Shinjuku Gyoen National Park

One of the things I love about Tokyo are the many gardens and temples where one can escape the intensity of the city and retreat into a quiet sanctuary. Shinjuku Gyoen National Park is one such place. This 144 acre park located in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, dates back the the Edo Period. It was mostly destroyed during WWII. By 1949 it had been rebuilt and was opened to the public. The park contains over 20,000 tress as well as French and English gardens, lakes, ponds, a greenhouse and much more.

We entered the garden at the Shinjuku Gate entrance and wandered through the Mother and Child Forest. This beautiful area has inviting trails for curious youngsters.

I saw some interesting shelf fungi here.

We spent the majority of our time at the Upper Pond area of the park where you will find a Tea House, bridges, trails, koi, cranes and so much more.

When theTravelersketcher paints, he always draws attention.

And the trees are magnificent.

Have you been to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden? If so, please leave a comment about you favorite things to see there.

Why is Travel so Appealing?

What is so appealing about travel? I have been pondering this question for quite a while. As most of you know by now, I love to travel, and there are few places I don’t want to visit. I love history, art, architecture, and experiencing other cultures; that’s part of the reason I love to travel. But there are so many other reasons. To explore this question in depth, I asked some friends to share their thoughts on travel. Here’s what they have to say.

 My husband, Terry has traveled all over the globe for work and pleasure. Here are his thoughts on travel:

“What I like about travel is immersion, if only for a moment, in the culture and ambience of a place I’ve never been before. I may get tired while traveling, yet never tired of traveling. It all comes down to three things; cafes, where I connect with the locals, cathedrals, where I am inspired, and sketching, where I capture the moment while creating a memory.” 

 My beautiful, talented daughter is an amazing writer. She was editor-in-chief of her college newspaper and provided some editing comments for this article. Check out her blog at She shared this quote about travel:

“Maya Angelou said ‘Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends’. Nothing has been so influential in my life as the travel I have been lucky enough to experience. It’s so easy to assume that your way, your life, your understanding is the ‘right’ or ‘good’ way. But the world itself, in all her variance and splendor, with the multitude of cultures and religions and beliefs and food and customs, shows us that variety creates beauty, differences create truth, and empathy soothes all wounds. By traveling, I find myself a small part of a much greater world, which provides perspective, and reminds me that I am not alone. The world is vast and her people are vaster still, but by traveling, I’ve come to understand the simple expectation of life: to try. To question, to listen, to embrace the differences that would other divide us. Each time I travel, no matter how far from home the journey may be, I find myself changed and that makes the layovers and the airport food and the crowds and the queues immeasurably worth it.”

 Brenda, my dear friend from childhood has this to say:

Travel ranks at the top of my loves for many reasons. I’ve always been a person who loves change, and as a result, I get bored easily. When we travel, I am flooded with sensory overload. My eyes, nose, ears and mouth can hardly take in all that’s new. I have never felt bored when traveling. My love for photography blends right in with travel as I attempt to capture all the feelings and beauty my soul takes in.”

 “I love travel because I can see how others live, work and play. People watching is a big part of my travel and it’s the best experience if I can connect with people on our journey. To stay in a stranger’s home using a popular travel stay app or just talking to a server at a restaurant or clerk in a gift shop; gives me the opportunity to learn more about our destination and gives us an advantage when following their suggested itinerary. We have completely changed our itinerary many times just based on a native’s knowledge and recommendations and were thankful in the end.”

 “I think the best part of travel is how it has changed me. I grew up in the Midwest, a Baptist preacher’s daughter, and my exposure was very limited when it came to understanding different cultures, races and lifestyles. I was so naive. Today I can say I embrace the chance to meet and rub shoulders with ALL people and try to see through their eyes, the life they live. It has been a humbling experience for this white, privileged woman, and I hope that I am making progress in my effort to bring acceptance and connection with those I meet. Travel gives me lots of practice. When we are connected, the world becomes much smaller and my circle of friends becomes much bigger. To me, that makes the world a much better place and I hope that as I take something from each place I visit, I will also leave something good behind.”

Brenda McEntire

50 states, 23 countries and counting!

 I have a delightful new friend, Dr. Shirley Riley, here is what she has to say: 

“Why do I love to travel? I’m not sure I have a great answer because it’s just always been my life, having grown up in a military family and starting Kindergarten in Germany.  I think I’d somehow feel cheated if we didn’t travel as it adds color and dimension to what would otherwise be black and white predictable. It’s like if you’re in a long hallway lined with doors and not only didn’t bother opening any of them but didn’t have the interest in doing so to find out what’s behind that door…?! I don’t want to live a life that is just going down that long hallway from beginning to end; I like opening those doors.”

 Another dear friend, Lisa Baker shared this:

Traveling to Bangkok in the 1980s was a seminal experience.  Back then my beliefs about God were rigid and Western, but on this trip I was introduced to a nation of incredibly kind people who were devoutly Buddhist.  The city was large, vibrant, and not yet modernized – a noisy, chaotic, and colorful hodgepodge.  Visible displays of Buddhism were everywhere — monks in saffron robes, altars in public spaces where fruit and burning incense were left as offerings, miniature shrines in the yards of homes.  My beliefs at the time would have consigned them (albeit reluctantly) to hell.  But faced with their unfailing warmth, generosity, and friendliness, I could not reconcile my beliefs with what I saw in those people.  The warmth and generosity of the Thai – and their deep devotion to a religion different than mine – fundamentally transformed and vastly expanded my recognition of God.

 “On a late night in Rome — tired, lost, tugging my wheeled suitcase a considerable distance from the train station to a hard-to-find hotel, and irritated with my partner for wanting to walk to the hotel rather than hiring a taxi — I rounded a corner — and KAPOW!  Immediately in front of me, encased in glass and brilliantly lit was the Ara Pacis, an ancient structure built to honor Augustus, familiar to me from my college studies.  Startled by the sight — stunned actually — I was no longer frustrated, hungry, and exhausted, but instead on my way to relaxing into a week of pressing my palms and forehead against ancient architecture I had seen only in photographs and deeply breathing in the age-old air.

 And one more, from another dear friend, Tim McLaughlin:

 “I am attuned to the rhythms, the seasons, the language, foods, cultural habits of my own neighborhood. When I travel to another neighborhood – across my state, across my country, across an ocean – it’s those same, but different, aspects I can’t help but continue sensing, absorbing.

 And relishing, precisely because it’s so different. Buildings and bridges and fences of stone rather than of wood or steel…dishes with tripe and blood and curry instead of tri-tip and mayo and Mrs. Dash.” 

 “I love to travel for the differences among peoples whose humanity I’m part of.” 

 I love these thoughts and insights, and one thing we all agree on is that travel is a gift, one that we cherish and use often.

 Two years ago we took a five week trip to Europe. About a week before we left, I was listening to the radio on the way to work one morning. The topic of the show was “what is your trip of a lifetime?” Most callers were mentioning places like Australia, Greece, and The Maldives. One young person called in and the DJ said “Hello, you’re on the air, what is your trip of a lifetime?” The caller replied loudly and enthusiastically: “L.A.!!”  I’m sure most listeners were laughing as I was, since here in Seattle you can get a round trip ticket to LA for a few hundred dollars and be there in two hours. Many people referred to our European adventure as the trip of a lifetime”, but for us it wasn’t. Yes, it was a fantastic trip, but we have plans to spend much more time traveling. What it comes down to for me, and for my husband and favorite traveling partner, is that we want a lifetime of trips rather than one trip of a lifetime.

 As I am finishing this article, I am waiting at SeaTac International Airport to board a flight to Narita. We are going to Tokyo to attend the wedding of a young woman who lived with us as an exchange student some years ago. Our daughter and son-in-law will also be in Tokyo for the wedding and I’m looking forward to seeing Tokyo from their perspective. From Tokyo, we will be going to Seoul to visit our niece and her family. I have been anxiously awaiting this trip; I love Japan and am looking forward to visiting again. Seoul will be a new experience for us, one that I am eagerly anticipating. The culture, food, climate, and many other factors we will experience there will take us out of our comfort zone, and hopefully leave us with a little more humanity, understanding and appreciation for the people and their homeland. I am grateful to be able to have this experience.

 Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” 

 It’s time to board the flight to Japan, I’m ready for another adventure.


A Day at the Palace of Versailles

A visit to Chateau de Versailles makes for a delightful day trip from Paris. The Chateau is huge, so plan to spend much of the day there. We first visited years ago when our daughter was in junior high school; she had been studying Versailles in her history class and knew much about the palace as we wandered through. As a side note, we visited in April and arrived right as it was opening for the day, so we had the place mostly to ourselves.

The palace is vast and amazing, but since we love being outside, and it was a nice spring day, we spent most of our time visiting the gardens and other surrounding buildings.

The view of the the pool and fountains as you exit the palace is spectacular. We rented bikes which is a quick way to get around the expansive gardens and grounds.

The Estate of the Trianon was built as an “intimate” get away from the huge palace. Construction began in 1687 and took many years to complete.

The Queen’s Hamlet was built for Marie Antionette in the late 1700s as a private meeting place for the queen and her friends.

My husband and daughter rented a row boat, another fun way to see the grounds.

Versailles is about a 45 minute train ride from Paris, and the palace is a short walk from the train station. There are guided tours available, and self guided tours with headsets as well. It is expensive to visit the interior, but well worth the cost if you are a history buff. Visiting just the gardens is far les expensive. I recommend visiting in the off season and during the week rather than on the weekend, unless you enjoy crowds.

There is much more to share about Versailles, but I hope this quick overview gives you a few ideas about planning your visit there. As always, please leave a comment with your thoughts and suggestions about visiting Versailles,

Autumn Colors

Autumn is here and the colors are spectacular as usual. I’m taking a day off from blogging to recover from a cold and a busy week at work, so I will share some photos of autumn. I hope you enjoy these photos taken in Hobart, Australia; Denali National Park, Alaska; Bath Spa, England; Gordes, France; Loch Brora, and Castle Douglas, Scotland; Aix en Provence, France; and near my home in Mukilteo Wa.

San Diego, Continued

In the last few weeks I have blogged about our two visits to San Diego this year, and there is still more to tell; including our amazing Airbnb experiences and a visit to the waterfront area.

On our most recent visit we stayed at a delightful Airbnb studio located in the North Park neighborhood. Our host, Rick, is warm, welcoming and attentive to every detail. He responds quickly to questions and makes sure that everything is just right. The studio is perfectly comfortable, sparkling clean and has one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on!

My husband, thetravelsketcher, painted the picture above of the front patio.

Restaurants and shops are within walking distance (figure two blocks to several miles). Rick left many snacks for us including some delicious fresh peaches, an inviting Sauvignon Blanc, and other tasty treats.

I highly recommend Rick’s bungalow, he is a delightful host and even gave us a ride to the airport!

In January we stayed at Waterhaven in the Hillcrest neighborhood which is also a private studio in a quiet neighborhood. Bruce and Grant are kind and generous hosts and welcomed us with wine, home-baked cookies and much more. Their backyard has a beautiful koi pond and many places to sit to enjoy the peaceful, serene setting.

We felt completely at home here and throughly enjoyed the gorgeous setting. This studio is also perfectly clean, quiet, comfortable and has many special touches. It was my birthday weekend when we visited and the hosts serenaded me at their grand piano with a lively rendition of Happy Birthday!

We keep in touch with Bruce and Grant and even had lunch with them on our last visit to San Diego. We will connect with Rick again on our next visit there. And that, right there, is what makes Airbnb so special. We have stayed at many Airbnb locations around the world and have had some amazing experiences. I can’t say that about any of the hotels we have stayed in! Check out my previous blog posts for more information about our many Airbnb experiences.

I should say that I am not connected with Airbnb in anyway whatsoever; I’m just a fan. We have had a few, hmm, not so great experiences with Airbnb. So to prevent that from happening to you, here ares a few tips to be sure you have also have a great experience:

1. Read the reviews; if there are none; think hard before booking.

2. Book in advance to get the best properties and locations.

3. Ask questions of your host, if they are slow in replying, think twice about booking.

Moving on; a walk along the waterfront will take you past the The Midway Museum. The USS Midway was active for 47 years, and has visited more ports than most of us will see in our lifetimes. This ship is HUGE and is a great place for kids and families to visit.

There are many other areas along the waterfront to visit including shops and restaurants.

The beautiful, cerulean skies of San Diego.

San Diego is a warm, welcoming, beautiful place to visit, with so much to offer. I have barely scratched the surface with my posts. Since my sister and family live there now, I may be spending more time there in the future. 🙂

As always, please leave a comment with your favorite activities in San Diego.

Ramble at Gold Creek Pond

I had intended to write more about San Diego this week, but life has a way of interrupting our plans and intentions, c’est la vie. Instead, I will post a short blog about a recent stroll we took around Gold Creek Pond, and next week I’ll continue writing about San Diego.

Gold Creek Pond is located in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington State. This gentle, paved, one mile loop is wheelchair friendly and offers some spectacular views of the area.

We went a few weeks ago just as the autumn colors were beginning to show. There are many places to sit and enjoy the scenery and the beautiful views.

The path is a bit narrow in a few areas, as shown in the photo below, which could be a bit tricky for some wheelchair users. But for the most part, it seems to be quite accessible.

Not far from the parking area is the trailhead for Gold Creek Trail 1314, another hike for another day.

I hope you enjoyed this short post. Check back next week when I will write more about San Diego.