Tag Archives: Kids & Family

Young Mister Wugidgem Episode 7

Thanks for joining me for Episode 7 of Young Mister Wugidgem. Last week we rode along the river with James, Grace, and Amos to the triple-trunk tree, where they found several clues that could lead to the identity of the evil magician. We also heard from Mom that she believes Dad has real magical powers. Mom then took the clues to Charlie Connors of the FBI. Continue reading Young Mister Wugidgem Episode 7

Young Mister Wugidgem, A Young Adult Magical Fantasy

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This Great Oak Tree appears on the cover of my new book, Young Mister Wugidgem. We’ll be going back in time to 1994, when Debby and Michael’s mentor, Mister Wugidgem, is thirteen years old. The paperback proof is on the way to me for final approval, and I expect it will be available by the end of August on my web site:  www.allanwchapman.com.

In the meantime, I have started podcasting the book, and the Prologue is going out today. Here is the link:

Direct Link to Young Mister Wugidgem-Episode 1-Prologue 

Please send me your comments. Thanks and enjoy!

 

RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE 28

Welcome to today’s post in the continuing saga of Running, Writing, and Traveling for Life.  If you are interested in listening to this, please click on this link:

I’ve been running competitively, off and on, ever since Junior High School.  I’ve probably had a bit more than my share of successes, some colossal failures, and several injuries, with some muscles and tendons breaking down more than once. 

The most recent have been calf cramps in both legs which I have had before.  I did rest, but even after a few weeks of rest and then gentle running, I experienced occasional twinges in both calves.  But when we left for a Stanford Study/Travel Tour of Italy a few weeks ago, the twinges had not occurred, and I planned to do some running, interspersed with touring.

Alas, that was not to be!  This turned out to be a “cross-training” trip.  I had failed to catch this fine print in the tour brochure:  “You must be capable of extensive walking-two to four miles-in historic centers, in museums and on city tours, as well as extended periods of standing on excursions.  Participants will encounter uneven terrain, including some dirt and cobblestoned paths, and must be able to walk at least 20 minutes up and down hills in the Tuscan towns and at Gargonza.  At the Palio, participants must be able to sit outside for several hours on metal bleacher seats with limited legroom.”  I really should have paid attention to this last bit about the Palio, but more about that later.

SANTA MARGHERITA PANORAMA FROM OUR ROOM AT THE CONTINENTAL HOTEL
SANTA MARGHERITA PANORAMA FROM OUR ROOM AT THE CONTINENTAL HOTEL

On the first full day of the tour we took the train from Santa Margherita in Liguria to the coastal town of Camogli, part of the Italian Riviera.  We toured the town, had lunch overlooking the beach, and then took the ferry to the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Fruttuoso.  I had planned to participate in the 3 hour walk, up and down the mountains that separated Santa Fruttuoso and Portofino, the most famous town on the Italian Riviera.  I took one look up at the steep inclines, my jet lag exhaustion kicked in, and I decided to save myself for the famous Cinque Terre hike the following day.  I joined the majority, who took the ferry from Santa Fruttuoso to Portofino.  I was glad at the time I had chosen that option, because the one hour tour of hilly Portofino pretty much wiped me out.  We saw lots of yachts, and while Portofino was pleasant, I wouldn’t call it trending!

PORTOFINO ON THE ITALIAN RIVIERA
PORTOFINO ON THE ITALIAN RIVIERA

We then took the ferry back to Santa Margherita, and it sure was a long, uphill walk from the pier to our hotel, the Continental.

That brings me to the next day.  It began with a near debacle of us getting on the semi-express to Monterosso by mistake (it was late), rather than the local, which we had tickets for.  The conductor removed most of us at the next stop, but some did not get the message and remained on board, including one of our guides who was looking for those still on the train.  We ultimately did get on the local, and were joined further down the line by the rest of our group.  One of our group said conductors do this regularly to collect extra money for their own pockets, but I only know he said it would cost an extra 11.50 euros to stay on the semi-express.  You can decide whether or not the allegation is true.   

