…More Summer

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For the past 5 summers we have been spending our 4th. of  July weekend in So. California. It has become a highlight of the summer for us! It seems that the city of San Juan Capistrano has about the most amazing fireworks in the area. Think of this picture times a hundred!! Our old neighborhood has a lovely block party where everyone brings food and shares entertainment, i.e. karaoke, then as the sun sets they all settle down to view one of the most stupendous fireworks I have ever seen! Our friends Ron and Linda Martinez were able to join us this year and it was a memorable evening.Very impressive!

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On a quieter note, I had downtime too! I did more knitting in the evenings that I had ever done, it was a 4 sock summer! I also managed to enjoy a latte or two at my favorite morning stop, after my 3 miles of walking of course, Ellie’s Table is so great and this year they will be opening another location in San Juan Capistrano in a historic old home called The Egan House downtown. I cannot wait to go return and visit their new location. Although the original is were I begin and end my beach walks.IMG_2375

Left to right: Linda Martinez, Jeanne Beaumont, Kathy Levin and Maria Sanchez with Noah

Then there were my dearest friends who were willing to come and spend some time keeping me company. We shopped and talked… and walked the beach and talked…and had lunch and dinner and talked… and I even managed to make some new friends like Dana and Steve from down the street as they would bring their dog Pancho over for a play date with Charlie. Lastly, Maria and Noah met us in San Diego (we have been InstaGram friends for some time) and we had the opportunity to get to know each other better.  I adore them and their lovely family. We visited the Air and Space Museum together and chatted about our lives, Noah was so well behaved and fun! These are the memories I will  cherish.

My friend Kathy and I spent one day in Pasadena. It  is where she grew up and I wanted to see her old stomping grounds. I saw her childhood home, where she attended church and we even squeezed in a visit to the Norton Simon Museum. I could have spent the entire day there! It was a wonderful afternoon well worth the drive into the city.

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Lastly I want to mention Casa Romantica near the San Clemente Pier. A home built by the founder of the city and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I had never been there and found it to be an interesting part of the history of the area. The views  were stunning and we were even treated to a concert by a small Quartet! IMG_2278

Thank you again Jim and Tove and Charlie for a wonderful summer experience!!

Adios San Clemente until next year!

Coming soon: Our next adventure will be up the coast of California!

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Summer 2016

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Returned to beautiful San Clemente,CA. as the Siegers head off to their family vacation in Norway once again!! Thank you for trusting me with your home and garden and Charlie!

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Jim and Tove Sieger

This year it was for about 7 weeks of mild beach weather allowing me a reprieve from the high heat temperatures of Arizona. Each year seems to be progressively hotter than the last so I had no complaints of the cool and misty mornings. Some days the clouds lingered  and the skies eventually cleared by 11 a.m. It made perfect weather for my morning walks along the beach path.

I had memorable days with family and friends and my husband was able to come for several short stays while still working remotely. It was a fun-filled and very busy time.

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Charlie was waiting for me just as if I had never left! She is mellowing with age as are most of us. She maintains her usual lizard-chasing efforts, her sleepy afternoons, her vigilant guarding of the gates and yard and always wanting my attention whether watching television or sleeping at the foot of the bed at night… we even shared a few showers together! I love that doggy and always miss her upon my return home.

Mike and I had fun discovering some new places to eat and highly recommend, Sol Agave and El Campeon Taqueria for mexican food. The latter is a walk-in place in San Juan Capistrano that cannot be beat for authentic mexican food and local atmosphere with a bakery and store next to it. And as always we went for our standard favorites for sushi too, Gen Kai in Dana Point and Samurai in Solano Beach. Another new experience was an evening out to Belly Up in Solano Beach to listen to live music.

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Charlie makes a new friend in the Babe, my brother’s dog.

One day we set out for the Birch Aguarium at Scripps. Attachment-1

We also enjoyed the Car Show By the Sea wonderfully located on the main street in downtown San Clemente! I believe this usually corresponse with their festival time and it is not to be missed if you are a car lover.

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I found the beaches to be especially beautiful this year. Each morning the sounds of the ocean were my best companion and the most perfect way to begin my day!

More adventures tomorrow!Attachment-1 2

 

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Summer Days are Flying Bye,Bye!

I am back!!

It seems impossible that my last posts were in March after our Cuba trip, since then so much has filled my days, consequently summer is almost half over and I have so much to share with you all. It has been a remarkable year, many milestones in travel and in family life.  I hope you enjoy this post and the ones to come…so here we go!

 

First on my mind is sharing my mom’s (mami) 90th. Birthday with those of you that did not have the opportunity to share the celebration with us.

Carmen Gudelia Velez Maldonado came to this country as a young woman looking for a  new life for her and her extended family. (Above you can see the photo of her as a 19 year old girl and a current photo of her.)

