Sunday, April 30, 2006


A techie, I'm not but I love new technology even though I'm almost the last to own some of these new stuff. This could be a digital camera, a DVD player or anything. I have a lot of pictures because of my travels. Not all of them were taken by a digital camera, in fact I've only learned how to use my digital camera the last few trips. So I have lots of trips when I've missed photo ops and I have lots of pictures that were taken with a cheapie 35mm film camera. I had trouble finding film in France the last trip and when I found them they were exorbitant. For this reason I loved my color scanner printer. I can scan some of my pictures into my PC and then use these pictures. Take this picture, it was taken with a Kodak Advantix. The developed picture was scanned into my PC and I just uploaded it for use in this blog. I told a friend about how to do this and it sounded like I am this great tech wizard. I can scan pictures from books and magazines and use it like I would with this picture. This is a back alley in Venice, far from the madding crowd. Every nook and cranny in Venice is a photo op.


I've been ordering a lot of books from It's a used book outlet who has access to all the used books on the market. I'm surprised that the books I want to read are mostly out of print. I just received from them, Vincent Cronin's book, "The Golden Honeycomb". I've yet to find out why Sicily is referred to as the golden honeycomb. I'm really excited about reading this book and finding out more about Sicily. I'mm planning to go there in March 2007. I plan all my vacations a year ahead, usually reading as much as I can about the place so I can maximize my trip. I read that this is a timeless book, first edition was in 1954 and have had several editions since and is still consulted as a travel guide to Sicily. Wow! What a honor to have one's work outliving one's life. My best loved books are books like this. Maybe it's because they didn't have TV, they didn't spend most of their waking moments in front of the TV screen. I grew up at a time when we were so poor we didn't have TV. When I was a kid we had to amuse ourselves in other ways. I read most of the time and dreamed a lot. Growing up on the island of Borneo, I dreamt of far away places. Little did I knew then that I would eventually live in a far off land and also to travel to other far off lands, even lands associated with Homer.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

traveling cheaply 2

8 grand puits, Carcassonne, France. Nicole, the owner of the building owns a little boutique at the bottom floor, she lives on the floor above the shop. She rents out the floor above the floor she lives in. It's right in the middle of the medieval city. A room at a regular hotel costs a lot more, more like 150euros per person per night. Of course the bed sheets are not made or changed everyday, neither are yours at home. I read the sheets on sleeper trains in China are only changed every 4 persons. That was 20 years ago. I don't know about today. I'm going to Sicily next Spring and to China next Fall. So I'm reading up about both Sicily and China. I usually read up before taking the trip. I want to maximise my time there. It costs so much and it takes up a lot of effort. It's hard work. It's intense living, a lot of living compressed into 2 weeks. Last
year I was supposed to walk the Camino Santiago de Compostela. I trained for it for 5 months but changed my mind. I still took the trip to Santiago de Compostela in Norther Spain. I'm in the middle of writing about the trip before it becomes a distant memory. Already it is fading. Every place I go to becomes a new favorite for me. Right now I'm enamored by little pastel colored fishing villages in the Italian Riviera and also by Baroque churches and architecture. It used to be Gothic till I discovered Baroque. Life is good. Goethe said, whatever you dream of doing, begin, boldness has power, magic and genius in it. I have loved this saying and have lived by it ever since I discovered it. If this blog inspires you, let me know. If you need to know more about how to live the good life, let me know. The kids wants to go back to Carcassonne, of all the places, not Paris, not the Loire.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

traveling cheaply

That's an oxymoron statement. With oil prices the way it is, there are no cheap flights anymore or even off season prices. But there are still ways to lower the cost of a trip. If we have a more flexible mindset we can even have fun. In Europe a lot of families rent out rooms in their homes especially when they live in a historic town. All over the Cinque Terre we saw signs of rooms to rent. There are not many hotels in the Cinque Terre. So when one comes to town especially during the busy summer months one can inquire at tourism offices. When I was there in March this year, I rented someone's apartment. I found it on Rick Steves' guide book and I emailed the owners. They wanted to know when I'll be arriving. I logged on Trenitalia and found their schedule and I was able to give them an eta. Someone was waiting for me when I arrived to give me the key and for me to hand over the money, 46 euros per night which was a good deal for a room with an attached bathroom. I paid 80 euros for a room at a hostel in Rome with no toilet or bathroom. In Carcassonne, France I paid 64 euros for a loft in the medieval city for 4 people. We lived in a top floor room with a kitchenette and bathroom and we look out over towers and turrets. The kids loved it, it was like living in a castle. I prefer these down home places to stay. It makes for a more memorable stay. In Naples I paid 25 euros for a dumpy hostel. They provided breakfast which was a coffee and a packaged roll. It sustained us the whole morning till lunch. I didn't mind, I saved a lot of money. The owner was nice in a european way. When I started going to Europe six years ago, the exchange rate was better, I stayed in more expensive hotels. I remember this pretty chateau I stayed in, in Avignon. It was the most charming and french place. Today I stay in more down home (dumpy) places. When I pick a place from a guide book I pick friendly. It it says, nice and friendly staff, then that's where I'll stay. Not just friendly, I have to add, safe. Safe and friendly, in european terms are different from american. Be flexible and keep an open mind, as Rick Steves said, be militantly positive. And you will have a lot of fun and come home with a lot of happy memories. And you can't wait to go back again for more.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

