Category Archives: Trips

Traveling experiences.

Scotland – Day 3

We woke up, had breakfast in the hotel, and set off for our last full day in Edinburgh. Our first stop was the National Museum of Scotland. There were a significant number of technology-related exhibits. I believe Jaeger’s favorite exhibit, and the main reason he wanted to go to the museum, was Dolly the cloned sheep. They didn’t seem to have as much about her as I expected. Not even a children’s book in the gift shop!

Calvin seemed to find a fair bit to keep him interested. They had a good mix of adult and child-oriented exhibits. In addition to a lot of technology they also have exhibits devoted to Scottish history. Even then, by the time you progressed to modern day, it was all about Scottish contributions to industry and technology. We spent the whole morning at the museum.

After the museum we stopped by the National Library of Scotland. Calvin was fairly hungry by this time so we didn’t get a chance to look at many things in depth. We spent most of our time in the John Murray exhibition which was pretty interesting. He was a publisher for various famous authors such as Jane Austen, Washington Irving, etc and the library set up a very nice exhibit to display his collection. The room was fairly dark with one wall containing a bookcase and a fireplace. Overhead was a chandelier and then scattered throughout the room were glass encased costumes representing various authors and then digital screens that allowed one to scan some of their correspondence and pointed out various relevant details of their lives.

For lunch, we grabbed pastries at the Piemaker. They had a variety of pie sandwiches (kind of like turnovers) with various fillings inside. I got a Moroccan vegetable filling, Jaeger got the vegetable filling, and Calvin got the Mac & Cheese filling. Then we got Apple and Cherry pastries for desert. The entree pies were pretty filling so we just shared the apple pastry and saved the cherry one for later.

After lunch we retraced our steps as I had seen that Edinburgh’s public library was right across the street from the national library. We first went in the brand new children’s library. The library just opened on Thursday. Such luck 🙂 It still had the new library smell. The rooms were bright and cheery. I made Jaeger get pictures so you’ll see bits of it when he gets around to posting them. It consists of 3 main rooms: juvenile books, easy books, and a crafts room. I read Calvin a story written and illustrated by Quentin Blake and then we left to find the adult “Central Library.”

The Central Library was very traditional looking. It was pretty small but it looks like they have a fair number of branches so that maybe that isn’t surprising. (Plus, Jaeger keeps pointing out that Edinburgh only has about 400,000 people so it’s probably not fair to compare it to Seattle.) I’ve never heard of the ILS they were using. I’ll have to look up more info when we get back home.

After the library we went and wandered around in the graveyard of the Greyfriars Kirk. The graves were pretty impressive and I was a bit sad we don’t do gravestones like that anymore. The church itself was closed to the public today. We were debating what to do next when Calvin announced he wanted to visit a church so we went in search of another church.

The second church we went to was the St. Giles Cathedral. It had most of the components of a regular cathedral though it didn’t have as strong of a cross layout as I’m use to. However, it did have the arched ceilings so Jaeger explained the structure to Calvin while wishing that there was a reasonable ecopy of David Macauley’s Cathedral (apparently a Kindle copy does exist but all the negative reviews of the book are about the ebook).

After the cathedral we continued down the royal mile to the Scottish Parliament. The building was not what I expected. I thought it would be something traditional but instead it’s very modern. I’m not a huge fan of how it looks on the outside but the inside looks very light and spacious. We tried to explain the concept of parliament to Calvin but I’m not sure he got what we were talking about.

Calvin was definitely flagging by this point as, to be honest, so were we. So we decided to look for supper. We settled on a Thai Indian (?!) restaurant that worked out well for everyone. Calvin scored a free scoop of ice cream. After supper we trudged back to the hotel.

At the hotel I had Calvin sit in the bathtub and let him eat a good part of the cherry pastry which was now a bit smooshed (he won’t die of sugar deprivation today). I also learned that my really cheap $10 tablet did not survive the Atlantic crossing. It has taken to flashing random colors now when one tries to turn it on. Oh well, it was an interesting experiment.

Now I need to pack up because tomorrow we’re off for the highlands! Our train leaves at 9:30 so we’ll need to wake up a bit earlier than we have been.

For a parallel account of our third day in Scotland, see Devolution.

Jaeger’s Pictures from May 17.

Scotland – Day 2

I slept pretty well most of the night, only waking up for a while around 1:30 am local time. Jaeger did worse though possibly because he got more sleep on the plane. The alarm woke us up at 9:00am. We got ready and went down to breakfast. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a huge number of vegetarian options but there were enough.

After breakfast we headed out. Our plan was to visit Edinburgh castle but we first needed to run a couple of errands. We wanted to get local SIM cards for our phones and Calvin needed a fleece to replace the one we lost at security. I saw a promising looking department store and headed that direction with Calvin while Jaeger went to procure SIM cards.

The department store turned out to only have adult clothes but a tourist shop a couple of doors down had a navy hoodie proclaiming “Scotland” in white letters that fit Calvin. Jaeger also had moderate success. The SIM card worked well in his phone but mine wouldn’t work. We’re not sure why yet. I was hoping we could both get local cards so we could communicate in case Calvin required a playground break and we didn’t want to tie down both adults.

We started walking again and meandered into Old Town and hiked up the streets to the castle. The hill it’s on definitely adds to the grandeur of the look. The ticket line was long (though I bet much worse in true summer) so Jaeger stood in line while I took Calvin to the restroom. Then Calvin drew a bit while we waited for Jaeger to get through the line.

Calvin adored the castle. He spent most of the time dragging us around or running ahead. There is a lot in the castle complex and we spent several hours there. Calvin really enjoyed looking over the wall which provided a spectacular view of everything around. He took a lot more interest in many parts of the castle than we expected. For instance, when we visited the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum Calvin insisted that we read almost every plaque. Rather than getting bored and making us leave early, he spent more time than we would have chosen to look at everything. When we went to the great hall they had some weapons on exhibit so Jaeger got a picture of Calvin holding a broadsword that was bigger than he was. We ate lunch at a castle cafe and wandered around a bit more before going back down to new town.