During the brief tour of Monterosso, my right calf began to twinge.  I looked up at the steep climb up out of the town; the trail appeared to go straight up, not switched back and forth, the way the path was cut, rising out of Santa Fruttuoso the day before.  I was on the verge of bailing out of this hike as well.

Then, a tiny miracle happened.  The pain in my calf vanished.  I felt a surge of energy.  It was game on.

It wasn’t easy.  We did climb straight up for about the first twenty minutes, but then the trail swung to the left, along a ridge which had a lesser incline, leading further inland.  We began encountering lemon trees and grape vines, planted into the terraced mountainside.  We stopped and our guide, Marco, gave us a short history of the rise and fall of the lemon industry over the last 800 years, which was replaced eventually by the current wine industry.

OLD LEMON ORCHARD HIGH ABOVE MONTOROSSO
OLD LEMON ORCHARD HIGH ABOVE MONTOROSSO

 We moved on, and then mounted a series of very steep steps, until we ultimately reached the peak of the highest mountain.  From there on the bias was down, but there certainly were more steep ups as well. Along the way, we stopped at the “cat feeding” station.  As you can tell from the picture, this cat may have been past saving!   

Cat Feeding Station Along the trail to Vernazza
Cat Feeding Station Along the trail to Vernazza

After 3 hours, we spied the village of Vernazza far below and the panorama made for a breathtaking photo.  We saw the ferry that was loading the rest of our group for the trip to Portofino, but it took us 20 minutes to get down the mountain to the dock, so we missed it.

The Ferry Leaving Vernazza With Our Group, Without Us
The Ferry Leaving Vernazza With Our Group, Without Us

Fortunately, Sylvia, another one of our guides, was hiking with us, and she arranged for a private boat to take us on to Manarola, where we met up with the rest of the group.  We had an extremely challenging hike around the uphill town, then further up to meet our bus.  We first came to the car parking area (no buses there!), further up a path alongside the very narrow road (a bus couldn’t make it), and then finally up to a wider road where the bus was waiting.  I was plenty glad they had bottles of water on the bus!

The next day we took the bus from Liguria to Tuscany, where my wife and I had been a few times before.  We stayed in Gargonza, just outside Arezzo, for the next few days, and the highlight during that time was the Palio horserace in Siena.  There are several Palio celebrations all around Italy, but nothing is quite like this 800 year old grudge match.  This is a 3 lap race, run on a trucked-in dirt track laid around the center of Il Campo, and there are no rules!!!

PALIO TRACK VIEW FROM OUR SEATS
PALIO TRACK VIEW FROM OUR SEATS

Even after I had read the warning to prepare for discomfort during the Palio, I did not expect 5 hours of regular waves of pain.  We were all packed into the stadium seats with our knees pressed against the backs of those in front of us and someone else’s knees digging into our backs.  We could stand, and we did frequently, but when the Contradas’ (Neighborhoods) parades began, with all their pomp and circumstance, we did so more sparingly because we blocked the view of those next to us and behind us. 

The worst part was waiting for the race to actually start.  All 10 horses had to be in the right starting positions before the restraining rope would be dropped, starting the race.  Believe it or not, this took over 1 hour to accomplish.  Various jockeys are paid huge sums to obstruct or facilitate the start of foe or friendly Contradas.  This was mainly accomplished by a jockey not guiding his horse into the correct starting position.  Countless times we heard the starter say, “Go out!  Go out!” and the horses would leave the starting area and circle around.  Then they would be called again, according to their drawn starting position.  And countless times, the crowd would emit its disapproving whistles, typical in Europe.  And it was getting darker and darker as twilight began to close around us!

PALIO STARTING LINE WITH ROPE PULLED TAUT
PALIO STARTING LINE WITH ROPE PULLED TAUT

Suddenly, the number 10 horse bolted into his slot, the starter dropped the rope, and the race was on!  In a matter of a few seconds the horses were in the straightaway right in front of us, and in several more seconds they flashed by and went into the next turn. 

