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January 15, 2012

Kangaroo Island

  (Homage to Virgina Woolf)

Chapman River Wines Cellar Door features one single item on its one-item menu.  We shared two platters between the four of us ~ delicious cheeses, sausages, breads and salads.

I have sand in my shoes from Kangaroo Island.

You can't know how happy that makes me unless you've been to Kangaroo Island, walked on the pristine beaches and seen sights so impossible to describe that they actually have one spot here called Remarkable Rocks. 

We were invited by our business colleague Rob to stay with him and the beautiful and graceful Sue at his family "shack" (as all vacation homes are called here). We left Adelaide on the 4:00 p.m. ferry and rocked our way across the Backstairs Passage (I'm not making it up, it's not a euphemism, it's truly the name of the water between the mainland and the island. Does it help if I tell you the water to the north of the island is called Investigator Island??) to the tiny harbor town of Penneshaw. 

From there it was just a few minutes to their red cedar shack - a perfect retreat, built in the '80's by his parents, with a long expansive deck all along the front, overlooking the spectacular water. It is just one of a handful of homes dotting the beach.  Picture pure white crunchy sand, shallow emerald-colored baby waves oozing into a brilliant sapphire blanket of sea. There's nothing between that spot and Antarctica so we did not swim out farther than our ankles. 

On Saturday Rob did a yeoman's job of showing us the treasures on the island. We spent all day being chauffeured from one spot to the next -  a red-topped lighthouse (see photos above), the Remarkable Rocks perched on top of a kind of mesa over the ocean, sea lions (ok, California has 'em too) lolling on their own rocky beach, another beach with caves and rock formations that must be seen to be believed. 

But, besides the wonderful company (lots of stories and lots of laughter) and delicious food prepared by our host and mounds of chocolates from my new favorite chocolatier, Haigh's in Adelaide, really ~ the beach right in front of the house is what I would come back for. It was sort of mesmerizing and rhapsodic. We strolled it three times and even then, at the beginning of summer, only once did we see anyone else. Way down at the other end. Children squealing in the chilly water. Heavenly.

Heart-stopping traffic

You couldn't help but be fascinated/horrified at the mega-masses of mopeds. Most of the riders wear face masks - sometimes they cover their entire head. And tiny children are standing on the seat between 2 adults who hold them but don't grip them. 

Look at the middle photo and you'll see a brave soul crossing amidst the scooters. He's got the system down ~ walk at a steady pace, do not falter, do not hesitate, keep moving forward, do not show fear!
One morning we strolled down to the harbor. But we had to cross about 6 lanes of relentless traffic to reach the water.  After 3 days there I was feeling pretty smug about how daring I had become in negotiating the traffic.  But this was daunting, to put it mildly.  Because this road was 6 times wider than the other streets, the mopeds had that much more space to whip around each other and cut each other off.  I started out the way I always do but quickly realized that I had overestimated my skill. It was just this side of terrifying. And as you cross, you can't just look towards the oncoming traffic because there's always someone going the wrong way against the traffic so your head is swiveling right to left to right to left the whole time, just praying that you're not missing someone but they're missing you.
I made it to the other side with my heart racing, pounding in my chest.  And then I had to turn around and watch Trygve just starting out from the other side because he had missed the first tiny window of space that I had darted into. 
He made it across. 


How many movies have you seen that are set in Vietnam? How many photographs? If you've never been there, it's enough to make you feel as if you had. That's how it was for me ~ it felt familiar right away. But being there, actually being surrounded by it, that was a different story.

The noise was often deafening and the crowds swarming.  I did get it though ~ why there's a large ex-pat community there. It's kind of exotic and romantic and thrilling. But only on the surface; poverty is everywhere. Buildings crumbling, barefoot children playing on broken sidewalks next to their moms selling 2-day old newspapers or the ubiquitous lotto tickets. These portraits show the face of Saigon. Look at the last of the four ~ do you recognize the Christian Laboutin shop (possibly the most expensive shoes in the world) ~ with a well-dressed local woman perched on her stool, waiting for .. what? Maybe friends will join her soon and they will eat a meal there, one of them bringing a small grill and fresh fruit.

Hong Kong

In November of 2011 we visited Hong Kong for the first time.  This shot was taken from the only place we found that was not teeming with cars and car horns and jewelry shops. We took the funicular to the top of Victoria Peak. A one-hour stroll around the peak was our favorite day of our stay.
Every place we went was a jumble of shops (every other storefront seemed to be selling the world's largest stock of watches). The first day we couldn't figure out where to eat because so many of the restaurants are on the second floor, to free up street level for shops or mini-workshops.
Dim Sum! If you have very good directions (it's in the City Hall building) you can end up at Maxim's Palace for what many think is the best dim sum in the city. Mr. T. was most reluctant and may never darken their doorways again. But if you like warehouse-sized rooms, gigantic chandeliers and servers who pounce on you before your seat has hit the seat, this is the place for you. And, oh yes, the dim sum was great!