On the way up to the castle we had noticed an odd neo-gothic spire sticking up. Jaeger looked it up and found that it was a memorial to Sir Walter Scot. We decided to take a closer look at it. It turns our that you can climb up within the spires for a fee. The first staircase was fairly normal. It wasn’t overly wide but does allow people to pass with caution. We got up to the landing and looked around. It was a decent view. Then Calvin found another set of stairs, stairs that were narrower and didn’t have a railing. Passing on these stairs was a bit tricky and required one person to hug the outside while the other person clung carefully to the central spiral. But we made it to another viewing platform. Then another set of stairs that stated out as wide as the original but fairly quickly narrowed to the second set. We initially passed up the third viewing platform in order to make it to the top. At the very top the stairs became so narrow that Jaeger was almost too wide for it. The last platform was extremely narrow, no wider than a person. I think it might have been my favorite experience of the day.

After the climb we sat for a bit and admired the scenery. Edinburgh has a lot of benches in this area and the weather was very pleasant. The climb had made me hungry so we stopped by a cafe. Calvin and I got hot chocolate with [whipped] cream and marshmallows and we split a “Belgium Chocolate Jaffa” (something like this) which was very good and rich.

Refreshed, we wandered by St. Andrew Square which does not have a statue of St. Andrew and instead has the Melville Monument. However, Calvin found the most exciting feature to be a shallow waster feature that he amused himself by splashing with his hands. After prying him away from that we headed toward Princes Street Gardens which is a lovely stretch of paths, lawns, trees, and flowers that divides new town from old town (I adore how green Scotland is, very Wahington-like). More importantly, it was rumored to have a playground.

I was a bit disheartened when the officially posted map of the gardens didn’t list a playground but we tried anyway. The walk was nice with quite a few flowers, including rhododendrons which were blooming. Also there were benches lining both sides of the path which allowed Calvin to frequently stop and “rest”. Eventually we reached the end and discovered there was the promised playground. It was quite nice. I took pictures so once I get back I’ll do a more detailed playground review.

After the playground we started walking to supper. We ate at Henderson’s which is a vegetarian restaurant. I got a stacked polenta dish with all sorts of grilled vegetables and pineapple. It was very good. We also got vegetarian haggis which appears to be a thing in Edinburgh. I’ve lost count of the restaurants, even non-veg ones, that I’ve seen offering it. Possibly because it’s innately less disgusting than the real thing. I got one of the kid meal selections based on the waiters suggestion which was a mistake. I should have gone with my original inclination of pasta and tofu, even if it was adult portions and price. At that point Calvin was obviously tired and didn’t feel like exerting much effort to eat.

Since we were the farthest we’d been all day from the hotel and it was already 8:30 we decided to take a taxi back. Now Calvin is sleeping peacefully beside me as I write this out.

For a parallel account of our second day in Scotland, see Edinburgh Castle.

Jaeger’s Pictures from May 16.

Scotland – Day 1

May ended up being a very busy month. The previous week I had been in Detroit for my library conference. This week I was suppose to have full day training on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and on Wednesday night we planned to leave for Scotland. Unfortunately for the project, our database server died right before it was suppose to be shipped to us which delayed our training. However, canceling training provided more time for packing 🙂

We left for the airport a bit after 5pm which would have allowed plenty of time if the plane had been on time. As it was, our plane was delayed about 1 1/2 hrs so we spent a fair amount of time waiting. While waiting, Calvin found another boy to play with. At one point they seemed to be competing with who could jump up and down exclaiming, “I’m so excited! I’m so excited!” There was also some shrieking involved which we tried to suppress, not always successfully.

Once we actually took off the flight was pretty standard. We stayed awake till supper was served and then dozed most of the rest of the trip. Calvin slept pretty well. Once we got down on the ground we had to wait quite a while for another plane at our assigned gate to finally leave. Then, once we were at the gate, we had to wait some more for someone to actually move the jetway to the plane so we could get off. The pilot claims he had to open a window and gesticulate wildly before anyone bothered to help.

Once we got off the plane we had less than an hour to make it through immigration and try to catch our next flight which was due to leave in less than an hour (we would have missed it completely if Jaeger had chosen the original connection BA offered when he first booked the tickets). Because of the short connection we were fast tracked through immigration, though not security. While UK security does not require taking off shoes it turns out that my shoes have metal on them. Oddly enough the metal detector didn’t go off when I went to Detroit. At some point during the process we also misplaced Calvin’s fleece.

We speed walked (Calvin ran) to our gate and got there 7 minutes before departure time only to discover that flight had also been delayed. So, we got to board in a relatively leisurely fashion. We landed in Edinburgh and procured a taxi to take us to the hotel.

Jaeger booked a room with a queen bed and a fold out twin bed right next to it. The room isn’t large but is adequate (it probably is extravagantly large for a European hotel).

After we got settled in we walked a mile to a local vegetarian restaurant called Bindi. Both Jaeger and I got the main thali plate and two appetizers: samosas and chaat. Calvin ended up eating rice, roti, and most of a samosa. One of the curries was particularly interesting as it contained kidney beans and corn. It reminded me of a combo between a regular curry and chilli. Jaeger liked it more than me. I liked the dal soup better.

Calvin fell asleep toward the end of the meal so Jaeger and I took turns carrying him back to the hotel. I fell asleep almost immediately after we got back.

For a parallel account of our first day in Scotland, see On Holiday.

Jaeger’s Pictures from May 14 and May 15.

St. Mary’s Square Playground, San Francisco, CA

The last couple of weeks have been busy. Calvin and I went out to visit Nana, Jaeger’s mother, early so she could have more time with Calvin. Than the rest of the family arrived a couple of days later. After Christmas we flew to San Francisco and are decompressing from family time before going to visit Jaeger’s grandmother. This was our second full day in San Francisco. We went to Chinatown and wandered around the streets for a while. While there, we stumbled across a playground in St. Mary’s Square1. To my surprise it was mostly deserted . Maybe it was just the wrong time of day for families to be their with their children.

The playground is small but has a nice selection of equipment. The equipment seems fairly new but is showing some sign of wear and tear. The first thing Calvin tried out was the double teeter-totter-type thing.
teetertotter

Next, he played for a bit with the Playworks structure which was very similar to the one at East Boulder Community Park.
sand

They also had a train which looked like it could entertain a variety of ages.
train

The last piece of equipment was a semi-traditional playground set that is probably officially designed for 5-12 year-olds. Calvin enjoyed climbing on the rope ladder but other than that seemed to get bored of it fairly quickly.
playground

They also had some swings outside the fenced area but we didn’t get around to those. It was a nice little park and provided a great opportunity for Calvin to run around and get energy out before once again braving the Chinatown crowds.
Summary:

Features 5-12 year old equipment, 2-5 year old equipment, rope bridge, slide, new-style teeter-totter, sand play works, train, swings
Surface Material Poured Rubber and sand
Restrooms No
Water fountain No
Shade Yes, mainly provided by the tall buildings around the park.
Picnic area No.
Parking I believe it’s on top of a parking garage but we walked there.
Pros
  • Nice place to take a break in the middle of the city
  • Provides a couple of playground pieces for a variety of ages
Cons
  • Eqipment showing some wear and tear, though most is still fine.
  • It’s a city so there’s homeless people, though none were near the enclosed part of the playground.


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

  1. Also yet another statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, they’re everywhere.

Monthly Update

The past month has been very busy.

Camping
In late August we went camping and setup at Difficult Campground which is close to Aspen. It had fairly small campsites, our extra large family tent was difficult to fit, but was a nice campground. There was a small stream that ran behind our site which I thought Calvin would get into but he pretty much ignored it.

Saturday, we got up, ate breakfast, and then headed out to Crater Lake in the Maroon Bells Wilderness. We made good time since Jaeger carried Calvin most of the way. Calvin spent a good amount of time complaining about how exhausting it is to be carried. Then we let Calvin walk and ambled for another mile or so before stopping for lunch. Given how long it had taken Calvin to walk a mile, we decided to carry him back. We had taken the bus up and we didn’t want to miss the last pick-up at 5pm.

The bus took us back down to Aspen where we got a snack and wandered around a bit. It turns out none of us had been to Aspen before which was weird since I thought Jaeger had been everywhere in Colorado. I decided it was basically a snootier, smokier1 version of Boulder. I also took the opportunity to stop by their county library and quiz the local staff on how they liked their ILS (catalog system).

Sunday we ate and then went and visited a ghost town. When we arrived, we were the only people there but as we were leaving a lot more people stopped by. I don’t think Calvin understood what a ghost town is. Jaeger took Calvin up the gondola while I spent a couple of minutes working and then we ate lunch and headed back home.

This was our 2nd successful camping trip of the summer. The prior year we hadn’t gone camping at all due to moving and our fear Calvin would continue his trend of waking up screaming in the middle of the night. However, this trip, and the previous one, all turned out good without any nighttime scream (by Calvin anyway).

Basement Refresh
Since I’ve started working in the basement, its problems have been bothering me more and more. We had water stains on the ceiling tile and the paint was desperately in need of being refreshed. Jaeger was pretty ambivalent given he rarely goes into the basement but I got a bee in my bonnet to fix it up better.

The ceiling tiles were a problem. They’re drop ceiling but in a style that no one seems to carry anymore. After looking at a lot of options, I decided my best plan would be to try to get matching paint and paint over the old water stains. I stopped by Kwal Paint to drop off a ceiling tile for matching and to pick up sample paint colors for the walls.

Jaeger didn’t like the existing tannish color so I picked up two blues, a light yellow, and a light green. Then I got some foam core and painted each with the proposed color and took them down to the basement to look. The light green look dreadful, I thought the yellow was ok, but Jaeger didn’t like it, and the darker blue was too dark. So, we decided on a light blue that has very slight greenish hints in it.

Over Labor Day weekend I feverishly painted everything, including redoing the trim. I discovered many crimes against drywall during that weekend. There’s so many it’s hard to start. Among other things whoever had painted the tan color had decided to save time and just paint over nails instead of pulling them out, filling in, and then painting. Also, it turns out one of the color combinations had been a nice cream colored wall with purple trim. That must have been fascinating.

Eventually I got everything repainted and then I moved the furniture around. We had a cubicle area that had been working as a storage unit but I got most everything thrown away, given away, or stored in the garage or a large white garage-style cabinet we bought. In addition, I changed the layout so my treadmill desk faced the window directly. All-in-all, I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I finished cleaning up the room scant minutes before our Megafest visitors arrived.

Megafesting
Yanthor and Anya came over to our house last week and we took time off to fest. We played a lot of games, watched one movie, and ate good food. Saturday was Jaeger’s birthday so I made two types of ice cream and German Chocolate Cupcakes 2. It was lots of fun and very relaxing.

A Night Out
Jaeger convinced me to call our babysitter for her to take care of Calvin Wednesday night while we went out to a restaurant to celebrate Jaeger’s birthday. It was sprinkling when we left and I debated whether I should take my light rain coat or the Gore-Tex. I decide on the light rain coat, a bad choice as it turns out.

We went to eat at Moongate, which is located in downtown Boulder. I had hired the babysitter till 10pm so after dinner we decided to go out and walk to the other end of the Pearl Street Mall. By that time, it was pouring. Jaeger wanted to stop by GoLite to get another shirt and by the time we got there, our clothes were dripping. Little rivers were running down Pearl Street Mall, it was amazing. Jaeger bought a shirt and we continued on to the Boulder Bookstore where we picked up several used juvenile books and Jaeger bought a tour guide to Beijing and Shanghai.

We sloshed back to our car, getting even wetter, and arrived back home a bit earlier than we planned.

Flooding
The rain continued to pour. In the middle of the night I groggily thought that maybe I should check the sump hole in the basement but couldn’t convince myself to get up. The next morning I woke up and padded downstairs to the basement to start work for the day 3. I started to walk to my desk and felt wet squishy carpet beneath my feet. I called Jaeger down and we started to assess the situation. Our sump hole does not have a pump, which I had been vaguely aware of and was on a list of things to deal with someday, and was overflowing. Jaeger bailed it out, into the nearby toilet, to a reasonable level and then we went up to have breakfast and consider the situation.

