Travel Days

Last night we attended mass at St. Joseph cathedral in Hanoi where the local people really know how celebrate with non-stop singing. The church was full and the sound was soothing and yet inspiring. A rather long mass but one we are so glad we did not miss. We returned to the hotel to have yet another wonderful dinner at the Red Bean Restaurant.


The next couple of days involved some long travel time in the van and we cover a lot of territory. This morning  we take to the road cross-country to arrive in Hon Gai International Harbor, Ha Long Bay. We board a lovely ship provided by Indochina Junk Company on the Dragon Legend Cruise ship. The accommodations are superior and the staff amazing. The sight of the bay with its limestone islands is breathtaking. We experience the tranquil wonder of cruising past these natural wonders and then the next morning kayaking through the waters to see them up close. The couples share a kayak but I swear Mike let me do all the paddling! Everything about this was a must-do and it was something we will not forget.


It was so relaxing another day there would have suited me fine.af127ed1-26a6-456e-8734-1e2abd2fdee8f5d76f11-24f8-4e1e-89a2-4781a1395f7d

We met some amazing people!


Matthew from San Francisco


The fabulous staff made the ride even better!

We make a couple of stops for some shopping. And we all had fun chosing some magnificent needlework art to bring home. We also visited a pearl factory but passed on any purchase, we may hold out for Japan on that.


These are all worked with the finest of silk threads! Unbelievable workmanship!

We spend another night at the La Siesta Trendy Hotel.  We loved this little hotel in the heart of Hanoi. Our room were beautiful, beds remarkably comfortable and the staff cannot do enough for you at every turn. Also, the hotels restaurant, which I mentioned above, kept us returning for more of the best dishes we had in Hanoi.

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More pictures of the countryside 

Do you see the elephant in this photo??

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Traveling to the Mountains

Our day was spent traveling to the mountain town of Sapa, a beautiful town that resembles more a European village at first sight, but that evolves into quite the tourist destination. The way was filled with splendid rice fields which we will trek through tomorrow.We enjoy another vietnamese lunch and arrive at the Sapa Dragon Inn. In the afternoon after freshening up we walk to Love Falls with our guide Tony.img_2735img_2065


Our second day in Sapa we take our van to the rice field valley village of Lao Chai. We travel a few miles by foot and meeting the people along the way is one of our favorite things. We see many different aspects of village life, the local schools were especially inspiring!img_2761

The chalkboard is an example of the penmanship to which the children aspire. The classrooms were bright and colorful welcoming spaces. Education is not free and still the people value it and find ways to help their children become educated.


Shoes are lined up outside the classroom

Along the way we met some interesting people.img_2776

At every turn were are greeted with smiles, and true affection and hospitality. Here is an example of the handdyeing and stitching up of accessories to be sold on the streets.img_2773img_2766img_2768

The people are hard at work not only on the land but making and selling had crafts. I get to try my hand at the sewing machine.


More to come…

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Rested and Ready

Nine hours of sleep last night after an exhausting travel day and we were ready to go sight seeing. We took a drive out to Tinh Hung Yen to visit a local family, have a cooking lesson and have a home cooked lunch. But first we visited the market place. It was very primative but provided anything and everything the local women would need to feed their families well.img_2722

We were greeted with smiles and curiosity from the locals. The women were warm and friendly, they allowed us to take pictures all the while giggling and delighted to see the shots of themselves. The most obvious quality is there open hearts.img_2721

After we arrived at the Mr. Mien’s home for lunch. A tiny man with a crooked smile welcomed us into his beautifully manicured garden. He immediately sitted us down for a cup of tea and answer all our questions about his life and family.img_2723

Everything about his home showed the pride he felt for his ancestery and heritage. After a life working the land he had turn to inviting tourist into his home, he was full of stories but he didn’t speak a work of English. That didn’t seem to curve his enthusiasm for sharing just the same through our guide Tony.img_2713

Like in every home he had a special alter for honoring his lineage.

After our tour of the garden we sat at the small outdoor table and were instructed on how to make spring rolls. We all had a hand at it and a few laughs as ours did not resemble the examples.We had a small feast of prepared by Mr. Mien’s two daughters. complimented by his son’s homemade rice wine.img_2716fullsizerenderimg_1358img_1758

After returning from the countryside we returned to Hanoi to make a few more stops. We visited the Hanoi Hilton, Hoa Lo Prison, were American prisoners of war were kept after the Vietnam war. Now a museum it brought to mind the pain and tragedy of that time in our mutual history. Only part of the prison exists today and the displays are somewhat controversial as they are presented as inmates having been treated well and unharmed. Like our time in Cuba we found it unsettling as Americans.img_1792

Linda and I made one more stop at the Vietnam Museum of Fine Art which we throughly enjoyed. Beautiful art and marvelous examples of the history of the country through the eyes of remakeable artist of the past and present. The boys went off to get some exercise at the hotels gym.

In the evening we had a night of touring the city for street food. Tony did a fine job walking us along the city streets, dodging traffic and getting a chance to experience the city at ground level. (Sorry no pictures too busy eating.)



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Vietnam, really?

Yes, here we are in Vietnam! At first sight from the airplane I thought this cannot be the place our country spent over a decade bombing and devastating and attempting to rescue from the hands of communism. It looked lush, serene, covered with clusters of homes across it’s landscape and somehow welcoming us in. We have more surprises in store.

We are here with our best friends Ron and Linda Martinez for 8 days. We will take in as much as we can, then on to Japan, but more on that later. We arrive in Hanoi, being from Arizona memories of war heros and John McCain come to mind along with all the hundred of thousand of young men on both sides that lost their lives…but this is not a blog about that but about sharing the beauty of this placeimg_2638

Our first stop was to the temple of Literature in Hanoi. A very busy place busy with locals and tourists. The weather is mild and we are blessed with light breezes off and on. Wandering around enjpying the park-like setting and taking pictures. img_2650img_2648img_2654


Founders of the first University in Hanoi

After a lunch of Pho (pronounced FAA), like none I have ever had in the States, must be because of the freshly killed chicken included in the soup dish!  We visit the Museum of Ethnology.img_2657img_2655


With several more activities on the schedule we make one more stop before heading to our hotel where after 20 hours of flights we have a lovely welcome by the staff with drinks and fresh fruits and on to shower, dinner and this lovely sight!img_2670


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September up the Coast…

My husband purchased a new car this year and announced it was time for a road trip! Loving the opportunity to ride up the coast of California and just into Oregon sounded like a keen idea to me! So we did just that.

Our first night we stayed in Santa Barbara with just a night’s stay in a simple room downtown. Our friends the Seiger’s suggested a lovely little Italian place for dinner and it was a fabulous local place on State St.called Via Maestra 42. If you’re ever in town don’t miss this tiny little gem. Mike took his bike of course and got up bright and early for a ride above the hills and along Hwy.94. Sunday at the mission is also not to be missed, the choir there is amazingly beautiful.img_2483img_2481

The next day we drove up the coast for a stay in the little town of Cambria. I have always loved this town but had never stayed . We love to use the site to book places when we travel, they never disappoint. We did a return visit to Hearst’s Castle after maybe having been there 30 years earlier! While in Cambria we got in touch with old friends from Mike’s college days, Sue and Gary Brennen. They live in San Luis Obispo and it proved to be a memorable evening. Returning back to our setting in Cambria was a real pleasure.



Favorite shots of Hearst Castle

Our final destination was Nesika Beach, Oregon. We rented a lovely but tiny beach cottage right on the cliffs with views to die for!! Once again Mike was on his bike enjoying himself immensley . Sadly we planned on 4 days there but had to cut it short as work commitments called Mike home. It was a fabulous, relaxing trip and we hope to do it again!


Lastly a trip up the coast would not be anything without a visit to the redwood forests!img_2544-1

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Hi Everyone!

Dear family and friends,

I am behind on posting to the blog, do please forgive me. Our lives have been more hectic than usual. We have purchased a new home, still in Sedona, and are in the middle of trying to sell our present home while setting up both places. Some other personal issues have required my attention so I promise to make it up to you all. We had a wonderful time traveling up the coast of California and Oregon last month (pictures to come) and today we are off to the airport headed for North Vietnam and Japan! So keep your eyes on the blog if you’d like to travel with us once more. Pray for traveling mercies and NO EARTHQUAKES🙂

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…More Summer


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.


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


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!

Jim and Tove Sieger

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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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