Palio-Valdimonte (Ram) Jockey Unhorsing Nicchio(Shell) in Sienna July 2 2015
Palio-Valdimonte (Ram) Jockey Unhorsing Nicchio(Shell) in Sienna July 2 2015

Then, incredibly, the jockey riding for the Valdimontone (Ram) Contrada reached across to the Nicchio (Shell) jockey to his right and yanked him off his horse!  A roar of horror rose up in the crowd, and my mind was stunned by what I had just witnessed.  I thought, “How could this even happen….”  Then I remembered that there were no rules.  And I realized how easy it was to unseat the jockey, because they were all riding bareback, with no saddles or stirrups to aid them.  The others rushed on, including the jockey-less horse.  The second and third turns in the track were literally 90 degrees, and some of the horses actually careened off the far wall on those turns.  The pace was extremely fast and the three lap race was over before we were even over the shock of seeing one jockey unhorse another.

Suddenly a man who was sitting behind us charged down the steep steps, dashed out onto the dirt track and up to the jockey who did the unhorsing.  He and a couple of others helped him off his horse and spirited him away through a tunnel to safety.  Immediately thereafter a swarm of men from the unhorsed Contrada charged onto the track from our right and the Contrada whose jockey did the unhorsing spilled out onto the track from our left, with the abandoned horse trapped between them.  Fists flew and security forces quickly drove a wedge between the two Contradas.

The next twenty minutes were super-tense.  A groom kept the horse moving back and forth between the opposing forces who continued to scream at each other, while some tried to breach the security line to get at their enemy.  Nobody actually got through, but the security line appeared to be weakening.  Finally the Carabinieri National Police forced their way in, with full riot gear.  Gradually they pushed each Contrada further and further back from the other, giving more room to the horse and the groom.  Eventually they reached a space where they could leave the track for the safety of the stables.  We then made our way down the steep steps of the stands, out onto the track, and through the closest exit, thus ending our long summer afternoon of discomfort.  I’m glad we had this incredible experience, but I don’t believe I’ll do it again!  This must be an example of what people mean when they say, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience!”

The balance of the tour lacked the excitement and tension of the Palio, but certainly worth visits.  We toured the Etruscan Hill Town of Cortona which predates the arrival of the Romans.  The Etruscan Museum is comprehensive and demonstrates the power of women in their culture.  Much of their sculptures, ceramics and other art were copied by the Romans. 

ETRUSCAN POTTERY AT THE CORTONA MUSEUM
ETRUSCAN POTTERY AT THE CORTONA MUSEUM

Their tombs were reminiscent of the Egyptians, filled with possessions from this life for use in the next one.  On the day before we left Italy we did visit an actual Etruscan Burial Ground in Cerveteri, about 50 miles north of the Rome Airport.  It was an incredibly peaceful spot and several of the tombs were filled with hunting tools, beds, tables, chairs, pots and several other useful items.  It was well worth the stop.

INSIDE AN ETRUSCAN TOMB NEAR CEVETERI
INSIDE AN ETRUSCAN TOMB NEAR CERVETERI

Another very interesting stop was the medieval town of Lucca.  It is the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini. There are several good restaurants, including Ristorante Puccini nearby.  The food is good and moderately priced, but they accept cash only. We also dined at the excellent Buca di Sant’Antonio which is premium priced, but worth it.  It’s a wonderful walking town, but take your map; it’s easy to get lost in the oval-walled town.  The wall is a good landmark, but it is, after all, round.  It all looks pretty much alike, particularly at night.   

The final tour stop that lingers in my memory is the gargantuan scale of the marble quarries at Carrara.  This is where Michelangelo found the huge slab of marble with which he sculptured his famous David into a figure way larger than life.  I can pull this mine into my consciousness readily.   A few pictures will do a far better job with this image than my mere words can do.  These remain captured memories in my mind’s eye.

I would like to share the good news with you, here at the end.  The rest and the “cross training” walking while we were in Italy, plus slow running when I returned home, have resulted in recovery from the calf injuries!  I am back up to my normal training regimen of running 3 days a week and walking and other cross training 2 days!!

Please let me know if you would like to know anything more about this monumental trip.  You can send a note to me in the Leave A Reply Box below.

