San Antonio, Texas

Texas has never been high on my list for vacation destinations, but then, as you may have observed from my previous blog posts, there are few places on the planet that I won’t visit. So, Texas; I had heard from friends and family that San Antonio is an interesting place to visit, filled with history, food, and art, all of which are an attraction for me. My husband was there on business and suggested that I join him there for his birthday weekend. So, one year ago this weekend, I found myself on an Alaska Airlines flight to San Antonio.

The River Walk is a good place to stay, it is close to shops, restaurants and many other points of interest.

After I arrived, we strolled along the Riverwalk to find a place for dinner. After a long stroll, we found ourselves at Biga on the Banks. It was restaurant week, and they offered a prix fixe menu. The food was quite good. When I look at a menu, I always look to see if the chef provides information about the source of the menu items. Is the beef grass fed, is the chicken free range, are there plant based options? I did not see that any of these questions were answered, but the food was good.

The missions in San Antonio are very interesting. The Alamo, is of course, the famous one, and is an intriguing place to visit.

Mission San Jose is a beautiful mission to see. This large Catholic mission was founded in 1720.

We worked up an appetite visiting the missions, so we had a delicious, birthday lunch at Oystra along the Riverwalk.

We also enjoyed a few the many speakeasies that are in the area. As you may know, speakeasies became popular during prohibition. They mostly disappeared when prohibition ended, but there are still a few around.

I enjoyed my time in San Antonio, it an an interesting place to visit, and the people are friendly and welcoming.

Have you been to San Antoinio? If so, please leave a comment with you favorite things to do there.

Wildlife Photography

Most professional wildlife photographers use burst mode to capture images of animals in their natural habitat, and using this method results in some amazing photos. Their work benefits and enriches our lives, when we get to see the habits and rituals of various animals. I have managed to take some photos of wildlife over the years, using the old-fashioned method of point and shoot (my camera, never a gun), along with a lot of luck, and being in the right place at the right time. Below are a few of the animal photos I have taken over the years.

One of my favorite photos is one I took of an orca. I sat on the hillside in Lime-Kiln State Park for what felt like hours, getting only images of splashes of water, when I finally managed to get this photo.

I also enjoy watching birds of prey, eagles, hawks, and owls. I took this photo in Meadowdale Park, not far from my home.

This beautiful hawk lives in eastern Washington, near VanArnam Vineyards.

This owl attracted a huge crowd in downtown Seattle one spring day a few years ago.

In the town where I live, we have an abundance of deer. I got on the bus one morning, and the driver said, “look, there’s a herd of deer!” Just twenty feet behind me were five deer, munching on some bushes in the bank parking lot.

The image below was taken in Brookings, OR where the deer roam all over the town.

At American Camp on San Juan Island, the foxes will come right up to you, and not skulk as they often do.

I saw this beautiful swan in Kensington Gardens in London.

This little critter joined us for a picnic at Paulina Lake, near Bend, OR.

This coyote in Death Valley, CA, was quite bold.

Another picnic crasher, this time at San Juan Vineyards.

This little critter was sunning itself on a rock in the Nezu Museum Gardens in Tokyo.

These bison were roaming through Grand Teton National Park.

But one of my favorite animals was this sweet guy.

Our sweet Bogey.

When taking photos of wildlife, be sure to keep a safe distance. They need their space, not human contact. I hope more conservation efforts will be put in place to help animals in need. A world without animals would be a sad place indeed.

Galiano Island

Last week I wrote about a recent trip we had taken to Orcas Island, this week I will continue on that theme and write about Galiano Island, which is one of the Gulf Islands located at the southern end of the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. This large archipelago includes the San Juan Islands in Washington State, where Orcas Island is located. The stunning scenery and slow pace of the islands will draw you in, and you will not want to leave.

We visited Galiano Island in May 2017. Once you cross the border at Blaine, WA, it is an approximately 20 minute drive to the Tsawwassen Ferry Landing. The crossing takes about 50 minutes. Be sure to make a ferry reservation.

Galiano Island offers a range of accommodations including cabins, resorts, and bed and breakfasts. We stayed at the CliffHouse Cottages, which is run by a delightful couple who are warm and welcoming. The property is peaceful and quiet, and has a wood fired sauna that looks like a hobbit house.

We stayed at the Treehouse which is cozy and comfortable, and has a nice view of the water. The Cliffhouse which, as the name indicates, is perched right on the cliff and has a beautiful view of the water.

We were invited into the Cliffhouse by some delightful ladies, all in their 80s who were visiting Galiano to do some hiking. We shared a bottle (or two) of wine, and they told us how they escaped Eastern Europe before WWII for Vancouver, BC. They met shortly after arriving in Vancouver, and formed a lifelong friendship. Meeting people and hearing their stories is one of the things I love about travel.

During our stay on the island, we hiked to the top of Mt. Galiano, a 5.6 kilometer moderately difficult hike, that offers spectacular views at the top. There are many eagles to be seen and photographed as well.

The ladies we had met the night before had hiked the trail and encouraged us to do the same. I hope I’m that spry when I’m in my 80s!

Speaking of eagles, we came upon an eagle’s nest while strolling along the beach, and I was able to get a photo of her feeding her eaglet.

There are just a few restaurants on the island, and some are open only seasonally, so be sure to check availability before you go. There are three grocery stores on the island, so don’t worry, you won’t go hungry.

There are art galleries, beaches to explore, hiking trails and many other activities.

Have you been to Galiano Island? If so, please leave a comment below.

A Trip to Nippara Limestone Cave

While we were in Japan, we enjoyed a day trip to the Nippara Limestone Cave. Our exchange student, and her then boyfriend (now her fiancé) picked us up at our hotel and took us on a scenic drive out of Tokyo, into the mountains. The drive was beautiful and we passed through tiny villages, and saw lush, green forests along the winding, narrow mountain road. I spotted many little, suspension foot bridges that seemed so old that they appeared to have become part of the foliage.

The cave is in a beautiful setting, and it was much cooler in the mountains than it was in Tokyo, which was a nice break from the intense July heat.

The cave, located in the village of Nippara, is the largest limestone cave in the area. It feels quite small when entering, but we wandered around for at least an hour once we got inside since there is so much to see. We found many little nooks and crannies with Buddha statues, and places to worship if one in so inclined.

We took a different route heading back to Tokyo and passed through more villages and also saw a large lake. It was getting foggy at this point, as you can tell by the photos below.

The cave is damp and can be a little cool as well, so be sure to bring a jacket, even if visiting during the intense summer heat.

We were fortunate to be treated to this day out by friends with a car, and since there is so much to see along the way, I recommend renting a car for the day if you plan to go. In addition, it’s best to visit on a weekday since the cave draws large crowds on the weekends.

Have you visited Nippara Cave? If so, please leave a comment and tell me about your time there.