All posts by XingfuMama

Amateur photographer seeking beauty in both the memorable and the mundane. Sharing pictures, stories and meditations from here and there.

Umbrella

These days I nearly always keep a small umbrella with me. This wasn’t always so.

I live in Seattle, sometimes called “rain city”. But we don’t tend to use umbrellas much. I’m not sure why that is, maybe it’s just cultural or maybe it is the nature of our rain: it isn’t usually exceptionally heavy and often is just very wet air that seems to come at you from all directions…or if it is heavy it is often combined with wind that makes an umbrella more of a nuisance than a help.

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Themes

Maybe I’m a nerd…okay, no maybe about it, but I like to learn about stuff, and find it interesting to plan my travel to include some understanding of the geography, natural science, history and culture of the places I visit.

I am a big fan of being where you are and going with that, but with so many things to see and do one can’t do it all. One way to winnow down the choices is to focus on a theme for selecting them.

While I don’t do it all, or even most, of the time. A theme gives a trip focus. I have never gone whole hog and only done theme related activities, if there was something in the area I wanted to see I always added it in. None-the-less a theme (beyond eating Ice Cream) can enrich a holiday.

Some examples of times when my travel was, at least loosely, themed:

Brother Cadfael in England

We had a fun vacation with my mother-in-law when my son was eight. All of us enjoyed Ellis Peters’ series of mysteries about the monk Brother Cadfael. We chose several locations mentioned in the books to visit and there was a fun living history museum located where the monastery was located.

Prehistoric cave art in southwest France

On our “tour de glace” the focus wasn’t on the ice cream. It was prehistoric cave art. We went to Lascaux, Les Eysee and Peche Merle. It wasn’t entirely cave art, we also went to Rocamadour, Toulouse and Carcasonne because they were close-ish to our path and I’d always wanted to see them…and, of course, we ate a lot of ice cream.

The Tour de Glace was before digital and I haven’t gotten the negatives scanned yet so I can’t share. But it was a wonderful trip and our son (who just turned 30 remembers it fondly).

Confucius Temples and related sights in China

I don’t usually do a “theme” when I go to China, because my main goal is to visit with my son. However, one trip, without really planning to do so ahead of time, I had a Confucian trip. I went to the Confucius Temple in Beijing at the start of my trip. I did that in part because I thought it would be an interesting compare and ontrast to the Lama Temple near-by. Then when my son had a day when he was going to have to work late I took a by-myself overnight to Qufu, which is Confucius’s home town.

Roman Britain

On our trip to England last summer we decided to focus our energy on visiting sites related to Roman Britain. We focused the brief time we had available in the British Museum on their Roman collections. The next stop was Bath. Then we walked Hadrian’s Wall all the way from Bowness-on-Solway to Newcastle-on-Tyne.

It was very interesting and I got to where I could, at least sometimes identify mounds in the landscape, usually those with unusually regular geometric shapes, as Roman.

Weifang

A different kind of theme was the time I decided that I was going to go to all of the sites in Weifang that I could. It was a great project and gave me a better idea about the history and culture of the area. When I started looking into it there were a surprising number of things: a very good local museum (Weifang has been inhabited since the stone age), the Kite Festival, a Kite Museum, a museum/garden call Shihu Yuan that was a medieval mansion or family complex, Yang Jia Bu folk village-a living history sort of place where they made the traditional Chinese New Year’s block prints, and a visit to Shouguang’s Vegetable Expo.

Have you ever taken a trip where you used a theme?

Spiral Exploration

The main way that I get to know a new place is to walk. I walk in a spiral pattern, which helps me to not lose track of where I am staying and get a feel for what the surrounding area is like.

As I walk in the spiral pattern I make a point of photographing the names of streets. This is exceptionally useful if you might need to give a taxi directions. You can show the driver the photos of the street signs, which can be helpful. In the are near my son’s last school there was wei xian lu (pronounced way-shian-lu) and huixian lu (pronounced h-way-shian-lu).

It is surprising how well you can get a handle on what an area has to offer with two spiral walks: one starting out to the left and the other to the right. You learn where you can buy basics like water and fruits and what restaurants are available.

Do you have a method for getting to know a new area?

Realistic Planning

You can’t see and do everything in a short period of time. My preference is for quality over quantity. Which is fortunate since I am not a high energy particle.

I touched a little on this idea when I talked about planning around having jet lag.

A few things that I have learnt to plan for:

  • Travel time from place to place.
  • To add time beyond the minimum recommended to see things, because I process more slowly and like to take photographs.
  • Realistic levels of physical activity. I can hike 13 miles on fairly even ground (I did it last June on our Hadrian’s wall walk), but on steep or choppy terrain that goes down to 9 or 10. High altitude affects that as well. Lately I have taken a couple of falls, and had some bad back days, and that has made me aware that I am smart to go places where there is an alternative activity if I am not up to hiking.
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Pull up a Seat Photo Challenge 2019-Week 16

A PHOTO CHALLENGE OF PLACES WE SIT…OR MIGHT SIT…OR ART ABOUT SITTING

Welcome to week 16 of the Pull up a Seat Challenge in 2019. Take a load off and share a favorite perch by linking your post to this one, either with a comment or ping-back. For more detailed directions go to Pull Up a Seat page.

Thank you to everyone who participated this week. It is always fun to see the variety of ideas.

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Quiet Time

I need quiet time and get overloaded if I don’t make some accommodation for it. Travel inherently involves what the Chinese call 热闹 (re nao in Pinyan). It literallytranslates as “hot noise”. This post contains a good explanation. Some people thrive on it, but it wears me out and can make me irrational if I don’t have a plan for quiet time.

In new places I tend to do a variety of things to get it.

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Offer to Help in some small Way

When on the usual tourist trail I often feel like I am not really in the the place. Like I’m in a bubble with a barrier between me and the place.

My son and I had a talk about this isolated feeling. It is easy and comfortable when traveling in a group to create your own bubble. Especially if there is a language barrier. But it leaves us feeling like we missed out on something. When the two of us travel together we try to interact with others, both local and fellow travelers. But with the emphasis on local.

Taking pictures at the Confucius Temple in Qufu, China.
I offered to take pictures of the couple together. Wound up taking the picture of the phtographer and the couple then having my picture taken with them.
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Nutrition

I am not a picky eater…or at least I don’t see myself as one. As the chief cook and bottle washer at home I get to chose what food is in the house and how it is prepared so my assessment doesn’t get challenged much, except when I am traveling.

I try to be not picky, and always point out that I did eat a spicy fried cicada one time, just to be polite, it wasn’t that bad. But sometimes you aren’t awake yet and suddenly realize that what you thought was orzo pasta has eyes, and you just aren’t up for the adventure.

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Markets

One of the great ways to see a place is at markets. They can be supermarkets, little corner convenience stores, street markets, farmers markets…Whatever they are you will get a feel for the place. You will see people interacting and get a chance to do so yourself.

I just realized that I used Markets for M last year, as well, in my China A to Z series-I must be a true believer!

Some markets from my travels (but not China since I did that last year):

An open air Saturday Market in Port Douglas Australia.

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