Thanks for traveling with me in this vicarious way.

 

RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE 24+MR. WUGIDGEM AND THE FACES OF FREEDOM-EPISODE 7

Stanford University Track
Stanford University Track

For three months now, I have incorporated a long run in my weekly training. In the past I would include easy runs, but they were not generally long. My focus was on short, fast workouts to increase my speed. More often than not, I would incur an injury sometime during the year, probably because I wasn’t allowing my body to fully repair muscle tissues broken down during the speed sessions.

I believe the long, medium and slow (including walking) runs over these past three months have boosted my fundamental muscle strength to the point where I can change my intervals distance from a minimum distance of 400 meters and higher to 300, 200, and even 100 meter repeats. I will pay particular attention to being sufficiently recovered over the next day, or more likely the next two days, before doing the next running workout.

This week I did pay attention to getting sufficient rest between my runs. On Sunday I went for my long run, with plenty of walking breaks. On Monday I walked for 33 minutes, going 1.6miles. On Tuesday I did a Tempo run. On Wednesday I played 9 holes of golf. Thursday I did 200 meter speed intervals. Friday I walked for 35 minutes, covering 1.55 miles. Finally, on Saturday I walked for 31 minutes, up a steep hill and back down, 1.5 miles.

The highlight of the week was Thursday. After the golf on Wednesday I was quite tired and my lower back was stiff. I’ve been playing golf weekly with some stiffness and fatigue afterward, but this was more than normal. I had more than a little misgiving about transitioning to faster speed intervals the following day.

I felt better in the morning, although I did not feel fully rested. But I did finally convince myself to go to the track, warm-up, and then decide if I felt up to it. I started with my slow walking and jogging 1 mile warm-up, followed by 7 minutes of stretching, and then two wind sprints. I felt pretty well, so I decided to start with four repeat 200s, and then see how I felt after those.

The workout went very well. I felt relaxed from the very first repeat, with my core relaxed, good leg turnover, high-pump arm action, and full toes push-off. I did the first four repeats at my 800 meter race goal pace, and then decided to do at least two more repeats, and perhaps two more after those. I continued to feel good, so I completed four more. I had done 8 x 200s twice earlier this year, but this workout was the fastest and my maximum heart rate was 21 beats per minute slower than during one of them and 15 beats slower than the other.

As I have mentioned before, this year I am focused on having one long and slow run each week, building slowly and resting sufficiently between running workouts to minimize the risk of injury, all too common in my past.

I would say now, “So far, so good.”

 

Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom-Episode 1

Welcome to today’s podcast and thanks for tuning in.  My favorite in the Mr. Wugidgem Fantasy Series is Book 5, Mr. Wugidgem And The Faces Of Freedom.  Today I thought I would repost Episode 1. Debby and Michael begin the day in Social Studies Class and finish it in a foreign country, several thousand miles away! 

In coming weeks I will be posting the balance of the episodes.

Enjoy!

 

 

RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE17

On Iffley Road Track, Oxford 2 weeks ago

Click on this link for the Audio Podcast Version of the written word below:

Two weeks ago I stood in my street clothes on the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, where Roger Bannister first broke the four minute mile. I had resumed training, and became aware that I was way past due for posting on my running, writing, and traveling blog.

Since I last posted, I have had 2 eye operations. The first one involved an artificial lens that was implanted after my cataract afflicted natural lens was removed 13 years ago.  For some mysterious reason, on the flight back home from Frankfurt, Germany to San Francisco,  the artificial one decided to relocate and began to wander around my eye’s sclera instead of fixed under my pupil. Here a link to an eye diagram if you may just happen to be curious: 

National Institute Of Health Eye Diagram

My good eye was still 20/20, but I quickly tired of squeezing my 20/450 afflicted eye shut to see properly, so I bought a black patch for it and spouted a lot of Pirate “Arrrrrghs” for the next 10 days.  I was pretty grumpy.

Anyway the first operation went okay and when I went to the doctor week later I could see pretty well. But the very next day the lens decided to take another hike, so they had to schedule a do-over, 2 weeks later. 

