The Great Wall, Warriors, and the Yangtze River
“Going to China with a group of friends added so much fun to our adventure,” says Carol Shimp. “We definitely relied on each other for everything from companionship to watching out for each other. It was terrific!” Organized by some couples in the “Boomers” Sunday School class at First Presbyterian Church, the May trip included class members Judy and Fred Brunk of Southampton, Mary Ella and Bailey Price of Bellaire, Carol and Bob Shimp of Old Braeswood, Kathaleen and Bob Chenoweth of Tanglewood as well as West University friends Sandy and Mike Goodwin, and Dixie Swanson and husband Ansel “Deke” Dekle.
Centered upon a three-day cruise of the Yangtze River with its gorgeous, mountainous scenery, the 11-day trip began in Shanghai and ended in Beijing. Excursions were taken throughout the trip, including one exploring the Lesser Three Gorges on distinctive Chinese boats (www.vikingrivercruises.com).
Walking along the ancient Great Wall of China was a highlight for all. The 4,000-mile-long Great Wall undulates with the landscape and is quite steep in parts. Carol and Bob Shimp advise to “climb to the Fourth Station and get your name engraved on a brass plaque to ‘prove’ you did it.”
Each one unique, the over 7,000 life-sized Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses in Xian were also awe-inspiring. Discovered only about 30 years ago, the pottery soldiers, horses, and chariots buried with the first Chinese emperor in 300 – 200 BC continue to be excavated, restored, and placed in army columns in a pit as large as two football fields.
Other recommended must-sees include the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the panda bears at the Chongqing zoo, and the Shanghai Acrobatic Show. Sandy and Mike Goodwin note, “The cities were more modern than expected and the people were so pleasant and receptive to us.” Mary Ella Price was surprised by the “brand new architectural wonders” of the Shanghai skyline. However, China’s polluted air was an unpleasant surprise. Dixie Swanson describes, “We were there 11 days and never saw the sun. It is a land without shadows.”
Though taxi drivers want Chinese currency, Fred Brunk notes that US currency was accepted everywhere they went—except at a Starbucks! The ever-present street vendors particularly like US dollars. Other items not to leave at home include medicine, hand wipes or sanitizer, tissue for Eastern “squat” toilets, and a hat.
Souvenirs are often a part of traveling, and the Goodwins say that the “regular outdoor markets and vendors had the best prices.” Carol and Dixie advise shopping for pearls at the Hong Qiao Pearl Market in Beijing. Judy Brunk brought home several “chops,” or Chinese rubber stamps, on which they cut the Chinese characters for various English names while she waited.
Mary Ella and Bailey were treated to a special dinner in Beijing. She was delighted at her reunion with six of the Chinese students whom she and West University’s Jan Glazner coached in English two years ago in a program at First Presbyterian Church. Mary Ella was particularly pleased with how her students’ English pronunciation had improved—“They got it!”
Kathaleen and Bob Chenoweth report, “A trip like this to a country in the midst of so much change is so beneficial to your understanding of the world today.” Dixie and Deke add, “Without expecting to, we fell in love with China and its history.”
SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA
Biking, golfing, and dining in the Wine Country
With daughters Laura and Annie happily ensconced at Camp Mystic in July, Memorial-area residents Diane and David Zdunkewicz decided to flee to Santa Barbara for a long weekend. Exploring the Wine Country by bike was top on their agenda, as well as golfing and sampling different cuisines.
“There are really only two kind of bike tours there,” Diane explains. “Ones which are more into biking and those where you just ride your bike down the block to different wineries.” Diane and David chose a 35-mile guided bike tour to fully experience the scenic, rolling countryside where Lance Armstrong trains. The Zdunkewiczes recommend Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours (www.winecountrycycling.com), which provides biking adventures for all levels of bikers, and supplies all of the needed equipment. Self-guided tours are available, but the Zdunkewiczes advocate having an accompanying expert biker who is familiar with the countryside.
Diane and David delighted in cycling in the cool weather, seeing vineyards and horse ranches, and savoring a gourmet picnic lunch set up for them at a gazebo at the Lincourt Vineyards. Afterwards, they drove to a few wineries recommended by the bike shop owner. Diane particularly liked the Wine Country towns of Santa Ynez and Los Olivos, which reminded her of Round Top, Texas.
Except when a coyote traipsed across the green while they were golfing, playing the course at the Glen Annie Golf Club was fun. The interloper disappeared into the brush, but Diane implored David to “get your golf club out and hold it while I am over here shooting.” Locals they met playing golf said that “everyone who goes to Santa Barbara needs to go eat at Brophy Brothers on the wharf.” The Zdunkewiczes loved sitting outside watching the waterfront activity, and were joined by people who came up from their boats. Diane also liked the Mexican food at Cavo’s in Santa Barbara, while David’s favorite restaurant was the Wine Cask, specializing in gourmet dishes and excellent wines.
Finally, at their Santa Barbara hotel, Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, Diane and David enjoyed watching the Wimbledon Finals and the World Cup without the distractions of home.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON AREA
Museums, islands, and a taste of Great Britain
“Our favorite spot by far for youngsters is the extraordinary Pacific Science Museum in the Seattle Center, “say Tanglewood residents Diane and Graham Gilliam, parents of Taylor, 19, Carter, 15, and Conner, 8. Other Seattle must-sees located there include the Space Needle, the Children’s Museum, the Experience Music Project, and the new Science Fiction Museum (www.seattlecenter.com).
Graham and Diane know the area well since they have a second home in Kirkland, a lovely town located 10 minutes by car from Seattle on the east side of Lake Washington. They suggest dining at Anthony’s Homeport, the Crab Cracker, or the Fish Café in Kirkland before touring the nearby Chateau Sainte Michelle or Columbia wineries. The Red Hook Brewery, Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls and the popular Burke-Gilman Bicycle Trail that circles Lake Washington are also close by.
The Gilliams advise families to stay in Seattle at the wonderfully located Fairmont Olympic Hotel (www.fairmont.com/seattle). Their preferred Seattle restaurants include Wild Ginger, Ray’s Boathouse, and the Palisades. For adults, Place Pigalle in Pike Place Market is a “wonderful restaurant with a great view of Puget Sound.”
“For an overnight excursion, the San Juan Islands are exceptional,” Graham and Diane said. “Walking, biking, boating, and relaxing are the agenda at each island.” Their favorite destination is Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, a two-hour ferry ride from Anacortes, which is 90 miles north of Seattle. They stay at the Friday Harbor House and dine at the Duck Soup Inn. For a day trip from Seattle, the Gilliams advise driving 25 miles north to Mukilteo and taking the 15-minute ferry ride to Langley on Whidbey Island.
An orca whale often makes an appearance on another fun excursion, the two-hour hydrofoil ride from Seattle to Victoria, Canada. Movies are shown for the kids, and food and drink are available. With its double-decker buses, Victoria “is a close second to Great Britain.” They suggest dining at Milestone’s on the harbor and visiting Miniature World. The impressive Butchart Gardens are nearby.
When is the best time to go to the Seattle area? “Summertime,” Diane and Graham said. “There is little or no rain at all, and it’s very cool.”
Editor’s Note: Each month Staff Writer Laura Bellows features travel highlights from Buzz neighborhood residents in her column. If you have a travel scoop, travel tip, or advice you’d like to share with Buzz readers, please e-mail Laura at (email@example.com) info (at) thebuzzmagazines (dot) com for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue.