How Far I’ve Gone

Lorna over at Gin & Lemonade has started a weekly prompt to help inspire our writing. I have not yet participated as the first two prompts were fall related and I discovered that I didn’t really have any fall related memories to inspire a post. Anyway, this week’s  prompt is travel related and asks us how far we’ve traveled from home. I had to google distances to figure out which trip was the farthest from home. I used DC as home for the search. I was a little surprised by the result. So, here are my four longest trips(all traveling with my wife for her annual conference) from shortest to longest:

  1. Seoul, South Korea – 6933 miles: I really enjoyed this city. Our hotel was within easy walking distance of palaces, temples and other tourist friendly sites. We were blocks away from a traditional market street filled with foods and local crafts. The subway was clean and modern. The people from the hosting agency were friendly and helpful. The only negative was that the trip was too short for me to fully adjust to the time change.
  2. Livingstone, Zambia – 7661 miles: This is by far the best conference trip so far. Finland comes close mainly because it was the only one our son attended, but Zambia was fantastic. The hotel was next to Victoria Falls. We could walk out the hotel gate, cross the street and be at the entrance to the falls. Entry was included in the hotel fee. The hotel grounds had zebras, alpacas, giraffes and baboons wandering around. The social program at the end of the conference was walking with lions and cheetahs. We went on a safari. The people hosting were great. The only thing I didn’t like was the stress of haggling at the craft market.
  3. Hyderabad, India – 8203 miles: We follow the best trip with the worst trip. The hotel location was terrible. The only thing within walking distance was a mall. There were no decent sidewalks, so walking around was hard. I was sick most of the time and then had an injury to deal with. The hosts were friendly enough, but we have clearly moved in to “we are hosting a conference and the conference is all that matters” territory with the group. They didn’t seem to care if we had a good experience in the country and seem to be discouraging family from accompanying the attendees. Very disappointing.
  4. Manila, Philippines – 8555 miles: Like India, the hotel location wasn’t great. Mainly malls in the area, but nice sidewalks and crosswalks and some decent parks and restaurants around as well. It was extremely hot, so we walked around until lunch and then went back to the hotel to cool off and wait for my wife to be done for the day before going out again. The hosts were friendly and did drive us around the day before the conference started so we could see the area outside the city. We also had the option of using the driver to go to the mall, but opted to walk instead. Still not as welcoming as previous countries, but better than India.

I Need a Vacation

I know that I’ve posted pictures from two different trips this summer. I know that as far as my job goes I’ve been on vacation twice this summer. I know that this means that no one will feel bad for me, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need a vacation.

I can’t find the post I read that talked about the difference between a trip and a vacation, so I can’t link to it, but I agree. I have been on two trips this summer. I loved the trip to England and Paris. I loved spending time with my family. I loved having both of my kids on the trip. I loved visiting all of the sites. It was also very tiring. It started with a long flight from Baltimore to London. Every day we were there, we had specific things on outr schedule to make sure we saw everything we needed to see. We had a schedule to follow. Some days were very long days. It then ended with another long flight back to Baltimore.  The second trip was accompanying my wife on a work trip to India. If you’ve read this post you know that was not relaxing. It also involved even longer flights to and from DC.

Most summers we try to take a trip as a family.  We love to travel and I wouldn’t give up my trips. The difference most summers is that we also take trip home to Kentucky to visit family.  These visits are different and more what I would call a vacation, not a trip. For the most part, we don’t have a schedule while we are there. We might have a few things we want to do while we are there, but there is no specific time or day we need to do it. I send a good amount of time relaxing and reading a book while we are in Kentucky. Sometimes I go see a movie, sometimes I don’t. It depends on my mood and what’s showing. We spend time hanging out in my brother’s pool. We wake up when we wake up and go to bed when we feel like it. There is no rushing around. There is no place we have to be and no specific time we have to be there. This is vacation.

This is what I’m missing this year. Time to relax and refresh. I am now less than three weeks away from my daughter moving away to college. I’ve started thinking about the possibility of a career change. I’m finding it hard to turn my mind away from the stress of life and work on my off time. I need the relaxing time away to help turn my mind off. I’m not going to get it this year so I need to learn to “vacation” on my time away from work, even if I am just sitting in my house.  Next time I take time off it will have to be more vacation and less trip.