Sporadically checking the internet, I learned that we were pretty lucky with our very minor water problem. All the creeks and rivers in our area were completely out of control and real deep flooding was rampant in the rest of Boulder (Gunbarrel is slightly elevated and isn’t in the path of any major bodies of water). The sheriff requested that everyone stay home.

At first, one side of the room seemed dry so I was hoping we could just move the big stuff to that side and only dry out half of the room. However, after a deeper exploration it became obvious that everything was at least a little wet. Jaeger and I pulled everything out of the basement and piled it haphazardly in the living room, family room, and garage. I spent the rest of the day letting Calvin watch DVDs while I used our carpet cleaner to pull the water out of the carpet. Right before supper time I had gotten the carpets to where they were still damp but much dryer. Our next step was to roll the carpet up, pull out the carpet pad to discard it, and then drape the carpet to let it finish drying.

I went upstairs to make supper and just as I finished, the power went off. However, I already had supper cooked so we found our camping lanterns and had a pleasant meal. Then Jaeger went down into the basement. Our sump hole had overflowed again and all the work I had down during the day had be cancelled out. Jaeger and I spent probably a half hour bailing the sump hole till it was at what looked like a safe level. About in the middle of our bailing, the power came back on. We pulled the carpet up and draped it over random things in hopes it would start drying during the night. Jaeger and I took turns waking up every two hours to make sure the sump didn’t overflow again. Surprisingly, it started going down during the night. However, we did get woken up twice due to emergency flood warnings (that weren’t actually in our area).

Friday morning everything was complete chaos in the Boulder and large surrounding areas. Evacuations were being attempted all over the place and it was obvious that we were very, very lucky. We decided we needed a sump pump so I called a plumber and was put on a list to be called when they could start getting places. He told me I should probably get on a second list given the demand. I decided not to because at that point our sump hole looked reasonable and I decided there were probably other people that needed it more than we did.

I used the carpet cleaner to suck a good portion of the water out of the carpet pad and then ripped it out and put it by the trash to be thrown out later. During this process I had one of the basement mysteries revealed. The basement has uneven floor. However, in random spots it would have a weird bump in the carpet. Neither Jaeger nor I could figure out what the bumps were. We were half afraid they were rodents that somehow had gotten trapped under the carpet. Well, when I pulled up the carpet pad, it turned out they were loose remnants from a prior carpet pad. For some reason, when the newest carpet pad was put down, they didn’t bother to clean up the random pieces that were littering the floor. Really odd.

With the carpet pad gone and the carpet suspended and having fans blowing on it, there wasn’t much left for me to do other than occasionally make sure bad things weren’t happening with the sump hole. To my surprise, around 3pm, the plumbing company called back and told me someone would be there in 10 minutes to install a sump pump. That was way quicker than I expected. However, perhaps we were one of the few people they could actually get to.

The plumber arrived and told me a full install would take three hours, which he didn’t have. However, he could install a temporary solution and come back next week to finish up the job. The full job will cost around $1200 but we’re lucky because we already have a sump hole. The prior lady he had just visited didn’t have a sump hole so it was going to cost her $3000 to get a solution. Anyway, this type of scenario isn’t particularly common in Gunbarrel but Jaeger and I felt we should go ahead and get a pump anyway as insurance.

At this point, the carpet is mostly dry. However, I’m not sure yet whether or not it’s salvageable. I’m letting it dry today and we’ll see what the situation looks like tomorrow. I’ve been cooped up in the house since Wednesday evening and church was canceled today (the church is in a bad area) so I’m considering a visit to the library today. I haven’t heard what conditions the roads are in yet but I think a roundabout route should get me there without any problems. Worst case, if it starts raining, we head back immediately.

Anyway, it’s been very adventurous.

  1. Boulder is pretty rigid about allowing smoking in public so it was disconcerting to be sitting outside the cafes in Aspen and having to dodge the smoke.
  2. We had just finished a cake I had made a month prior so Jaeger didn’t want another full cake to deal with.
  3. I usually work a little bit before breakfast which allows me to get the prior day’s emails out of the way. Then I take a break to eat and take Calvin to preschool and then resume.

Pictures of our Washington Trip

A couple of weeks ago Calvin and I traveled to Washington to see my mom. Taiwan has made me foolhardy as I now believe I can travel anywhere at anytime with Calvin and it’ll all be fine as long as we have the iPad with us. So, I booked an 8am flight which had us arriving into PDX a little after 9:30 local time. It went fine. We then went to brunch/lunch with the extended Stone family and then wandered briefly around Portland before heading to my parents’ house.

Monday we left to stay a couple of days at Canon Beach. I like to think of the Oregon and Washington coast as “atmospheric.” However, it was remarkably nice the entire time we were there. Our first day was a little windy but sunny. Calvin had fun burying himself in the sand.

Calvin Buries Himself

Tuesday I spent the morning working while mom and Calvin went to the Maritime Museum in Astoria. In the afternoon we went to the beach and Calvin played quite a bit. The house mom had rented was “cozy.” I liked it but mom was frustrated by the lack of storage. However, we both agreed the courtyard was really nice.

Courtyard of beach house

On Wednesday dad came down and we went to Indian Beach at Ecola State Park. There was only a little bit of wind and it was very pleasant.

Calvin at Indian Beach

Thursday was our last day at the beach. We got adventurous and decided to take a short hike to a beach in the Oswald West State Park. Calvin really wants to go camping this summer so I convinced him that he needed to practice hiking. To my surprise, he hiked all the way to the beach and then continued walking to the far north side with only a little cajoling. Calvin wasn’t nearly as excited to hike on the way back so I carried him once we reached the trail head.

Calvin Hiking

On the way back to Longview we stopped at Tapiola Park in Astoria, one of my favorite playgrounds in the world. While I love the playground, the bathrooms are quite scuzzy.

Boat in tot area

Calvin with the digger

Boat in big kids section

Calvin made a flying leap and grabbed onto the Monkey rings. The first time he was successful. The second time ended in tears.

