanatic. We did spot some in the water earlier. They were indeed quite furry, cute and adorable. I had seafood pasta in Carmel and had 3 types of shrimp at Bubba Run Forrest Run Gump. M ordered cajun shrimps and D a shrimp salad. A very shrimp day today. Since Dylan wasnt a big hit with M, we put on Supertramp and sang our way back home. Coming back, 101 was jam packed so we backtracked to HI 1 but made the mistake of taking 17 instead of going 1 all the way. 2 accidents on 17, just a few yards apart, then another on 880 put us about 40 minutes behind our estimated home arrival time. D was bone tired and had a 7AM meeting the next day. I felt bad. Shouldnt have had a sit down dinner in Monterey. Although it was a nice outing with cool refreshing air on the coast, the day had been strange with so many accidents and delays on the highways, many indecisions, strange ocean findings, and a nostalgic mission revisit.

pacific coast
Strange finding (photo by Mari)


pacific coast
rubbery transparent blue thing
(photo by Mari)



pacific coast
Colorful coast (photo by Mari)


pacific coast
What is this? (photo by Mari)


pacific coast
D and Hippo at the Carmel Mission courtyard
(photo by Mari)



pacific coast
M & D finding blue things


pacific coast
M & D looking for more blue things


pacific coast
D wandering around the coast

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Brasil's humiliation

Posted by Hippo Bean at 4:00 PM 0 comments
We streamed the semi from a laptop on a giant monitor and watched Brasil's humiliation.

fifa 2014

fifa 2014

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Saturday, July 05, 2014

ballpark opera (again)

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
We knew that 280 was closed but somehow we made a wrong turn and ended up on 280 south. No matter, we still made it to the city on time. The food at the Brickhouse wasnt bad. The burgers werent fantastic. The music a bit loud but selection to my taste. Nice bar decor and not too busy. We've really enjoyed our pre-opera meal. A mere 3 blocks to the park and this time we didnt have to wait in line for long and there was no search. We made it straight up to the Virgin America club level and found a good spot a little to the left of the home plate. The Hippo waited in a very long line to get drinks (why not, there's nothing to do until the opera commenced), only to find out there was no hot tea of any kind. The hot chocolate was thick and much too sweet. It made me even thirstier. The winner of the opera sing-along was dressed in a scarlet gown with flaming red afro hair. But his voice was deep and powerful. His national anthem was superb. Big applause, well deserved. La Traviata started with the signature song and half an hour later, it was already the first intermission. Not too cold yet for SF weather until the second act which dragged on a bit. When the sun almost disappeared, the wind picked up and it got really cold. Time for the woolies, blankets and snuggling up with your beloved. When the second act ended, we thought it was over but only a few of the audience left, and we were wondering how come Violetta didnt die. S and A went missing but returned with caramel popcorn. The Hippo was dying for garlic fries and since there was no line at the food stand, she grouchingly shelled out 8 bucks for the long awaited grease. It was delicious! After enduring Loony Tunes Bugs Bunny Barber of Seville again, A noticed the intermission count down clock. Ah, one more act at 10:30. It was short and bitter sweet as we all knew Violetta (Ailyn Perez) had to die. Her soprano was marvelous, long lasting and towering, and Alfredo's (Stephen Costello) was a deep and strong tenor (he opened his mouth so big and long that reminded me of the Mummy), and Quinn Kelsey (last ballpark opera Rigoleto) played Alfredo's father. He had the best voice. When the wind died down during act III, it wasnt cold, but simply a brilliant calm night. Just a few planes flew overhead and birds soared above us. When the opera ended, again, just like last time, they all came out wearing giants memorabilia and were greeted with thunderous applause, of course. It was a well performed opera, with fantastic costumes, heavenly orchestral music, and stage props. It was another enjoyable night out in the city. We went home smelling of garlic fries!


