Neighborhood series

Neighborhood series

If You Are in the Neighborhood: Going Up in Yosemite

Half Dome and Cloud's Rest, on the far left, frame this photo with Vernal and Nevada falls. This was taken at Glacier Point.

On the way up, we got many great views of Yosemite Falls.

A series of posts from our travels.

The next time you are enjoying a spring or early summer day in California's Yosemite Valley, the Four-Mile Trail is a great way to get to the high country while experiencing views of the park and its waterfalls that change as you turn every corner.

The trail begins near Sentinel Beach in Yosemite Valley. There is about 3,200 feet of elevation gain, so we wouldn't recommend it on a hot summer day. It is a vigorous trek. This was the original way to get to Glacier Point before the present road was built.

At the top (Glacier Point), the views are unparalleled. There are snacks and hot food in the store and restrooms nearby.

A warning: the trip down can be tough on the knees, so take your time.

If you are not game for the walk up, catch the shuttle bus at Yosemite Lodge, which will take you to Glacier Point, then hike down. The bus sometimes books up, so you may want to reserve seats.

The vast majority of Yosemite visitors never venture to the park's high country. But those who know the park say, “go up!”

Our sons Brad and Andrew along with some friends came along to take in the views.


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If You Are in the Neighborhood: Glens of Scotland

A series of posts from our travels.

Ah, Scotland! Indeed, it is a magical place in so many ways.

After a year living there and two return trips, Scotland has a special place in our hearts. We are drawn by great friends as well as the good times and many laughs we always share with them. Another attraction, as Sue likes to say, is you never know what surprise awaits around the next corner.

Our friends Malcolm and Barbara, who live in Dundee, took us on a wonderful hill walk from Glen Clova when we first moved to Scotland. Malcolm showed our three sons to roll down the hill in the heather.

The glens, or valleys, of Scotland hold unique opportunities for walking and picnics. Two of our favorites are Glen Clova and Glen Esk, both a short drive north from Dundee. They are easy to access, but are on roads less traveled (especially Glen Esk).

Just pack your picnic (we like sandwiches made from “bap” rolls that we buy at Tesco) and the trails from the parking areas will lead you on adventures. Hike for an hour, or for days if you choose.


Up the hill to a loch, along a riverside or lochside path. At Glen Esk, we stumbled upon a small tower castle (Invermark) on our way to Loch Lee.

Water cascades down a hill at Glen Esk.

As we drove to and from the glens, we treasured the detours. At Glen Esk, The Retreat near Tarfside offered tea and scones that were alone worth the drive. And, we had to visit Edzel Castle just down the road.

Along the narrow, winding roads of Scotland, we often found ourselves pulling over to take in the view. Or, to take a short walk along a wee brook.

We eagerly await our next chance to experience Scotland's magic!


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If You Are in the Neighborhood: Bon apéttit!

A series of posts from our travels.

Outdoor food courts in Beijing offer starfish and scorpions, among many other delicacies.

Would you eat grilled centipedes? How about haggis? Would you wash down your meal with some wine fermented in a bottle with three poisonous snakes?

For me, the answer to the first two questions was “no.” When walking along an outdoor food court in Beijing, some Chinese men offered me what looked like a grilled centipede from a stick. I turned them down and they laughed. In Scotland, during a wonderful Burns Supper evening at a friend's home, I could not bring myself to eat the haggis. Sue did!

On a return trip to China, I was offered snake wine during a Li River cruise and, remembering my regret at not grabbing a centipede from the young Chinese guys and tossing it in my mouth, I (very reluctantly) ordered a glass. It tasted like whiskey, made my tongue numb, and I surprised the Chinese hosts who were used to being turned down. We all had some great laughs when I tried to speak.

When we lived in Scotland, friends visiting from the U.S. brought canned pumpkin so we could make pies for Thanksgiving. I took a pie to work; some of the Scots tried it, but others would not. In fact, they were repulsed by the idea.

I hope I can become a more adventurous eater when I travel. Perhaps a bit more wine before a meal might help.

What is your favorite food story from your travels?


There was a surprise ending to this drink.


A Scottish tea room offered tea, fresh scones, clotted cream and jam. Along with our friends Doug and Kathy, we could not turn them down!



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If You Are in the Neighborhood: Ancient Beijing

A series of posts from our travels.

One of the three Black Lakes near the Forbidden City.

A hutong, or narrow alleyway, in Beijing.

Beijing is a sprawling city marked by rapid modernization that has led to the leveling of many ancient courtyard homes (siheyuan) and narrow alleyways (hutongs). The destruction and resulting displacement of people has been controversial and there is an effort to preserve and renovate homes in areas near the Forbidden City. Guidebooks highlight walking and rickshaw tours and both times I was in Beijing, our tour groups were offered a luncheon in a family's courtyard home for a reasonable extra charge. If you have the chance, don't miss it. It was the best food of two trips to China.

A popular so-called hutong neighborhood is near the Black Lakes area about a mile from the Forbidden city. There are many bars and cafes around the lakes. Tourists and locals stroll and bicycle around the lakes.

Our group, in photo at left, enjoys a tasty lunch in a Chinese family's courtyard home.



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