I Survived India’s Attempt to Kill Me

I posted pictures from my trip yesterday. Today comes my narrative of what we did and how I survived India’s attempt to kill me.

Wednesday of the trip is the first day our daughter and I are on our own while my wife is in her conference. In some cities(Seoul, Helsinki, Livingstone) this has been easy with options of interesting things to do within walking distance. This trip was more like Manilla last year where there was nothing around besides shopping malls. We decided to head the opposite direction from the mall from Tuesday night to find another shopping area. As we were walking, I hit a tree branch with my arm and was bleeding enough I decided we should head back to the hotel for a band-aid. The concierge decided I needed more and started wrapping my arm in gauze. While this was happening, the jet lag, stress, and bleeding all resulted in me feeling light-headed so I asked to sit. The hotel was concerned and after we got to our room they sent the hotel doctor to see me(and then tried to charge me for it at checkout). She tried to make me go to the hospital for a scratch. I did not. I rested a little and then we headed out to the mall across the street just to be out of the hotel. This was the night of the official dinner and every other year spouses of the delegates have been invited. India told my wife I was not invited, so instead of getting dressed up and going out, I stayed in the room watching TV with my daughter. It was probably for the best as this was the night that I also started having some stomach issues that would last for the rest of the trip. I did not sleep well that night.

The next morning, while my wife was finishing up her conference we stayed in and napped to make up for the lack of sleep the night before. That afternoon we were going out on the social program with the group. Unfortunately, it was raining, so instead of the tomb visit we were taken to a very boring museum. I wasn’t sure what was going to kill e first, boredom or continuing stomach issues. We left the museum and they took us to Charminar.img_0950It was a very interesting site and saved the day a bit We were able to go inside and tour a little and was also served tea. There was a bazaar in the streets leading up to it, but we were warned not to shop because it was dangerous. After Charminar, we went to dinner where unfortunately for the guy having stomach issues, my wife decided to opt for the spicy food bus. We went to a local restaurant famous for briyani. It was good, but I could ony eat a little of it.

Friday we were taken to Ramoji Film City for the day. We had been told that we would have to pay our own way(all other countries gladly included accompanying guests. India, not so much) but they did end up just paying for all. Film City is kind of like Hollywood studios. We saw film sets for famous Indian films and watched some shows. I was feeling a little better and the buffet lunch had some bland foods that helped. While on breaks, we tried to get someone to tell us where we should go to shop for souvenirs. No one seemed to know.  A few said Charminar, the place they said was too dangerous to shop the day before. It was very unhelpful. They finally said that one bus would be going shopping at a market that had a little of everything. My daughter was very excited to get her souvenirs that night so we wouldn’t have to figure it out the next day. Turns out they took us to the equivalent of a Wal-Mart with nothing worth buying. It was right down the street from our hotel. An annoying end to an annoying trip.

Saturday, we ubered out alone to a craft village we had read about. Turn out it was the perfect place to shop for loca gifts. I’m not sure why no locals told us about it. We had several hours to but local handicrafts and every left satisfied with their purchases. We then headed off to the airport where my daughter was flagged for extra security screening and our flight was held an hour after we boarded to wait for connecting passengers who were late. Thus led to our flight to DC from Delhi being held for the 30 or so of us who were late because our flight was held.  Air India apparently has the policy to hold flights to accommodate connecting passengers who are late due to Air India. We made our fight(despite crazy, multiple security checks in Delhi airport) and made it back home. I’m finally starting to feel somewhat normal despite India’s attempt to kill me with trees and food.

Tater In India

Doing this on my phone from the hotel room. Please excuse typos.

We arrived at our hotel in Hyderabad at 5:30 PM local time yesterday. We didn’t have much time to do anything at all. We walked around the hotel, discovered the pool is closed for renovations and ate at one of the hotel restaurants. We were all boring and got boring American type meals. We all slept pretty good and feel like we have adjusted to the time change somewhat.