boos etc

Books can give us ideas on how we want to live. It can help us set new goals and help us achieve them. The bible is full of encouragement and assurances. With all kinds of knowledge we can nevr fail to live life at a different and higher level. I can say at this moment that this is how I have always wanted my life to be. I am not sitting on my laurels. I want more and the quest goes on. I am excited about getting up in the morning and I do not want the day to end. I am surrounded by books and I want to write some of my own. Sometimes I forget but writing this blog has helped remind me of how wonderful life is. We watch too much TV. We can make our lives to be far more than the most fascinating life we see on TV or the tabloids. A life filled with meaningful work, wonderful and informative books and interesting people. In the book of Deuteronomy, " it's the Lord that gives us the power to get wealth" The Lord is your exceeding great reward. God is spirit and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The Lord is spiritual ideas, fresh and new. Ideas that are worked out to bring prosperity. Job said, "assign your gold and silver to the dust, let the Lord be your gold and silver." If God is your source, what else would you need. Assk today for the spiritual solutions that will prosper you. What are the needs in your life? Better yet, what are the goals in your life? Ask today that you will prosper beyond measure.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

books, more books

My favorite bookstores are used book stores. I've been known to spend up to $100 at a time at any used bookstore. I love used book stores especially online used books outlets like My bill at can rival my bill at Right I'm reading about Sicily because I am making plans to visit Sicily next year. The offerings at Amazon is pretty thin but at Alibris, it's a different story. I love books by older authors. Clearly some of the best books were written by authors who lived long ago. My first book on Metaphysics was written by James Allen, "As a man thinketh". He opened the door to the vast collection of other writers in that genre including Ralph Waldo Emerson. It has given me power I have never felt in my life. It opened up new understanding, well, it was new to me. With greater understanding I am less puzzled. Being puzzled and being in the dark is a very painful thing. I came to understand myself and that is a freeing experience. I am no longer shackled to ignorance. It is a very powerful experience. I can be what I want to be. I can live how I want to, go where I want to and I'm doing just that. We are limited in our knowledge and experiences. Through reading we have access to other people's knowledge and experiences. With that knowledge, we can say to ourselves, I can do that and do it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

creative licence

This is what books can do for you. This is what a book did for me. I bought a book on how to give myself creative licence and guess what I've been discovering the artist in me. I always have color pencils and drawing paper with me especially when I travel besides my camera. Jim Rohn said in his book, take pictures, take lots of pictures. I do. He also said, read a book, read 2 books, have a library. Get a good idea from a book, get a few good ideas. I say, do something, start saving, start dreaming. Mary Engelbreit said, if you don't start, how are you going to get there? When you read, when you start doing something, you will discover your passion. Rick Steves took his first trip to Europe right after High School and discovered his passion, 30 years later his travel business does M$20 a year. Sometimes I'm afraid to look at my bank statements, not lately, not that there is more money but I want to face the issue of money head on. If there is a problem I don't want to defer it. Who's going to solve it but me? The sooner I do the better. It's the same with my expenses, my budget and my credit card statements. Make the money, save the money, having a little bit more money will allow you more creative licence.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

favorite books

Again in "The adventure of Living", Paul Tournier said, God is a God of adventure and man is made in the image of God. It is only to man and not to other animals that God has imparted this spirit of adventure. And for life to be meaningful, it must be lived in this same sense of adventure. It is only a life lived in the Holy Spirit; it is only a life "hid in Christ" that this sense of adventure is sustainable. Often with earthly adventures, we soon get bored. The adventure is not sustainable. With the Holy Spirit, it is "each morning, new mercies we see!" The Holy Spirit renews and refreshes. Emmett Fox said, "the Holy Spirit doesn't do anything twice". I used to travel with a mind to see the world's oldest monument. I didn't think I would have fun just seeing cute little pastel colored buildings perched up against rocky hillside. Little did I know I would become enamored with the Italian Riviera.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

books, books, books

Those who don't read will serve those who read.
I don't remember where I found these words. I should not only write down the quotation but also write down the source. I have notes everywhere just as I have books everywhere. I counted I have at least 700 books and the collection is growing. Reviewing my notes I have these written down, embolden, encourage, energize, comfort, Wow! Are these not powerful words? One book, besides the bible, is intrumental in changing my life dramatically. It motivated me to walk out of a marriage . I literally packed my bags and left and have never looked back however hard it was initially. That book is "The adventure of Living" by Paul Tournier. It's out of print but you can still find it in used book sources. I've owned 3 copies in my life and have 2 in my possession now. He said God is a God of adventure and it is only to man that He has given this instinct, not to the other animals. I began to question my own life, where is the adventure? Since then my quest in life is to seek the adventure of living and to continue living from one adventure to another.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

not so cheap thrills

Here we are at the entrance of the Blue Grotto near the Isle of Capri, Italy. The row boats are collecting money. Then we were transferred to the row boats and taken into the grotto. It was thrilling but not cheap. I'm setting Microsoft Word to type out details of my trip and inserting this and many other photos. I think the photos are priceless. I've worker hard and saved hard to make trips like this possible. I'm now preparing for next year's trip to Sicily. It's been an incredible learning experience. Before I left on this trip I watched Rick Steves's program on Cinque Terre and then in less than a week's time I was there. I saw pictures of Matera and I was breathless when I actually stepped into the Sassi village. Years ago I watched Globetrekkers's program on PBS when one of their travelers went to Southern Italy and to Alberobello to see the trulli village. Little did I think then I would one day be at the same place. It's almost surreal. Five years ago, some friends and I decided we'll all go together to Provence. When the day came, one by one cancelled. I found myself going alone. Since then I've not stopped. This was my 10th trip in 6 years. Cin! Cin! Here's to life.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Cinque Terre, Italy

This was one of the highlights of my trip to Italy last March. It rained on and off and it was freezing cold. I love this kind of weather. It makes for more comfortable traveling. Southern Europe at this time is already warming up and it is as spectacular. The vistas were beautiful, the food fresh and excellent, the people were wardm and friendly. We stayed at hostels and at hotels, if possible we shared a common bathroom, toilet and shower. I'm not a young person but it didn't bother me to share accomodations with very young people. The US dollar is not worth much in Europe and airfares are high. So the only way to travel is as cheaply as possible, staying near train stations and taking the trains and going second class. This is so that I bring home pictures like this, quaint little Italian fishing villages, ancient ruins and Baroque churches. An american sitting next to us said the last time he was in Europe was 10 years ago. I couldn't make it through 10 months without being in Europe. I like Let's Go guide books. I use the internet all the time to make reservations and I take with me intructions on how to get to the hotel/hostels. I've always found them, after asking many questions. French rails have preprinted schedules which is very handy. You can find out when your stop is. Italian rail is different, if you haven't found out beforehand the name of the stop before yours, you'll be at a lost. Each time the train slows down I have to get up to ask a local the name of the stop, I do this till I find my stop. Sometimes there is an English speaking passenger on board who cold tell me how many stops more before mine. Traveling independently means one has to be outgoing, not afraid to make a fool of oneself. After 10 trips to Europe the past 6 years I have developed a very thick skin. As a whole having lived this long, I have developed a relatively thick skin. I'm loving it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

cinque terre, Italy

Vernazza, a really pretty fishing village in the Italian Riviera, and part of the cinque terre, a collection of 5 fishing villages, all linked by a hiking trail. It has been designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. It's becoming popular among Americans after being publicized by 2 travel writers, Rick Steves and Rudy Maxa. On the day we were in Vernazza, there were a lot of Americans. We walked the whole 7 mles linking all 5 villages. Cinque terre actually is 5 lands in Italian. The first 2 trails linking Monterosso and Vernazza and Corniglia were extremely gruelling. The fact that it rained didn't help because it made the trails muddy and slippery. It was the most beautiful hike. I strongly recommend visiting and walking the whole hike. The hike from Corniglia to Manarola is easier. The hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore is the easiet and is dubbed "the lover's lane". The views are superb, the seafood is fresh caught and the wines are world class. It's a wonderful place under heaven. The people were really nice, they love visitors and what visitors does for their economy. It's also a national park and a fee has to paid to walk the trails and use the train service. Only the cinque trains can stop at 4 of the 5 villages.


I love Europe. I was in Italy and France last month, my 10th trip in 6 years. With each trip I get more daring and now look for more off the beaten path places in Europe. I went to Southern Italy, to the Adriatic coast. I feel I can now tackle Palermo and Sicily. So I'm going to save for Sicily next March. I bought this card at a little hilltop village outside of Nice. The town was St Paul de Vence. I remember my first trip to Nice, 5 years ago. I was scared to death and did not know what to do. I went into a travel agency to ask if they offered tours for the city. The lady told me in a very indignant manner to go to the bus station. She pointed in some direction. I went and found buses that went everywhere. I took the bus to Menton at the French/Italy border, to Monte Carlo and to the little hilltop villages outside of Nice, just for a little over 1 euro. The bus station in Nice was the best travel bargain in my books. This trip we took the train, an Italian train from Genoa, right into France and into Nice. How great is that, to have a Trenitalia train rolled right into Nice, France. Colleagues at work think I'm very rich. Rich, I'm not. I told them I'm on a Ramen diet so I can afford all these experiences. I don't go to the mall. I don't watch much TV. They say watching too much TV increases your appetite for buying thing. I remove all temptationof shopping from my life. I work in a drugstore and wear a white smock, so I spend very little on clothes, a few pair of knit pants and T shirts from Lands' End will last me a long time. I shop at TJ Max or Ross stores most of the time and even when I do I usually only check out their clearance racks. I'm so cheap, I just realize that. How else am I going to afford such wonderful European experiences? Have you seen the price of gas lately? The US dollar is like a third world currency abroad. It's nothing compared to the euro and the pound. I came back with a treasure trove of memories. For my recent itinerary and details, read my previous blog on how to obtain it. I shall be writing later on how to travel cheaply in Europe. The internet is a wonderful tool for trip planning. I'm not tech savvy. But I love the internet. I'm struggling with Word 2003 trying to write down details of the trip.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

italian vacation

Here am I in Sorrento, Italy in March 2006. This is one of the results of hard work in saving and budgeting. Living a planned and deliberate life pays dividends that are so magnificent and sweet. The food was great. I've never tasted vegetables that were so wonderful. Carrots, tomatoes and lettuces tasted so sweet. They came straight from the fields nearby. Even a simple meal of Calamari Brace (grilled squid) tasted so wonderful. It was the first time I had Arancini. I found it at a road side stand in Naples. It's actually a Sicilian dish. All it is fried rice balls with stuffing in it usually a meat sauce stuffing. It cost around 1 euro. Two of them makes a meal. The sights were magnificent, the Sassi caves in Matera, the trulli villages of Alberobello and the Baroque churches of Lecce leaves one breathless. Not to mention the energetic hikes of the Cinque terre. We stayed in hostels wherever we can. For some reason we seem to think that as we age we should travel in greater style. I've read articles where the traveler stayed in hotels costing $200. Maybe they can because the magazine pays their expenses. To the rest of us who has to foot the bill ourselves, hostelling is the way to go especially with the shrinking value of the US dollar. For details on how to travel cheaply and how to live with more dash than cash, continue reading my blog.


People read too many dull and trashy magazines and books. How do you find and use your inner power?
How do you prosper with such a poor diet of words? How do we find if all we read is about celebrities? How is Paris Hilton's daily escapades going to change your life? How are you going to make those glorious changes to your life? By reading. Someone once said, you are what you read. You are what your mind thinks about all the time. You need a good diet of words every day. This is more important than food and clothing. You need a diet of bible verses every day that can empower and embolden you. Without it, you'll be lost in this world of negativity. The word of God becomes a shield to protect you against negativity and becomes a weapon to rid your life of entrenched negativity. God then inhabits you to bring into your life the glorious fruits of your labor. You can than become a spiritual warrior.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Vacations. My most favorite subject. I scrimp and save all year long just so I can afford at least one European trip a year. I just came back for a 2 and 1/2 week jaunt in Italy and France taking me to the south of Italy and the south of France. It's been an amzing and exhausting trip so full of new experiences of food, people and places. I met with locals and other fellow travelers and all are as inspiring as the other. I ate food that I've never had before or even food that I had before tasting so much better because of the simplicity and freshness. I love Europe. They take less for granted. They make do with what they have and that's really the epitome of fine european style. We pay a lot of money to imitate that lifestyle. Theit furniture is naturally old andchipped while we distress new furniture to make it look old. It's quite laughable. For a detailed description with pictures send $10 to Anne, 3782 Moore St, Los Angeles, Ca 90066. For this trip I probably spent $2,000, airfares and train and ferry included and had fun and experiences that far exceeds $2,000 worth. It's confidence building. This was my 10th trip tp Europe in 6 years. Do it yourself travel is very exhausting and not for everybody but if you are willing to take up the challenge you won't do it any other way. A caveat. Do it alone or with just one other person. Too many people traveling at different paces will ruin the fun.