As you might expect, those 2 weeks passed really slowly. The 13 year old lens gave up the ghost during the second operation, losing its connectors, so they doctor retired it to the open road and implanted a brand-spanking new one.  This time he not only sutured it in, he glued it in!  “That lens is not going to roam anywhere,” he said. 

So far, it hasn’t even hankered for greener grass.

Anyway during all the time, the doctor prohibited me to run, lift weights, play golf, or anything more strenuous than walking. So I walked, but it was hard when you are used to running.

So I finally resumed running just over 3 months ago, at the end of June. For the first 2 weeks I did nothing more strenuous than easy runs.  Then during the next 3 weeks, I introduced a 1x 5 minute tempo run and fast striding, along with an easy run each week.  I was resting 1 to 2 days between runs, doing only push-ups and crunches on the “off” days.

Then in August, I started a few interval sessions. Here is an excerpt from one of them:

“1 mile w/u (about 15 minutes); about 7 minutes of stretching (45 second bent knee stretches each leg, 45 second straight knee, turned-in foot, stretches each leg, 20 hamstring and quad full leg swings forward and backward each leg, 20 toe liftings and lowerings each foot); 2 x 20 step fast strides (4:51 seconds, rest 71 seconds, 4:50 seconds), rested 1:31, then 1 x 22 step fast strides in 10:52 seconds; rest 3 minutes, then 3 x 200 meters (45:11, 2:00 rest, 46:00, rest 3:30-the time it took my heart rate to drop back to 120, 42:94);  about 1.25 miles w/d in 20:42  Average HR 120, peak HR 159, burned about 450 calories.  These fast strides are about the fastest yet!” Continue reading RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE17

RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE17

On Iffley Road Track, Oxford 2 weeks ago

Click on this link for the Audio Podcast Version of the written word below:

Two weeks ago I stood in my street clothes on the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, where Roger Bannister first broke the four minute mile. I had resumed training, and became aware that I was way past due for posting on my running, writing, and traveling blog.

Since I last posted, I have had 2 eye operations. The first one involved an artificial lens that was implanted after my cataract afflicted natural lens was removed 13 years ago.  For some mysterious reason, on the flight back home from Frankfurt, Germany to San Francisco,  the artificial one decided to relocate and began to wander around my eye’s sclera instead of fixed under my pupil. Here a link to an eye diagram if you may just happen to be curious: 

National Institute Of Health Eye Diagram

My good eye was still 20/20, but I quickly tired of squeezing my 20/450 afflicted eye shut to see properly, so I bought a black patch for it and spouted a lot of Pirate “Arrrrrghs” for the next 10 days.  I was pretty grumpy.

Anyway the first operation went okay and when I went to the doctor week later I could see pretty well. But the very next day the lens decided to take another hike, so they had to schedule a do-over, 2 weeks later. 

As you might expect, those 2 weeks passed really slowly. The 13 year old lens gave up the ghost during the second operation, losing its connectors, so they doctor retired it to the open road and implanted a brand-spanking new one.  This time he not only sutured it in, he glued it in!  “That lens is not going to roam anywhere,” he said. 

So far, it hasn’t even hankered for greener grass.

Anyway during all the time, the doctor prohibited me to run, lift weights, play golf, or anything more strenuous than walking. So I walked, but it was hard when you are used to running.

So I finally resumed running just over 3 months ago, at the end of June. For the first 2 weeks I did nothing more strenuous than easy runs.  Then during the next 3 weeks, I introduced a 1x 5 minute tempo run and fast striding, along with an easy run each week.  I was resting 1 to 2 days between runs, doing only push-ups and crunches on the “off” days.