I would like to share a brief history with everyone, as I believe her story is one that many, many families in the country can relate to. Kudos go to my uncle Jose Martin Velez and his bride Virginia who made it  possible for my maternal family to make their home in the USA. Below is a photo of my uncle with my grandmother Alejandrina and my grandfather Jose. Also my uncle Joe on his wedding day with his beautiful bride, my aunt Virginia. As you can see he served in our country’s military and was very proud of it!

My mother was the first of her siblings to come to this country after my uncle Joe invited her to come stay with him and his new bride. Their story involves many days and months of  hard work and saving every dollar to provide the means for the rest of the family to come to the States. My father even played a pivotal role in bringing some of the youngest members of the family across the country from New York to California, where they would eventually settled. ( He was 20 years old and escorted three small boys, by bus to their final destination, all to impress his future bride I am sure). Yes, my uncle also had a hand in bringing my parents together as he was friends in the military with my dad’s eldest brother David Maldonado. Bonds establish quickly and firmly within their community. All their lives have been rich and full with all the highs and lows of immigrants speaking another language and leaving their beloved Puerto Rico for a new land. Their legacy, strength, perseverance and faith gives me so much to be proud of…So here we are celebrating my mom’s 90th year!!IMG_2373

Left to right: Orlando and Ruth, Mike and Nilda, Danny and Alma, Osvaldo and Nancy. My three handsome and amazing brothers! Each on their own journey and me the oldest and only girl. We are so proud to have the parents we had, parents who instilled in us values of hard work, love of family, and living the American dream!

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Left to right: Iris, Lydia, Mom, Clara, Juana, and Emma.

It was a remarkable day! Here you see my mom with all her sisters. The only one missing  is the oldest Maria who passed away in her 90’s. As well as uncle Joe who passed away first of all the siblings.

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The party included, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, aunts and uncles. We had a beautiful day and felt tremendous gratitude recognizing we are totally blessed to have my mom with us still!

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More on Cuba

Several people have asked for more photos of our trip to Cuba and since it is fresh in my memory still. Here are a few more shots of the island.

IMG_1322The famous Malecon on a cloudy day from the lawns of the Hotel Nacional where usually you will find hundreds of tourist and locals walking it’s lenghty avenue. Unfortunately it was closed off because of storms that had blasted sand and sea water onto the boulevard. Also, toward the far left of this picture is where the government free concerts and the American Embassy are located.

One of the other cities we visit outside of La Havana was the lovely and colonial city of Trinidad. Below is the central square and not far from there is a lovely restaurant where we had dinner and lunch a couple of times. Just above it is a plaza where music and dancing goes on late into the night.IMG_1421IMG_1420

While we were there I was surprised to walk into town and find a parade taking place. It seems each year they celebrate the birthday of Jose Marti, their national hero, poet and revolutionary. It was curious to me that our guide never made mention of this and therefore my surprise. Upon our return to Havana we saw on the news that this event was a very big deal and there had been thousand of people in the streets along with President Raul Castro and others parading down the Malecon. It would have been a sight to see but I was satisfied to see the locals of this small town just the same.IMG_1417

 

Another town photo of Vinales where we spent a couple of days and would have loved to spend more time. Here you see how the locals get around, not as many vintage cars to be found out in the countryside.

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Back in Havana we visited the capital’s Cathedral which was in the more prosperous part of the old city. IMG_1357

 

Coming next month: A visit to California where we will be celebrating my mother’s 90th. birthday. Looking forward to it!!

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Finally Cuba!

I can say that with certainty that the climax of our trip to Latin America absolutely was our time in Cuba, but not for the reasons you may think.  It was an fairly easy task to travel into the country that has alluded Americans for the past several decades. With President Obama’s decision to begin normalizing US/Cuban relations it was with a sense of excitement and wonder that Mike and I approached our trip. It was everything and nothing I expected to experience!IMG_1448

Here I am standing in front of the US Embassy with a hope and a prayer that the Cuban people will one day soon have lives that allow them to prosper and live to their fullest potential. May they be free from governments that oppress and hinder their freedoms, whether that be from their own Castro regime or foreign governments.

We are picked up at the airport by an elegant, handsome looking man sent by Intrepid Tours. He is talkative and as we drive from the airport into La Havana, he shares openly about his life, shares pictures of his family and is very candid about his country. My initial reaction as we approach the city of Havana is the realization of all my romantic notions about the country and it’s truly like traveling back in time… we see the old American cars of the 40’s and 50’s… the colonial era buildings… the exotic looking people… it will forever to be one of my favorite moments of the trip. However, as I listen to our driver another reality comes to life, he is a taxi driver and makes more than twice as much as his sister who is a doctor, the government rations are not enough to sustain anyone, and mostly those that prosper are those involved in tourism. While none of this is a surprise in a communist country, as we travel coming face to face with real people living this reality, it is overwhelming.

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We, unlike the locals, had the luxury of staying at the beautiful Hotel Nacional. Tourism is alive and well in Havana already, and imagining the new flood of visitors from the USA, as restictions are relaxed, make us wonder how the lives of Cubans will be forever changed. Our hope is that not the government but the citizens of this beautiful country are the beneficiaries of the new changes in government and the improving economy.