Monkey Rings

So many things to play on . . .
Bridges

ap7

Friday we went to the park in Longview. Saturday we went up to Hood River to visit Gramps. On Sunday we road on the Mount Hood Railroad. Though apparently I neglected to get any pictures of this (no doubt Grandma has many). Then, once again buoyed by our Taiwan experience, Calvin and I flew back home to Colorado fairly late and I crawled into bed at 12:30am on Monday morning.

Traveling Home: Two Fridays for the Price of One

We woke up on Friday in time to catch our 6:30 car ride to the airport. On Wednesday, since the phone attempts had failed, we had emailed United and ANA asking for clarification on what was going on with the seats for our first flight. On Thursday we did hear back from United and ANA. United claimed they couldn’t request specific seat arrangements because they don’t have the seat maps for ANA. Fine . . . except we learned from ANA that they aren’t allowed to touch United seats until the 24-hrs immediately before the flight takes off which United hadn’t mentioned every time they told us to ask ANA for seats. I think perhaps the 2nd ANA person I talked to on the phone had been trying to explain this to me but we were having a communication problem (Calvin was screeching in my ear which made it harder for me to interpret everything).

Anyway, we made it to the airport and stood in line to check-in. From what I’ve read, having children ride in car seats in cars in fairly uncommon in Taiwan (though I think this is changing) so taking the car seat on the plane is probably unheard of except for crazy foreigners like us. In any case, we somehow managed to confuse the flight attendant that checked us in so it took longer than we expected but eventually we thought everything was figured out. Because the iPad entertained Calvin so well on the way out, I reduced the number of other toys I brought out and was able to consolidate Calvin and my carry-on bags to 2 (versus the three we’d used on the way out).

After check-in was over we headed over to the security line which I discovered was huge. I’m not sure if it was longer than the security line at Denver but it was certainly organized less well. Instead of a large official queue, there was a smaller queue section with people lined up past all the check-in counters queuing for the queue. As I was looking at it in disbelief a security guard came by, saw Calvin, and motioned that we should follow him. We followed him and he passed us off to another security guard. Neither really spoke English so we weren’t entirely sure what was going on until someone who’s flight was soon, and thus was getting priority security screening, explained that because we had a child with us, they wanted us to skip the line and go straight into the priority queue. Once again, I felt a little sheepish about it but didn’t try to pass up the opportunity. As a result, we passed through security and immigration fairly quickly.

We got breakfast at one of the terminals and then managed to board our plane, with Calvin’s car seat. I was very glad I had gotten our carry-on down to two bags as the area under the seat only fit two bags (on my prior flights I was able to fit all three bags under the seat). The flight served a meal but we had booked through United, which claimed the flight didn’t have a meal, so we weren’t able to request a vegetarian meal. Personally, I am not pleased with how United integrates with its airline partners. There’s got to be a better way to do it.

The flight was unexceptional and we landed in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Calvin decided right at that point he needed to go potty. Calvin and I rushed off the plane leaving Jaeger to deal with the car seat. We dashed towards the nearest restroom, which wasn’t nearly close enough, and I almost despaired when I saw there was a good 10-15 women ahead of us. However, then one women pointed out a room specifically for the handicapped and children and I rushed in. It was a little too late but at least we got there before Calvin started actually dripping onto the floor, or me. The bathroom was amazing. They had all sorts of contraptions, for what I’m not sure, but it looked like a very
useful room if I had any idea what some of the stuff was for. The extra large sink with a hose attached looked great for a diaper explosion but I’m not sure that’s what it was intended for. The toilet momentarily confused me as there were all sorts of functions on a control on the seat, all in Japanese, but finally I figured out the flush was on the wall. Because Calvin hadn’t had any accidents on the way out I had reduced my extra clothes down to 2 spare pair of pants and 4 pairs of underwear. Given how much flying we had left to do, I was nervous about having to use up one pair of pants already.

After I got out of the bathroom we queued for the international security screening. This time I remembered to make sure my water battles were emptied and we passed through without any incident. As an aside, of all the screenings we went through, the US was the only place where we had to take off our shoes. When I asked at one security point if I had to take off my shoes they looked at me like I was insane. Pass security, we found our gate and plugged in our electronics to charge. Jaeger stayed to watch them while I wandered around looking for food. The vegetarian options were grim. Eventually I found a place that had edamame and pizza (very sad pizza) so that’s what I brought back. After we finished that, Jaeger left in search of better food in a different concourse while I continued to watch our electronics charge. After Jaeger got back we went to the little play area we had visited on the way out and Calvin played for a bit. A few minutes before our flight I took Calvin on another potty break and I once again got to figure out Japanese toilets. This toilet had a panel on the side that buttons labeled in English. One button said it was a “flush sound”. Since I wasn’t immediately finding a flush button, I experimentally pushed the flush sound thinking it might just be a translation error. No, it just made an electronic sounding flushing sound. Later, Jaeger posited that this was to cover up the sound of using the toilet. I looked it up and seemed to find collaborating evidence that claims Japanese women didn’t like the sounds of using the restroom and so would continuously flush to cover it up. Ok, that’s fine. But, why did the cover-up sound have to be flushing? Surely there’s another sound that would work just as well and be more pleasant.

I did eventually find the correct flush button and Calvin and I were able to exit the restroom. When I relayed my experience to Jaeger he noted that in his restroom you had icons on the stalls indicating what kind of toilet the stall contained (squat, sit-down, or enhanced sit-down) so I probably accidentally chose a stall that contained an enhanced toilet. In retrospect, I regret that I didn’t document the various toilets I found more thoroughly. There were some that I really liked. For example, one family restroom I used had a regular toilet a tiny divider, and then a preschooler-size toilet next to the large one. Then, they had a large sink and a little sink. It made using the bathroom with Calvin much quicker and easier. Also, I really appreciated that most of the toilets we used did not automatically flush. I’m sure automatic flushing toilets can make people feel more sanitary, or something, but they really scare Calvin. I always scary post-it notes with me to place over the sensors of automatic toilets so they don’t prematurely flush.