Our first full day started with the very nice breakfast buffet at the hotel. American hotels need to adopt this model and offer nice hot breakfasts for guests. We then Ubered(with our Indian government guide) to Golconda Fort.

After the fort we took a break and spent some time reading and watching TV in the hotel. We then called our hosts about going out to the Birla Mandir temple. We again Ubered our with a guide and visited the temple. We were not allowed to take electronics in, so all I have are pictures from the outside after the visit.

We then walked down a the temple to the government offices of our hosts where our guide had someone waiting with a car to drive us around the lake and back to the hotel.

We braved the walk across the street(traffic is crazy here) to the mall for dinner at the food court.

Tomorrow the conference starts so likely no tourism. My daughter and I will probably browse the mall and explore the rest of the hotel neighborhood and then relax. The welcome dinner will follow.

Thursday and Friday the cultural programs begin and we will be on a tour bus full of government auditors from other countries.

Tater Takes Paris

I visited Paris about 20 years ago and did not come away with a good impression. I was hoping that this visit would change my mind about the city. I got off to a rough start this time as well. We arrived at Gare Du Nord and I needed to things: a restroom and a transit pass. Both proved difficult. We had no Euros yet and the restroom at the station was a pay restroom. I am irritated by pay restrooms all the time, but am especially irritated by pay restrooms at a major travel hub(and when I need to pee and have no money). The transit passes proved difficult as well. The ones we needed were not sold in the vending machines, but the information kiosk person kept pointing us to the machines. When we finally found the place to buy them there was a shift change and the person helping us just abruptly stood up and walked away. Luckily, eventually, another employee showed up and sold us the passes and we were able to head to the hotel. It was dinner time when we arrived so we walked around to find food and settled on a crepe place. My wife said she had 50 euro so we were good even of they didn’t take credit cards. Turns out she only had 20 euro, the food cost 30 and the credit card machine was broken. The guy actually told us to just pay 20 and come back the next day to pay the rest. A positive Paris experience!

Now, on to the tours. Day one was busy. We started at the Pantheon because it was closest to the hotel. We had more issues with broken credit card machines and had to go a second time to an ATM to get money for our museum passes, but we made it in. We left the Pantheon and headed off to our lunch cruise on the river for my son’s birthday. Good food and a chance to see the sights without walking – my kind of tour! We left the boat and headed toward Notre Dame. We stopped first at the Conciegerie and then to the cathedral. We were unaware that even with a museum pass we needed timed tickets for the tower. There was an online app to use to get them so we downloaded it, but it wouldn’t work. We asked the woman at the line for help and she said she could let 2 of us go on in. I said the kids could go since I had been there before. She felt bad and let us all go. Another positive Paris experience! We made the long climb up the towers, saw the view and the bells and then back down and in to the crypt. We then toured Saint Chapelle and headed off to walk to the Arc de Triumph(another climb), walk Champs Elysses and Place De Le Concorde. We then walked over to get an up close view of the Eiffel Tower and then back to rest up for another big day.

Walking stats: 27,763 steps. 65 floors climbed. 9.8 miles

Day 2:

Only two tours today, but both very big. We started the day at Versailles. We followed Rick Steves’ advice and arrived right at opening and got in pretty quick. It is a huge place. It took most of the day to tour the palace, the gardens and the domain of Marie Antoinette. We did eventually see it all and found our way back to the train to get to the hotel.  We stopped in at the hotel, went to a local place for dinner and then headed over to the Louvre. The Louvre is open until 9:30pm on Wednesdays. We arrived around 7:30 and by this time there was no line. We walked right in. There was a still a big, annoying crowd around the Mona Lisa, but I will say that evening is a perfect time to see the museum, as long as you are OK with hitting the biggest things and moving on. We stayed until close and then headed back to the hotel. This was the end of our Paris trip.

The next day we had breakfast and then to the airport for home. Charles De Gaulle was a surprisingly easy airport with hardly any lines. It was a great trip and I’m sad that I’m now back to work. I’m ready to retire and travel all the time.

Walking stats: 34, 699 steps. 36 floors. 12.4 miles.