ballpark opera
See photos of the ballpark opera

Friday, July 04, 2014

Friday, July 04, 2014

Firecracker July 4th race

Posted by Hippo Bean at 2:24 PM 0 comments
And we are all winnersn 1, 2 and 3 !!!

gang at firecracker
Gang at Firecracker


winners at firecracker
Winners at Firecracker



t winner at firecracker
Tomaso No 1 at Firecracker



t winners at firecracker
Tim No 2 at Firecracker

t winners at firecracker

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Farewell Clubhouse

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM 0 comments
It's only befitting that the last clubhouse party game was a survey about the Hippo's place. No one guessed correctly which was Hippo's best part of the house. It was the dinning room with mint walls, with Micheangelo's sistine chapel painting, canarfon and comley castles, the california missions and cefalu posters on the wall. Why does the Hippo like the dinning room the best? All her travel souvenirs were displayed in this room. The big window allowed in brilliant sunlight and the room was open and airy. Most correct idea to take down those badly made doors to make this room exactly as the Hippo wanted it. 60% of the respondents thought Hippo likes the living room the best. Yes she can relax and cuddle her stuffies there in comfort, and she does spend a good amount of time there couch potatoing, to watch TV, and snuggle the stuffies. But somehow the dinning room offered a tranquility no other room in the house could match. Guess her fans really didnt know her heart. What picture was mounted above the fireplace? 83% guessed correctly. It was the other poster the Hippo got from the vatican years back. MA's Creation of Man. Her pink bedroom had no curtains. She hated curtains. She put up plantation shutters which she loved and made her bedroom look bigger, cleaner and classier. 33% guessed it right. BigDog, GianLeo, Giant Snowie and Pengui inhabit the living room. Everyone guessed at least 1 correct stuffy. However, Tomaso pointed out that Archie was also a stuffy. And ecoli also. And so was the owl. But the owl is simply a cushion. Ecoli is not officially considered a stuffy. And neither was Archie. But Tomaso did have a point. They are, well, stuffed also. Just to find out if the Hippo fans knew her literary taste, she threw in a question to name one book in her bookcase. Curiously everyone named a book which they knew the Hippo had read. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Rebecca. Wuthering Heights. Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I've read them all and at one point in time, they _were_ in my bookcase. But no more. Someone named the Holy Bible. Had to give him the point since the Hippo does have the Tanakh in her bookcase, although the Tanakh is only half of the Christian Holy Bible. The highest star rating was given to the living room, and the lowest to the balcony and dinning room, a tie. The average for the overall rating of the Hippo Place was 3.8 out of a 5 point scale. Now the funnest part of the survey - rating the clubhouse parties. 100% to the theater. 80% went for food. And lowest scores went to movies (sigh) and games (double sigh). Yes, the movies were a bit disappointing. And the games ... what can the Hippo say. She tried. She really did try. Clubhouse overall score was 4.6 out of 5. Not entirely bad. Finally please rate the survey. Half thought it was just 'eh OK' eh ok, with 2 saying 'Very fun' very fun. And someone was truthful and brave enough to say 'Hip needs professional help'hip needs help. Bone crushing blow to the Hippo's pride since she codes surveys for a living! Thank you very much but she will survive.

So the farewell clubhouse party went on with the usual over abundance of food and vino, black forest cake and black cherry vanilla ice cream. M made argentinian cookies and M made turkish coffee. We burned the last of the Omani frankincense, and of course the smoke filled the living room and Tomaso had to take the aromatic resin outside. Again he complained the place smelled like a church. To follow the Hippo clubhouse parties tradition of bad movies, we watched the Invisible Woman and she must declare, that was the worse movie ever selected. We fell asleep. Ralphie is a fine fine actor but he just cant direct. A few rounds of billiards later, the sun dipped below the horizon, a few trips up and down to carry the food things back, and so the last clubhouse party was over. she took one last look around the much enjoyed place, now filled with already nostalgic memories, crazy laughter and enormous fun, and she turned off the lights.

farewell_clubhouse
See photos of the farewell party
 

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