Eventually, we boarded our plane to Seattle and took off. This plane was obviously older than the one we flew out on. The entertainment system was a little on the older side. We each had personal screens but instead of having movies/TV on demand, each channel had a movie that repeated the entire flight. So, it was a little tricky to catch the movie at the beginning. However, this wasn’t a huge problem because the movie selection was very dismal. Fortunately, the iPad
entertained Calvin until I asked him to try sleeping, which he did. It helped that it was dark outside so he felt it was a legitimate time to try sleeping. Calvin did go through one-more pair of pants though he claims, perhaps correctly, that it was water instead an accident. I was a little bored but it wasn’t too bad. I felt I should nap but had trouble doing so and spent a fair amount of the flight listening to an audiobook on my iPod. Even though this plane didn’t have electricity I didn’t have any need to pull out the external batteries for the iPad. However, I hadn’t been as vigilant in making sure my iPod was charged so I did end up using one of the batteries for that.

We arrived, bleary-eyed, at SeaTac. Because of the time change, we arrived in Seattle before we had left Taiwan. So, we had two Fridays in a row. We made it through immigration fairly quickly. However, they asked hard questions like “what do you do for a living?” that was hard to answer coherently with the amount of sleep I had gotten. We had to wait for our bags because there was a jam in the system. Eventually it came out and we made it through customs. I was concerned that we’d have to go through normal security but was pleasantly surprised when they had a screening security area setup just for international arrivals (maybe this is normal but I swear I had an international flight that made us completely exit and deal with horrible security on the other side). We got breakfast at a cafe and were excited to be back at a place where we understood everything the menu boards said.

I turned on my phone and picked up my messages and was appalled to learn that Xcel, our gas company, had gas line problems the day we left for our vacation. They had an automated caller who told us that it may have interrupted our heat and to let Xcel know if we needed our furnace or water heater turned back on. Jaeger had said that it had gotten well below freezing in Colorado while we were gone so I had horrible visions of our pipes breaking and a huge water mess to deal with when we got home.

Eventually we caught our plane and arrived in Denver. Unfortunately, mid-way through our last flight Jaeger realized he had left his tablet on the Tokyo plane. After getting off the plane at Denver we went over to a United Customer Service center and after waiting a while talked to a service rep who told us we’d have to submit the lost item to United’s website and hope they had found it on the plane. We got our bags and went to our car only to discovery the battery was dead. We called the parking service company and they sent out someone to give us a jump (with an absolutely adorable portable battery, I know want one) but all that took time so it was sundown by the time we made it back home. The furnace appeared to be set to 50 degrees, though we weren’t entirely sure, but the pipes seemed to be in tact so I was relieved.

We also got a chance to look at our new wood floors which are gorgeous. Unfortunately, the place where the fridge gets water had a slow leak which caused some problems and we may need to see about re-replacing that part of the floor. That part is still better than how our old floors looked but the rest of the flooring looks so good it’s more obvious. Anyway, that’s something to deal with later.

Because our appliances were still in the garage, we went out to eat supper. It was amazing driving in a car and going to a place where everyone spoke English (though we were tired enough it didn’t always feel like they were speaking English). We came back home and managed to stay up till a reasonable bedtime

Thus ends our great Hong Kong/Taiwan holiday experience.


Our Hong Kong/Taiwan Trip:

Traveling to Hong Kong

The First Day

The Second Day

The Third Day

The Fourth Day

The Fifth Day

The Sixth Day

The Seventh Day

The Eighth Day

The Ninth Day

The Tenth Day

The Eleventh Day

The Twelfth Day

The Thirteenth Day

Traveling Home

The Thirteenth Day

On our last full day in Taiwan we started out by going to the National Palace Museum. On the way there we met a student named Elias who started a conversation with us in order to practice his English. He decided to wander around with us at the museum and it was interesting to get to talk to someone from Taiwan. I thought if we started up at the third floor of the museum the crowds would be smaller but I didn’t realize the most popular exhibits at the museum were on the 3rd level. So, we ended up herded into a queue of people and we dutifully waited in a line so we could see the Jadeite Cabbage with Insects which is a jade carving in the shape of bok choy. Obviously, bok choy is more popular with the Chinese than it is with Calvin. We got to talk with Elias while queuing which made the wait more interesting.

We wandered around to a couple more exhibits before Calvin started complaining of being hungry. We went up to the top of the museum and found some vegetarian dim sum to order as well as some drinks. Calvin insisted he wanted Plum juice even though Elias warned it was a little sour. I tried to convince Calvin he didn’t want it but eventually gave up and ordered plum juice for him and carrot juice for me. As I expected, once the drinks actually arrived Calvin was happy to switch with me. I thought the plum juice was pretty good but definitely not as sweet as the juice I’m use to.

After snack Calvin regained all his energy and started acting up in his carrier. I decided it was time for a retreat outside the museum. Elias and I went outside to let Calvin run around while Jaeger stayed to see a couple more exhibits. Outside, there was a light drizzle and it was probably in the 60s (Fahrenheit). A little later Elias had to run off for a class. Jaeger came out fairly soon after that and we continued to our next destination.

In Hong Kong it was difficult to shop for touristy things because Hong Kong doesn’t make many things. Taiwan, on the other hand, makes many things.. We headed off to the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center which was four levels of various Taiwan products. We wandered around and Calvin actually stayed pretty quiescent in the carrier. I was extremely grateful to have him in the carrier where he couldn’t accidentally break something expensive. We bought a couple of things and then Jaeger took a taxi to take them back to our hotel while Calvin and I wandered over to a nearby park. We found a covered area and I let Calvin watch some stuff on the iPad while I read. There was a playground at the park but the rain was coming down steadily and there wasn’t a nearby place I could stay out of the rain and watch Calvin play at the same time. Once Jaeger got back to the park we headed off to see Taipei 101.

When Jaeger first started talking about the trip to Calvin, he mentioned Taipei 101 enough that Calvin seemed to get the impression that the city itself was called Taipei 101. The actual building is quite impressive. It’s currently the 2nd tallest building in the world, it was the tallest back in 2003 when it was completed. It also has the fastest elevator in the world. The lower section is a mall. We went up and got tickets for the indoor observatory and went to a cafe to get snacks. The snacks ended up being a bit smaller than we expected, barely bite-sized, but very tasty. We queued and then took the elevator up to the 89th floor. There’s also an outdoor gallery on the 91st floor but it was closed to take down the fireworks display from the new year. Once we got to the top we were giving free audio-guides that provided a commentary about the city from the various windows. It was interesting but I felt like I should be more excited. The building is so high up I felt the view was pretty similar to what one would see from an airplane. Calvin didn’t seem particularly excited and didn’t look out the windows much. I think it would have been more interesting in the day. It was very pretty at nighttime, with all the city lights below, but it was hard to see all of the landscape.

What was particularly interesting was the tuned mass damper which stabilizes the building and is open to the public to view. We finally figured out what the weird cartoon figures we had been seeing everywhere were, they were the mascots for the damper and were called damper babies. Now that we knew what they were, they seemed much cuter. After traveling back down to the fifth floor we stopped by the gift shop and picked up a little stuffed “damper baby” which Calvin proclaimed was something that he had always wanted.

For supper, we investigated the food court which was large but mainly bereft of vegetarian options. Eventually we found a fast food Indian place which provided a larger meal than I was expecting. After supper we took a taxi home which I personally found disturbing, to Jaeger’s great amusement. Our driver had a little TV screen mounted on his dashboard that he watched as he drove us back to the hotel. However, as Jaeger pointed out, the driver obeyed all the traffic rules and did seem a competent driver. Jaeger kept telling me that I should never go to India, which I already knew.

Once we got back to the hotel we packed our bags in preparation for an early departure in the morning.


Our Hong Kong/Taiwan Trip:

Traveling to Hong Kong

The First Day

The Second Day

The Third Day

The Fourth Day

The Fifth Day

The Sixth Day

The Seventh Day

The Eighth Day

The Ninth Day

The Tenth Day

The Eleventh Day

The Twelfth Day

The Thirteenth Day

Traveling Home

The Twelfth Day

Tuesday night was a lot more restful than our first night in Taiwan. I figured out Calvin slept a lot more comfortably if he had his light blanket I had brought from home rather than the down duvet. As a result, his thrashing was fairly minimal, except when he fell off the bed, which turned out to be an excellent time to take a potty break.

We woke up in time to make it to the hotel breakfast and then came back to plan our day. Jaeger’s original idea was to go to the zoo on Thursday but there was a 70% chance of rain for Thursday and only 20% for Wednesday. So, we changed plans and went to the zoo on Wednesday instead. The zoo is insanely cheap. Children under 6 are free and adults are only $2 US. One of the main attractions of this zoo is the pandas. Various reviewers imply the line to see the pandas can get very long. However, the zoo was almost deserted when we arrived so there was no line. One panda ambled a bit outside while one slept inside. They weren’t especially exciting but they were interesting to see.

Next, we decided to go to the children’s area which has more domestic-type animals. (Though, they also included camels and some monkeys in this exhibit.) On the way to that section we passed a Koala but it was sitting still so we had trouble getting Calvin interested in it.

After the children’s area, we looked for snacks at the in-zoo 7-Eleven. There were many interesting looking things but there was little English on the packaging so we played it safe and got a couple containers of chocolate milk and Jaeger got tea. I also bought what I thought was going to be a fruit snack but, if it was, it was very processed and more candy-like than fruit like.

Our last stop in the zoo was the animals native to Taiwan. Since we were in a Taiwan zoo, it seemed to make sense to see those animals rather than the ones imported from the Pacific Northwest :-) The monkeys were particularly interesting but it was time to start looking for lunch.

There isn’t much around the zoo so the food choices in the zoo itself seemed like our best option. We went to a cafe above the Panda area and ordered spaghetti and risotto, both with creamy-vegetable sauce. It was fairly good, for zoo food, and we didn’t ask any questions about what was in the sauce. All identifiable bits were vegetarian though they seemed overly fond, from my point of view, of fungi (which seems to be a common failing with Asian cuisine).

After lunch we exited the zoo and took the nearby Maokong Gondola. The start is near the zoo and there are several stops till it finally ends at Maokong, which is known for it’s oolong teas. From beginning to end the Gondola goes a little over 4 kilometers, maybe a 20 minute ride, and it goes up and down several hills and ends up around 275 meters from the starting station. The ride provides some fantastic views. Taipei 101 coyly peaks over the hills.

At the top of the gondola there are oodles of tea houses. There’s a narrow rode that takes about 20 minutes to walk to its end. We thought we were going to go to a tea promotion center that sounded like it was a small museum. However, it did not appear open when we got there. We went looking for a teahouse to drink tea at. There were many to choose from but a lot of them appeared to be exclusively in Chinese, making it difficult to order. We found one place that look promising and received an English menu. To our surprise, there was almost no tea except for some Celestial Seasoning offerings. It was a little surreal to be on top of a hill in Taipei, known for tea, and be offered herbal tea from Boulder. We did eventually find a place to drink tea and had deep fried sweet potato for a snack. I ordered
without thinking and then was a little surprised when Calvin enthusiastically ate it as he claims to not like sweet potato.

We wandered back to the Gondola station and took it down to the bottom. Then we traversed the subway to the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. This would be the third place that Jaeger visit about Dr. Sun Yat-sen but only the second for us. I believe Jaeger was amused to get the Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan view all in the same vacation. We hurried and got there just in time to see another changing of the guard ceremony. It was similar to the one we saw for Chiang Kai-Shek but it was apparently the last one of the day as all the guards marched out together.

The changing of the guards is a great photo opportunity for tourists and many tourists, most we think from mainland China, were gathered around and happily snapping pictures. Once the guards left, they turned their picture-taking attention to Calvin. I lost track of the number of Chinese women that took pictures of Calvin and tried to get him to pose with them. Calvin was not excited about this but played along better than I expected.

After we managed to extract ourselves from the picture taking Calvin and I wandered outside to watch the fountain, which seemed to be choreographed with classical music, while Jaeger continued wandering around the memorial. Just as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed that the guards were marching out to take down the flag. We stayed to watch and Calvin seemed to enjoy it.