Then in August, I started a few interval sessions. Here is an excerpt from one of them:

“1 mile w/u (about 15 minutes); about 7 minutes of stretching (45 second bent knee stretches each leg, 45 second straight knee, turned-in foot, stretches each leg, 20 hamstring and quad full leg swings forward and backward each leg, 20 toe liftings and lowerings each foot); 2 x 20 step fast strides (4:51 seconds, rest 71 seconds, 4:50 seconds), rested 1:31, then 1 x 22 step fast strides in 10:52 seconds; rest 3 minutes, then 3 x 200 meters (45:11, 2:00 rest, 46:00, rest 3:30-the time it took my heart rate to drop back to 120, 42:94);  about 1.25 miles w/d in 20:42  Average HR 120, peak HR 159, burned about 450 calories.  These fast strides are about the fastest yet!” Continue reading RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE17

RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE16

Stanford University Track-Another View
Stanford University Track-Another View

I have been reviewing my workouts since the beginning of the year, in an attempt to unearth progress and setbacks during this 5 month period.  Because of hernia and eye operations during the first half of last year, I had spent the second half of 2013 doing a lot of easy running.  I was injury free. 

In January of this year, I began to do some speedwork, but at a 2 mile pace, rather than an 800 meter one.  I was doing 200s, 300s and 400s, usually 4 or 5 repeats, with a 2 to 3 minute rest interval, depending on how I felt.  I got through January injury free.

At the beginning of February, I began to increase the speed of my repeats to my 800 meter pace and I dropped the rest interval to the 2 minute range, but still did 4 or 5 repeats.  I felt very good during these repeats.  On February 27 I felt excellent, having rested 3 days, but on the 4th 200 meter repeat, my left glute cramped at about the 80 meter mark, so I stopped.  I rested 90 seconds, then ran 100 meters at my slower 2 mile pace, rested 2 ½ minutes, and then ran one more 100 meters at the 2 mile pace.  I prayed I wasn’t injured too seriously. Continue reading RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE-EPISODE16

RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE – EPISODE 13

View From The Doris Duke Estate, Honolulu, Hawaii
View From The Doris Duke Estate, Honolulu, Hawaii

Welcome to www.allanwchapman.com!  This blog is primarily about running, with periodic travel episodes woven in.  Today’s post features travel to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu, including Waikiki, Honolulu, and Ko Olina.  The running update will come at the end.

In recent years, my wife and I have discovered the best travel bargains appear to be during the second week of December.  Hotels, restaurants, and car rental agencies all have told us this is a slow week.  The largest discounts have been at the hotels.  Even the airlines’ algorithms have permitted them to offer a modest discount this week. 

We spent the first night at the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach. 

Royal Hawaiian Hotel

We have stayed at the “Pink Hotel” previously during the peak season in a garden view room, but during the second week of December we were able to get an ocean front view room at the same rate as the normal garden view in peak season.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel Ocean View
Royal Hawaiian Hotel Ocean View

For dinner, we returned to the Azure, the hotel’s premier restaurant.  We had thoroughly enjoyed their prix fixe (tasting menu) on our previous visit this past March, so we were quick to choose this 5 course option again.  We were not disappointed.  Each course was an innovative, delectable creation.  The portions were modest and the serving pace was leisurely, so we were sated, not stuffed, when we finished the sumptuous meal.  Here is the menu: 

Azure Tasting Menu

At 7 the next morning I was the first customer down on the beach to reserve lounge chairs in the Royal Hawaiian roped-off section of Waikiki.  I reserved chairs 15 and 16, which we had liked during our March visit because they provided easy access to the Mai Tai Bar and Restaurant, as well as to the rest rooms.  

After breakfast we swabbed on liberal amounts of sunscreen (mandatory in the hot Hawaiian sun), and took the pool elevator which actually was the closest access to our beach lounge chairs.   

And we did lounge in our chairs, alternating between people watching and reading.  We spotted more tattoos than we had ever seen in our lives, with some of the people having little flesh showing between the tattoos.  We also looked out from time to time at the scores of surfers, paddling and waiting for good waves.  There were a few good ones, but I’m sure it was a disappointing day for most of the surfers.  The big surf came later in the week.  This was a very enjoyable, relaxing time for us, but after about 2 hours, the sun’s heat really cooked us.  We made the short walk across the sand, up the ramp and into the Mai Tai Restaurant. 

