We made it to the Lion Dance this year. We’ve always been travelling before (if you can imagine) but this year found us in town, and able to finally able to check it out. I must say the groups at the competition are much better than ones you get at openings during the typical CNY celebrations. These guys were jumping and leaping on poles raised in the centre of the stage area. The competitors came from all over SE Asia and put on quite a show. If you have not seen one before, the ‘lion’ consist of two guys, the back and the front. They form a the lion, who dances and jumps to a very long drum/gong/cymbal beat in a ceremony to bring good luck and fortune to a place (office, home, retail). The Lion goes thru a little dance each time. There’s always a treat left as an offering for the lion to discover, so when it starts the lion dances around, at then ‘spots’ the offering and does a happy dance around it.
We rented bikes on Christmas day to check out some of the trails near our hotel. We stayed at a great Hilton, right on the lake, but around the bend from the main center of town. It was about a 20 min van ride into town, but our location was very nice and quiet. It was also situated on some of the bike and running trails which was nice.
The weather had been a little cloudy with some misty rains, but for the most part quite nice. We set off on our bike that morning, to head over to another lake, where we planned to have a picnic lunch and then return for Christmas Dinner at the hotel.
The trail map said our path was mostly Level 1, with a few hills that were medium challenging. This turned out to be a case of you say easy, and I say what the F$#! is with these hills!!!! Oh my. For the most part yes the trail as nice. But the hills. My God, the hills. These were take your breath, burn your legs, push, push, push, killer hills. Luckily there were not that many, but the ones that were there were t-o-u-g-h.
The landscape was stunning. We kept stopping to take photos. Alas, shortly a ways into it, we started getting some misting rain. We pushed thru (and up) finally making it to the other lake for our lunch break. That’s when it really started drizzling. And seemed to get a little colder. 2 hours out. We quickly finished lunch and decided it was not worth hanging out in the cold and wet, when there was a nice warm hotel waiting for us.
Did you know that what goes up, must come down? But at the same time, every hill you take headed out, must also be faced going back, after you are already tired. And it’s raining. And it’s getting colder? So, we find ourselves tired from 2hrs of riding and hills, now making a return journey. It was a long ride home. Hills that had been biked had to be walked up. And even that was tiring. Luckily, the scenery was still stunning. We also saw TONS of rabbits, sheep, a horse, and birds.
The last leg is the best and worst. Worst because you are exhausted. Best, because you know it all be over soon and at the hotel is a steam/sauna that will thaw you out. On the last leg, we were just starting a slight uphill slope when my front tire veered off the path. I had to put my feet down to catch me and the bike from falling, so no biggy and it was clear I was not hurt. As Paul peddled past me up the hill he looked over his shoulder and yelled “I would stop by I have momentum!”. After 4 hours, in the rain and cold, I can’t say I blame him. :)
While I don’t really need much, aside from more vacation time, this year I did treat myself to a stunt plane ride courteous of some Christmas money from Mom and Dad (thanks guys!).
The ride was amazing. The plane was as YAK-52, two seater plane. Pilot in front, me strapped in behind. It flies somewhat low to the ground, goes out over the lake for some great views and then does loop-de-loops, a barrel roll, and some spins. It was so cool. The only downside was that is was much too brief. I really wish there had been more loops and rolls to be honest. Still, it was an amazing ride and a real treat.
I went up with a company called Double X Aviation the owner/Pilot was a guy name Peter who took care of me, his wife was kind enough to pick me up from the Hilton and bring me to the airport since it was so close.
Well Christmas found us in Queenstown NZ for a week. Where to begin. Super friendly people? check. Amazing cool weather? check. A lake that is crystal clear and an amazing shade of turquoise? check. Food that was a sublime delight full of flavours that I’m making mental yummy noises just typing about it? check and check.
Queens town is super small. But packed in there is bungee jumping, biking, hiking, super powered boat rides, wine tasting, hang gliding, and a few other outdoor adventures. You can walk the whole of downtown in about 30 mins. But that’s OK, within that small town square are lots of great restaurants and several ice cream shops for good measure :)
We spent the week resting, hiking, resting, biking, eating, resting, wine touring, resting, eating, and (me) taking a stunt plane ride for loop-de-loops over the lake. and eating.
Also, there are a LOT of ducks around Queenstown.
So to start us off, of course, food shots. The weeks theme was Lamb.Wine.Cheese. Somehow, seafood worked it’t way in there too, but that’s not a bad thing.
Well, what to say, Istanbul was AMAZING. The sites, the history , the food, the people, the whole trip was just great. If you have ever considered going, go! Especially if you love history, so much of our past took place in Turkey, stuff you sort of heard of but never really knew how it all fit together, well, it came together in Turkey. Religion, Politics, the past and the present, all coming from this one place. The architectural sites were amazing to behold and when you learn about when they were built and look at what the rest of the world doing around that time, you will be stunned. Also, have I mentioned how good the food was?
So we leave Turkey with a few parting shots…..enjoy.
While visiting Ephesus, we staying in a city called Kusadasi, which is about a 30-45 min drive for the Ephesus site. It’s a resort town with a major port of cruise ships that come to the area. We were lucky enough to be there during the off season. I say lucky because as we went to to the various restaurants you could see that they were set up for like 150-200 people! When we went there were maybe 30 of us in the whole place. Nice way to get good service as far as I am concerned. It was a lovely little town with a small board walk right on the ocean. Lots, and lots of seafood for dinner….