After the flag ceremony, we wandered off to look for supper. Once again, Google led us astray but, with a bit of luck, we found our destination, PP 99 Cafe. They’re a vegetarian restaurant that serve burgers and other American-type fast food with an Asian twist. For instance, Jaeger got a Ma Po Tofu “Burger” while I got one that was suppose to be vegetarian duck. We got a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich for Calvin. It was really weird but the vegetarian duck sandwich tasted like Adventist food to me. Fake meat is really big in the vegetarian restaurants in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The duck fake meat tasted a lot like the Worthington Chicken Roll which made me wonder about the feasibility of setting up a fake meat store co-run by Buddhist and Adventists.


Our Hong Kong/Taiwan Trip:

Traveling to Hong Kong

The First Day

The Second Day

The Third Day

The Fourth Day

The Fifth Day

The Sixth Day

The Seventh Day

The Eighth Day

The Ninth Day

The Tenth Day

The Eleventh Day

The Twelfth Day

The Thirteenth Day

Traveling Home

The Eleventh Day

Today was our first full day in Taiwan. The prior night was New Year’s Eve and had been pretty noisy. Lots of people talking and we could also hear the fireworks from Taipei 101 (I believe Jaeger briefly contemplated going to see them but decided it’d be too much work and bed would be nicer). The king bed is technically more than big enough for the three of us but Calvin squirms a lot. Eventually, I figured out that he was too warm under the covers and put a little blanket we had brought with us on top of him instead and that seemed to reduce, though not eliminate, his thrashing. In any case, we all woke up fairly late.

The hotel provides breakfast but I thought when we checked in they said it ended at 8:30. That seemed kind of early to me for New Years Day but I was fairly certain that’s what I had heard. Since Jaeger didn’t stir until it was past 8:30, I started looking for alternative breakfast alternatives without much success. Once everyone was ready Jaeger also looked but we eventually concluded that we’d have to ask the hotel for recommendations.

We got down to the reception desk and learned that breakfast was still ongoing. However, all the tables were full so they requested we go back to our room and they’d call us when ready. Right about the time we were worried they had forgotten us, they called. We went down and had a really good breakfast. The pickings were a little slim compared to what had obviously already been there but I think it’s the best free hotel breakfast I’ve had. I was expecting something like a continental breakfast but this was a full buffet brunch.

After breakfast we set off to explore Taiwan. It was immediately obvious there was a lot less English compared to Hong Kong, not too surprising. Also, I am amused by their crosswalk signals. The crosswalks have animated green men that “walk” when it’s time to cross the street. However, when it gets close to turning red, the little animated man stops strolling and bursts into a run.

We found the subway system here (which is the MRT compared with Hong Kong’s MTR) and got tokens for our destination. Hong Kong’s system seems to have more bells and whistles but this one still works well. Our first stop was a visit to the 2-28 Peace Park which I’m sure Jaeger will discuss more. The park looked nice but there was a steady drizzle so it wasn’t very comfortable. We went into the 2-28 museum which Jaeger was interested in. Calvin and I wandered around in it a bit but I kept having trouble figuring out how to explain the concept of war to him at an age appropriate level.

Eventually, I gave up and shepherded Calvin out to the nearby playground and huddled under some scanty covering (the drizzle had turned into real rain) while Calvin amused himself. Eventually, Jaeger came out and we contemplated lunch.

Unlike Hong Kong, we didn’t get a SIM for Ted’s phone so we were cutoff from cheating with a live Google maps. However, Ted found, and successfully navigated us to a vegan chain restaurant called “Loving Hut.” The food was good and we set out again. This time our objective was the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

I was really surprised when we arrived. I was expecting another museum-looking building but the architecture of the complex is amazingly grand. I was quite disappointed that the weather made taking good pictures extremely unlikely.

Inside, we wandered around for a bit and had a chance to see the changing of the guard. The ceremony is fairly elaborate and Calvin got a good view on Jaeger’s shoulders. However, the highlight for me was when the new guards had positioned themselves like statues at either end of the very large commemorative statue. A security guard came out and, while the guards stood as motionless as mannequin, moved their hands just a tad, tugged the uniform into precisely the right folds and basically ensured that the guards in their stationary position were picture perfect. It was kind of odd to watch.

We wandered around a bit more and got some hot drinks for snack. While Calvin was still nursing his large-to-him hot chocolate, Jaeger wandered off to another gallery. I stayed and read while Calvin finished and then, deciding Calvin wasn’t up to more museum, decided to let him watch a tv episode on the iPad while we waited. Eventually, I decided we had spent too long hogging the bench so I started to gather our things together. As I was placing things into the backpack, a man sheepishly approached me and said his sister, who did not appear to speak English, would like to take a picture with Calvin. I sad they could try but warned Calvin was very shy. Calvin, predictably, squirmed and I’m not sure of they got a good picture of not but by then Jaeger appeared and we wandered off.

Our last tourist stop was a Buddhist temple a couple of subway stops away. Unlike the ones we had seen in Hong Kong, this one was actually packed with worshipers. It was a very elaborate temple and very interesting but it was crowded and much of the walkways weren’t covered so it was pretty wet. Because I mostly carry Calvin on my back I feel very large and have trouble navigating many of the smaller spaces we end up in while sightseeing. Unlike a backpack, Calvin’s legs and arms can randomly shoot out and cause unintended havoc.

After that, we found supper at another vegetarian restaurant. I wasn’t very hungry but didn’t want to discourage Jaeger from eating. We made a wrong turn but did eventually find the right place. The food was good but when we finished I was relieved to be heading back to the hotel. Once back, we gave Calvin a bath and put him to bed but he seems to have fully adjusted to the time change (which is the same as Hong Kong) and resisted falling asleep for quite a long time.


Our Hong Kong/Taiwan Trip:

Traveling to Hong Kong

The First Day

The Second Day

The Third Day

The Fourth Day

The Fifth Day

The Sixth Day

The Seventh Day

The Eighth Day

The Ninth Day

The Tenth Day

The Eleventh Day

The Twelfth Day

The Thirteenth Day

Traveling Home