We had found a really good rate at the Marriott Ocean Club in Ko Olina a few days before we left home.  This is a time-share facility, but they do have units available to the public.  So, after lunch, we set out on the 22 mile drive to Ko Olina.  If you’ve ever been to Hawaii and watched the TV News, you know what we ran into on the H1 freeway.  The traffic was even worse than normal because the highway crews were working during daylight hours to finish repairs by the end of the week so they could enjoy their Christmas Holidays.  Anyway, it took us 2 ½ hours to make the 22 mile journey.         

A new Monkey Pod Restaurant has been opened since our last visit to Ko Olina.  We had discovered their Maui Restaurant earlier in the year in Wailea and had enjoyed it so much that we returned a second time.  The Ko Olina is only about a one mile walk from the Marriott, so we decided to hoof it there-no rain in the forecast.  We were rewarded with delicious meals.  My wife ordered the Saimin Noodles, with Kalua Pork, broccoli, green beans, bean sprouts, red onion, cilantro, mint and peanuts.  I had fish tacos with cilantro, cabbage, roasted tomato salsa, avocado cream, served on double corn tortillas.  I really enjoyed my entrée, but I must say I really, really liked the several bites of my wife’s Saimin Noodles more.  In fact, I ordered it when we returned a couple of days later and was not disappointed.  As good as the entrees were, the dessert was better.  They offer strawberry cream pie, banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie, and coconut cream pie.

The next day we headed back into Honolulu for a tour of Shangri La, the Estate of the late Doris Duke.  Based on the horrific traffic out of Honolulu the previous afternoon, we allowed 2 ½ hours for this trip.  We were facing a return trip to Ko Olina during the afternoon commute hours, so I was expecting the entire day to be stressful and disappointing.

Wow, was I wrong!  We sailed in, part of it in the high occupancy vehicle lane, so we reached the parking lot next to the Honolulu Museum of Art School in less than an hour.  We paid $5 for 5 hours parking and then hurried over to the Honolulu Museum of Art one block away. Because of no-shows, we were able to get the last 2 seats on the bus for 9 a.m. tour instead of the 10:30 a.m. we were booked on. 

The bus ride took about 20 minutes, climbing up Diamond Head Mountain, around, and down the far side.  We drove through the entrance gate, and then down the winding driveway to the front of the house.  As we disembarked, we gazed upon what appeared to be a small, simple and plain house.  It sure didn’t look like what we expected Shangri La to be. 

Doris Duke Estate Front Door With Camels
Doris Duke Estate Front Door With Camels

The bus load of us were split into 2 tour groups, with the first going into the house and the second to start in the gardens before proceeding into the house.  My wife and I were pressed into the second group and moments later we were through the garden wall door.  We look around and we realized that we were indeed in Shangri La.  To the far left we caught side of the tiered house, built into the side of the mountain, far larger than it appeared from the front façade we first saw.  To the right of the house, the Pacific stretched out from the bottom edge of the property.  Straight ahead lay the magnificent Mughal Garden, with Diamond Head Mountain rising behind it.  Shangri La is a beautiful estate perched on 4.9 acres of prime ocean front, downward sloping land.  The Garden is an emulation of the Royal Garden of the Mughal Emperors of India in the 16th and 17th centuries, which first impressed Doris Duke during her honeymoon there in 1935.

Doris Duke Estate Mughal Garden
Doris Duke Estate Mughal Garden

We retraced our steps through the garden wall door and then entered the house through a similar door, into the foyer.  Islamic art and written language abounded, expressing Doris Duke’s love for this ancient expression from the Middle East, India and Pakistan.  The entire house is designed around the Islamic theme.

Here are the highlights:

The Mihrab Room is a dimly lit chamber, which has as its focus a luster ceramic on one of the walls.  This is known as a Mihrab and orients Islamic worshipers towards Mecca, to which they pray 5 times daily.  The rest of the sanctuary features beautiful restored tile works and other ceramics.  

The Damascus Room is a re-creation of an opulent area where guests were received.  The walls and ceiling are wood, embellished with gold, tin, and copper, as well as multicolored glazes.  As I recall (photography inside the house is forbidden), the guests sit on a circular ottoman in the center of the room, and the hosts are seated along the walls.

The Living Room is bright, long and spacious, with a spectacular view of Diamond Head through a floor-to-ceiling window, which also runs the full width of the room.  Our guide told us the window could be totally retracted into the floor for unobstructed viewing of the Pacific and the Mountain. 

The Dining Room is a re-creation of an Islamic Tent.  The walls and ceilings are totally covered with striped blue fabric, which is embellished with Egyptian and Indian appliques.  A magnificent Baccarat Chandelier hangs from the center of the ceiling, and the south and west wall fabric panels can be raised to let views of the Pacific and Diamond Head into the room.  I really could imagine myself in a spacious elegant tent somewhere out in the Sahara.

As I mentioned earlier, I was really pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this tour so much.  Doris Duke left her Estate for the public to enjoy, and I for one found it a real pleasure.  If you would like to learn more about booking the tour and more of what is there, you can go to: http://www.shangrilahawaii.org.

We spent 3 more days in the relative calm of Ko Olina (versus the Waikiki frenzy outside the grounds of the Royal Hawaiian).  We sat in the shade of a tree next to the beach, and then actually went into the Marriott Lagoon water for a few minutes.  We walked to Roy’s for dinner one evening and got caught in a downpour on the way back.  It does rain in Hawaii!  The next day the waves were up, so the surfers were finally happy!

I also did 3 x 5 minute tempo runs along the Hawaiian Railway tracks, which cuts straight through the Ko Olina Golf Course.  Continue reading RUNNING, WRITING, AND TRAVELING FOR LIFE – EPISODE 13

EPISODE 10.TEN DAYS IN TUSCANY-THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY

VIEW FROM VILLA LE BARONE IN TUSCANY
VIEW FROM VILLA LE BARONE IN TUSCANY

Alas, it’s been another dry spell in my blogging.   I can’t think of a particularly good excuse other than I’ve been really busy with running, work, and in particular, travel.  That is why I am focusing on travel in today’s blog.

My wife and I just returned from ten days in Tuscany, Italy.  Most of it was Ecstasy, but there were times of Agony as well.  The pain started immediately after leaving the car rental lot.  I had gotten Google directions from the Florence Airport to the Villa Le Barone in Panzano and turned right, looking for Via L. Gori.  When got to the first intersection, we could not find it.  I turned around and retraced our steps, facing one lane of oncoming traffic.  Then suddenly I saw one, then two, then three oncoming cars, so I pulled off to the side right away.  I finally realized the exit road from the car rental lot is one way!  We knew we had to find the A1 towards Rome which we eventually found after a few more false starts.

We were able to follow the Google directions along the A1, then onto the Raccordo Autostradale Firenze-Siena with no difficulty, but when we took the Cassia exit, our Agony returned.  The problem was simply there were very few street signs.  By that time, my wife had been able to connect her GPS, so when I made one wrong turn, she was able to see we were going off course.  We finally found Route 118, which was also pretty hard to follow, because there were many forks in the road and Route 118 wasn’t always signposted.  Anyway, I won’t bore you any more with the rest of the details because we ultimately made it to Villa Le Barone.  If you do this trip, be sure to specify in your trip search engine that you are leaving from the car rental facility, not the Florence Airport.  Also be sure to choose both the maps and large map options if you go to the print screen at Google Maps.  The maps option will show you all the turns.  Hopefully this will reduce the Agony.

EVENING AT VILLA LE BARONE
EVENING AT VILLA LE BARONE

We got our first taste of Ecstasy as we caught a glimpse of the Villa, driving past the gated entrance, up on the hill to our right.   We could see the Villa through the open arched gateway, a serene, stately edifice against the rich blue Tuscan sky. Once inside the Villa we checked in, climbed the stone stairway to the European first floor, and then we found our way to our spacious room, with great views of the orchards and vineyards in the serene valley below.  Later, as we toured the ground floor of the Villa, we found a sitting room, complete with a fireplace, a library, game room and lounge.  Immediately we felt at home.  Continue reading EPISODE 10.TEN DAYS IN TUSCANY-THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY