Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sugarloaf Mountain

China was so polluted that our lungs still hadn't recovered after more than a week of being home.  We decided to take advantage of an unseasonably warm day to go hiking at Montgomery County's only mountain, Sugarloaf, hoping that all of the huffing and puffing from hiking the hills would clear out our lungs a bit.  Here is Sugarloaf Mountain, looming in the distance:

It is difficult to capture the steepness of the trail with my camera.  We were definitely huffing and puffing as we scrambled up this hillside.

There are some rather spectacular views of the rural part of Montgomery County from the top of Sugarloaf.  That little speck of white in the center of all the blue is the Potomac River shining in a patch of sunlight on this partly cloudy day.

Here you can see it a little closer.  I guess those must be the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in the background.

I was very grateful for these stone steps and handrail that we came across on the way down.  It's definitely more difficult to descend on a steep trail than it is to climb it.

Sugarloaf has lots and lots of huge boulders.

After we finished our hike at Sugarloaf, we decided to engage in the old "Let's see where this road goes" method of exploring.  So I don't know exactly where we went, except that this is Lilypons Water Gardens, which I had heard of before.  It's somewhere northwest of Sugarloaf, I think.

I can never resist stopping to take pictures of the local inhabitants.

My continuing obsession with beautiful Sycamore trees....

The afternoon light was pretty amazing.  It was glowing a lot more than this picture would indicate.

A barn with Snoopy decorations!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

China Trip Wrap Up

Here's our travel summary, memories that stand out, and a few interesting pictures that Doug took while we were there.  I'm sure I'll be adding things to the "memories" part of this post over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime you can read the day-by-day details and see some of the many photos I took in the preceding posts (click on the link).

12/21/11:  Train from Bridgeport, CT to 125th Street Station, M30 bus to LaGuardia, flights to O'Hare and then Beijing, short night of sleep.  LINK

12/22/11:  skipped due to crossing the international date line I think.  LINK

12/23/11:  bus to train, train to Qingdao, bus to hotel, dinner, sleep.  LINK

12/24/11:  daytime free, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep. LINK

12/25/11:  early bus to airport, flight to Dalian, bus to hotel, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep.  LINK

12/26/11:  bus to Jinzhou, lunch, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep.  LINK

12/27/11:  bus to Chaoyang, lunch, rehearsal, concert, dinner, overnight bus to Beijing  LINK

12/28/11:  flight to Shenzhen, bus to hotel, lunch, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep.  LINK

12/29/11:  short bus ride to Guangzhou, lunch, free time, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep.  LINK

12/30/11:  bus to airport, all day flight to Shenyang, bus to hotel, dinner, sleep. LINK

12/31/11:  morning sightseeing, dumplings, afternoon walking, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep.  LINK #1   LINK #2   LINK #3

01/01/12:  very early bus to train station, train to Beijing, bus to hotel, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep.  LINK

01/02/12:  day off in Beijing!!!  LINK

01/03/12:  very early bus to airport, flight to Xi'an, bus to hotel, rehearsal, concert, dinner, sleep.  LINK

01/04/12:  bus to Terra Cotta Warriors and back, afternoon in Xi'an, evening flight to Beijing, bus to hotel. LINK #1  LINK #2

01/05/12:  early bus to airport, flight from Beijing to Chicago, then LaGuardia, M30 bus to Harlem, train to Bridgeport, car to Trumbull. LINK

Favorite things about the trip include playing the concerts, the excellent orchestra full of outstanding musicians and wonderful people, the fabulous conductor, the interesting and delicious banquets that we had night after night, seeing a lot of the non-touristy parts of China in addition to some of the major sights, and getting to know some of the people who lived in all of the many different places we visited.  But the highlight of each day for me was playing the concert.  I love making music with these people.  It was a wonderful experience that I would have enjoyed no matter where we were playing.