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Our favorite mode of transportation!

As we experience the kindness, hospitality and goodness of the people here we realize the time has come for the average Cuban citizen’s life to improve. We had the privilege of many home stay visits as we traveled through the country and making a connection with the people here was priceless. Here I am with our hostess Zoe in Vinales, Cuba.

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One of the homes we stayed in.

Music is everywhere and seems to be one of the best remedies for the troubles and hardships people face.

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IMG_1435Mike was blessed with a conga lesson from a seasoned musician in the town of Trinidad.

IMG_1475On to the more positive aspects of the trip. Our Intrepid guide was Tony and we both agreed that he was one of the best guides we have ever had the pleasure knowing. He shared his country, both the good and bad, with candor and humor. He is intelligent and informed and he made every effort to make sure we had a diverse and worthwhile experience.  We cannot praise him enough.

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Traveling through the countryside we visited a tobacco farm and were treated with viewing the whole harvesting process and even the rolling of a cigar. We also had a wonderful evening on the beach with food, a bonfire and a musical group to entertain and delight us! An unforgettable night! Thanks to all who made it possible.

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Reminders of La Revolucion are everywhere.IMG_1449IMG_1303

Portrait of Fidel Castro in the Museo de La Revolucion. History will record his legacy…

 

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Food Tour and more of Casco Viejo

Yesterday we returned to the BioMuseo for a longer visit and throughly enjoyed the morning, the building is beautifully designed by Frank Gehry but yet unfinished, once complete it will house two aquariums each featuring the sealife of the Pacific and Carribean Seas. Also, an atrium level which looks out onto the park and ocean will be spectacualr. The exhibits are well done and in Spanish and English, just a great way to spend a morning for young and old.

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Mike and I both visit the hair salon this morning for some much needed hair care. I throughly enjoy the pampering.IMG_1285

In the afternoon  we do some more sightseeing in the Casco Viejo area and go on a Food Tour with a delightful, informative young guy, Jeff, who is familiar with Panama’s nooks and crannies. One of our favorite stops is the Fish Market on the boardwalk where we have the very best ceviche.

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Jeff’s mom was with the group and we stayed on into the evening to visit a disco. Totally out of our element, but we had a drink and got a preview of the nightlife in Panama!IMG_1280FullSizeRender 4

What’s next?  Salsa dancing in Cuba!

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Time for some TLC

Our last four days in Panama City before we head off to Havana, Cuba. We are treating ourselves to a luxury hotel where I will take some time to do some hair touch up, a pedicure and sleep-in a little later in a comfortable, plush bed before our next Intrepid Tour in Cuba. We are staying in a Grace Hotel and it is beautiful and I would highly recommend it!

Our first day was for doing some errands, pharmacy, bank, and reorganizing luggage. Our evening was at a local restaurant which  had a lovely rooftop bar, Tantalo, where we had drinks and a nice dinner.

Tuesday we are up at 4:30 a.m. for a day trip to the San Blas Islands. An authentic adventure with a two hour drive through the forrest in a jeep, a fiberglass boat which takes another hour of rough sea and we arrive at a small, beautiful island where I relax in a hammock and Mike ventures out for some snorkeling time. We return around 7 p.m. back to the hotel in time for dinner. It was a long day.

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Here we are soaked by the rough sea!IMG_1242FullSizeRenderIMG_1254

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Our last day with Intrepid Group


Here we are with our group celebrating our final day. Our Intrepid trips are always best remembered for the amazing people we meet and bond with, however fleeting it might be, for me all the gorgeous sights in the world mean nothing without people to share it with! It was a stellar experience and we enjoyed our group, our guide and or driver Alvaro who rescued us from the Border! Pura Vida!!!

When we arrived in Panama City we have lunch and then make a mad dash to tour the Canal facilities before the next ships pass through.

  
No pictures can do it justice but the opportunity to see it in person is not to be missed, it is an engineering wonder! It also opened my mind to the sacrifice of multiple cultures that created this connection between the Pacific Ocean and the Carribean Sea. The museum there was especially well done!


We did a drive by of the Bio Museo which Mike and I will return to on our own.

 
The skyline of Panama City is spectacular! This was one of my favorite buildings a real architectural feat!     

A quick tour of El Cascó Viejo left us wanting more.

 

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Valle de Anton

  Off the beaten path just before heading to the big city.  

  

 

I know my mom will enjoy seeing these ‘verduras’.  

   
A short tour of Piedra Pintada. Interesting petroglyphs. 

   

 Next stop Panama City!

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More of Panama

I wanted to share more of the Festival de Flores from last night. This is a very big event for the locals, attracting people from all over the ‘país’ for ten days! Many performances from young dance troops  and a great fun family night.  

    
   
This morning we travel the PanAmerican Highway on our way to Anton Valley our last stop before we reach Panama City. Our friend, Arisa from Australia, celebrates her birthday today so at lunch we surprise her with cake! 
    
    
 
Thanks to Zender for making it happen! 

 
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

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