Taiwan is a warm, tropical world, and southern Taiwan is especially so. This week, we have experienced its harsher side, being baked for hours on end in the strong sunlight, and also its more softer side, in the humid and slightly cooler nighttime. On Sunday evening, we arrived in Taitung, our first excursion on this visit to the eastern coast of Taiwan. The city of Taitung itself lies in the giant East Rift Valley, and brilliant mountain scenery surrounds it.
On our first night, we went to Siwei Night Market, which was quoted on Tripadvisor as being “a more rustic night market”. What they mean by that is that it’s decidedly for locals. Many night markets more renowned in bigger Taiwanese cities have stands which boast neon signs, each more garish than its neighbor’s, and often feature a flat screen TV that loops a news segment about the stand. Siwei Night Market had almost none of that. We did get a delicious crepe stuffed with smoked chicken and vegetables for Steve and a bowl of steaming hot spicy stinky tofu for me (it tastes much better than it sounds!). We also watched several men at open-air karaoke, which seems to be a pursuit for the 50 and above, not that it’s easy to tell the age of Asian men. But they had just set up along one of the aisles of the night market, and were warbling songs in Taiwanese into a microphone which reverberated around it. Steve and I watched for several minutes, entranced. Continue reading Summer on the East Coast of Taiwan.→
It is a sleepy mid-afternoon in Greenville, South Carolina. The air is thick and warm in the screened back patio, like honey, and in the woods behind the house, insects are starting the eternal hum and drone that will forever sound like summer to me. The dogs were with me on the back porch, lying in the sunshine, but have now decided to retreat into the house and lounge about there instead. This is our treat, after so many hectic days of travel, to wake up and not have anything in particular to do, to eat anything we want and to get an offer to drive us to Bruegger’s or Trader Joe’s. And to stay in a wonderful house which has a backyard and a wealth of air-conditioning. (Really, people in Europe have an inexplicable grudge against A/C and fans.) Steve’s parents Rich and Karen gave us the kindest, most enthusiastic welcome home last Tuesday which was just fabulous. We even got some banners with Stella’s face on them!
And of course, the dogs. Rich and Karen’s charges (better known as the Dogs of Woodstone) are Chudleigh (their grave, older golden retriever), Taco (Steve’s brother’s 3 year-old quiet but rambunctious Chow mix), and of course, our Stella (3 year-old irrepressibly cute and sassy corgi mix). I have been speculating this whole trip about whether Stella will remember us. The answer is: yes! It just took a little while. When we first got back a week ago, Stella barked around and sniffed us and licked us and was quite enthusiastic, but simmered down quickly. Within a few days, however, she came to find us at night and stopped sleeping at the foot of Steve’s parents’ bed! She’s most certainly readapted to having us around, and it is beautiful. I’ve really missed having this dog around, though both Steve and I know she is the most spoiled thing in existence. Expect the reappearance of Stella photos on the Flickr! Continue reading South Carolina summer.→
Summer is in full flower in Basse-Normandie, and it has brought the funniest weather I’ve ever seen. Murray and Julie joke that there’s no point to checking the weather forecast (or what the French call the météo), since it always has a bit of everything: we wake up to brisk and sunny mornings that quickly warm up to hot middays, and work through cloudy afternoons interspersed with drizzle against the windowpanes. It usually clears up in time for brilliant sunsets around 10 pm, and true darkness only descends after midnight. We’ve been keeping quite busy, with our animals and our work, but finding time somehow to admire the weather and the landscape around us. Continue reading The dog days of Normandy.→
This is truly an animal house. No frat brothers and no kegs of beer in sight; instead, the denizens are six dogs and two cats, and we are enjoying quiet cups of tea while watching the World Cup. Murray and Julie’s Normandy colombage house is incredibly cozy, and I’m just having a ball sitting here, sipping on some tea and trying to decide which of the dogs to cuddle with or the cats to pet. This is worlds away from where we were this morning, but still every bit as French (kind of) and lovely.
This morning, Steve and I woke up and promptly got about cleaning everything in sight and packing the rest of our things. Yesterday, I had already run errands to replace some of the household goods we had used and to mail off more postcards and a package. We had also done a farewell visit to the park and our favorite boulangerie. Before we knew it, we were on a train speeding out of Lyon. It was really hard to believe as the morning went on, as we carried our things out of the apartment, turned off the gas, and deposited the last of the trash, that we were really leaving. This is the second longest time we’ve spent in any one place, the only one longer being in Taiwan! It’s been hard to say goodbye to all our favorite corners… Lyon is not a must-visit place in France as far as that goes, but it is a most livable and comfortable and nice corner of the country. Continue reading Animal House.→
This morning, the next-to-last morning in Koh Samui, we woke up and by mutual unspoken agreement, we brushed our teeth, put on contacts, and trotted out with our e-readers to the restaurant by the beach, which is just a hundred feet away, for our breakfast (Steve’s opinion) or lunch (my opinion).
It is gorgeous every morning, in a delicate way. The sun has not yet warmed to its peak, and so the air is light and breezy. The tide is high so that each crashing wave (the water is far more turbulent here than on Koh Phangan) swirls around the bottom of the stone steps that lead up to the restaurant. The long swing that is tied to the tallest palm tree swings over the sea as well as the sand, and yesterday, we spent a while jumping at the apex of the swing into the sea. It was only about three feet deep at that point, and Steve teasingly told me that I looked ungraceful crashing into the water, and then diving forward.