I have new appreciation for the rather posh existence we have back here in the USA, especially for our high standards of cleanliness, the relatively unpolluted air, drinkable tap water, and normal toilets.  These are all things that are very easy to take for granted.  Now I feel lucky to have them.  And those are just some of the superficial things.  There are an awful lot of far more important things from this trip that I observed,  learned from, and am still digesting.  I may or may not discuss these things in future posts.

A couple of the other orchestra members are blogging about our experiences as well.  I've really enjoyed hearing about the trip from their perspective - it's very cool the way their memories enhance my own.  Here are some links to those blogs:

From "Symphony Now"

Notes from the Viola Section


And here are a few of Doug's favorite photos that he took while we were there:

Some people are still using a good old donkey to get around.


cell phone tree

It kind of looks like he took his bike to go shopping at Ikea.

Is this a three-wheeled car, or some kind of deluxe motorcycle?

Pretending to look horrified - No, I did NOT eat that chicken head!

halfway through one of our many banquets, can't remember which one.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

China Day 15 - heading home

No more China . . . . just some boring airplane photography.

We didn't see these mountains from the train or the bus!

Heading north - it was a little snowy when we left Shenyang.

The flight to Chicago went by reasonably quickly, with about four hours of sleep in the middle.

Approaching NYC!

getting closer!

and it's time to turn off the camera now

We're heading back to Jennifer's house in Connecticut for a couple more days.  We are so excited to be almost home!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

China Day 14, Part 2 - sightseeing in old Xi'an

We had some time to kill before our flight back to Beijing so they dropped us off in the old walled city section of Xi'an for a couple of hours.  We really enjoyed having a chance to wander around this beautiful area.  It was a lovely way to spend our last bit of free time in China.  Here are some pictures I took that afternoon:

heading to old town

They have both a wall and a moat surrounding the original part of Xi'an.

I think they were in the process of setting up for Chinese New Year.

I always thought that creatures from Outer Space were supposed to be either green or silver!


Get yer candied crab apples and roasted sweet potatoes here!


A street of coffeehouses and jazz clubs - and Cool Ha Na

Chinese to English sounds so graceful and yet so awkward

All of the Christmas decorations were still up - this one totally matches our front door!

Goodbye Coffee Street....

This does not bring back pleasant memories.

Back at the wall - look at how they hack away at the trees to keep them short.

Our green buses await in the distance.

It's the year of the dragon!

It got dark as we headed out of town.  Goodbye Xi'an!
Once we finished our afternoon of sightseeing in old Xi'an, we headed to the airport for our flight back to Beijing and the good ole USA the following morning.  After we arrived in Beijing and collected our luggage, there were three tiny shuttle buses waiting to take all eightysomething of us to our hotel.  Since it was already around midnight and our flight left at something like 5:30 in the morning, we were suddenly given the option of staying at the airport or taking the extra time to go stay at the hotel.

Most people decided at that point it would be easier to just stay at the airport.  The twelve or so of us who prefered to get in a few hours of sleep in a bed, and take a shower, were very grateful to have still had that option. 

We arrived at the airport the next morning feeling somewhat refreshed, and far less bleary-eyed than our counterparts who had toughed it out at the airport all night long.  Although from what I heard, there had been some beer and booze contributing to the bleary eyes of some.  My hat is off to all of them though.  They had a much longer day than we did, if you count the number of hours between nights of actual bed rest.

China Day 14, Part 1 - Terracotta Warriors

Our last day in China was a day of sightseeing.  We were given a wonderful tour of the nearby site where the Xi'an Terracotta Warriors were discovered back in the 1970s.  They have enclosed the areas where they are still digging them up and restoring them, turning it into a very large working museum.  Here is a model of the site and the surrounding mountains:

Some reading material for you:

Pictures of lots and lots of Terracotta Warriors and their beautiful horses:

Here is a bronze chariot drawn by four bronze horses:

The surrounding countryside is beautiful and peaceful - the perfect place to be buried with clay models of all of your friends and associates.

The site of our last lazy susan feast:

Some pictures from the bus window on the way back to our hotel.  I guess it's extra convenience to have the power supply so near to where you live!?!!