"Travels with Andy & Rita" Hopkid's Profile
A Year of Hope (for more travel!)
2009 started by returning to Richmond from Los Angeles on a New Year's Eve redeye. Andy recently spent a bachelor's weekend in New Orleans for some great food, music, and fun! Great town! Next up is a week-long trip to Taiwan for a friend's wedding. Andy will also be a member of the wedding party.
2008 ended with a bang as we took at 2-week trip to China with Rita's family. The trip centered on Rita's parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary which we celebrated by taking a day trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou, enjoying a chilly boat ride on the famous West Lake (Shi Hu), a visit to the National Silk Museum, and a local tea producer. We ended the day with dinner in a great restaurant, Zhuweiguan. Check it out next time you're there! The trip itinerary included Beijing, Xi'an, Kunming, Lijiang, Shanghai, and Hangzhou. It was a crazy trip with 19 friends and family but all went extremely well and it was a good introduction to China for many of us first-time visitors. We'll definitely be going back and doing things in a fashion that we're more used to. Tips and photos are forthcoming.
Because of some much needed home renovations, our travel may be curtailed a bit this year but we have some great trips already scheduled. Stay tuned!
***Next Trip - Taiwan***
Travel....it's an obsession
Experiencing what we can't at home. My wife, Rita, and I love to travel and see things that you can't really see or experience at home. We like the exotic locales but we're not the types to sit around at a resort, lounge on a beach, or to take a cruise. We'd rather run around and see all that we can see but still make time to sit and relax and take in the atmosphere of a place. I don't understand folks who go abroad but spend all of their time in an all-inclusive resort. I'm not sure that's the best way to experience the pulse of life in a foreign destination. Or those who will seek out a McDonald's or T.G.I.Fridays as a place to have a meal. Man, you can do that at home! I do have to say, however, that spending two lovely days at Hemingways resort in Watamu, Kenya, after 10 days of driving many kilometers on dusty, gravelly roads, and doing numerous game drives was a nice treat! We do love to splurge and experience the good life every now and then. ;-)
Parla italiano? I love trying to learn as much of a language (usually just phrases) and then using them to interact with the locals. Thus far I've had a try at using Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahilii, and French. It's a lot of fun and I think you're a bit more accepted if you make an attempt to speak the local language instead of assuming everyone knows your native tongue. But then again that's just me.
Relaxing (or not) and Shopping on our Trips. On our travels, our typical modus operandi is to get up early and beat the crowds to the most popular sites that we've chosen to hit that day. Throughout the day we'll wander the streets of a town and meander around trying to get a sense of what every day life is like. We're also always on the look out for local crafts to take home for ourselves but also to give as presents at Christmas. All of the women in our families loved the leather purses we purchased for them in Florence in 2004! We both love to shop and find those items unique to a locale that you can't readily find back home. At the end of the day we're usually beat and bedtime is typically by 10:00pm. Gotta get ready for the next fun-filled day!
It's All About the Food! Besides shopping we also enjoy eating. We enjoy eating A LOT. We are foodies. In the same vein as our passion for shopping, our choices for food are also focused on the locally-produced specialties. You won't often see us getting Chinese food in Europe (although we did get some great dim sum in Dublin!) or pizza in France. I'll eat anything you can't readily get back home and that has included part of a roast leg of pork on a local train in Peru, fried guinea pig in Cusco, and a tripe sandwich in Florence. Local coffee (un cafe, una bica) and wine are also gladly consumed. And of course we'd never miss the dessert course! Great cheeses in France and a fabulous merangue cake in Florence come to mind.
Seek the Unique! Wherever your travels take you, experience the life, atmosphere, and sights to their fullest. Take some chances and don't always go with the familiar. You may just be pleasantly surprised!
Andy & Rita
P.S. BTW, unless noted, all photos are my own and I don't mind folks using them as long as you ask me first and give me the appropriate credit. Thanks!
P.P.S You'll notice in our trips list that Los Angeles always shows up. We are both from southern California originally and both of our families still live there. Hence, that's where we go each year for the holidays.
P.P.P.S. Every now and then my work requires me to travel which has given me the opportunity to see parts of the U.S. that I might never have seen otherwise. That's why you see Minot, North Dakota and Clovis, New Mexico listed in the trips list.
Life in the Capital of the Confederacy
We live in Richmond, Virginia which is located right in the middle of the state. It's about 2 hours south of Washington, DC and 2 hours west of Virginia Beach. I would call Richmond a medium sized city with an overall population of around 500,000 which equates to very little rush hour traffic (which you can't convince the locals of, but if you're from LA originally, the traffic here is nothing to complain about!). Bisected by the James River, Richmond has a flavor all it's own and the locals are proud of their heritage as a center of revolutionary thought in the mid-1700s and as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War of 1861-1865. The Civil War (or the War of Northern Agression as some down here call it) isn't actually over depending on who you ask. But overall, people here are nice and friendly.
Richmond has many interesting sites including the State Capitol, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is the oldest continously used legislative facility in the U.S. The White House of the Confederacy and Museum of the Confederacy are located downtown as is the Valentine Museum which focuses on Richmond's history. The National Park Service oversees the Richmond Battlefield Park which is a series of battlefields surrounding the city as well as a visitor's center with some great exhibits and located in the old Tredegar Iron Works which supplied the South with much of its ammunitiion. There's also a nice Science Museum and Children's Musuem, a fine collection of art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (including a nice collection of Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs and Tiffany lamps), the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, the Virginia Historical Society, picturesque neighborhoods of Ginter Park, The Fan, the Museum District and the grand homes along Monument Avenue. Oh yes, and of course the fabulous monuments along that street are also must sees for any visitor.
Richmond also has some fine culinary establishments among a wide range of tastes that sure to suit pickiest gourmand down to the chain restaurant frequenter. We also have some nice shopping areas highlighted by Carytown with its many locally-owned boutiques and restaurants, and two new and nicely designed malls, Short Pump Town Center, and Stony Point Fashion Park. There's something good, interesting, and satisfying for everyone! We like it here just fine.
I'm slowly building my Richmond page with tips in hopes that visitors will find what they are looking for and will have a good experience during their visit.
Come to the National/Richmond Folk Festival!
We had never heard of the National Folk Festival, an annual music and dance festival, until it came to Richmond for a three-year stint in 2005. It turns out that it has been happening for close to 70 years. It was first held in St. Louis in 1934 and is the longest-running traditional arts celebration in the country. It is sponsored and maintained by the National Council for the Traditional Arts. It is simply a wonderful event!
Hands down it is the best event held in the Richmond area in the 9 years we've been living here. It is a combination of musical and dance acts focusing on cultural and traditional styles presented on a series of stages over three days. After attending for one day in 2005, we were counting down the days until each year's edition. This year was the last one as it will be moving to Butte, Montana for the next three years. Over 175,000 people, a record for the festival, attended in the final year here back in 2007.
Thankfully, the local organizers recognized a good thing and created a commmittee to keep the event going in Richmond under a different name: the Richmond Folk Festival. The first one, held in October 2008, was a complete mirror image of previous editions of the National Folk Festival and was a huge success. Dates for 2009 are:
9-11 October 2009
The setting is just about as good as it can be, held on the banks of the James River with the downtown skyline looming above to the east. The great thing about the festival (besides the huge variety of acts) is the atmosphere and general happiness among the festival-goers. Everyone is in a good mood and as friendly as can be.
Oh, and did I mention that the entrance to the festival is free? That's right, the Richmond Folk Festival will be FREE, FREE, FREE!!! The bad part is that there isn't enough time during the weekend to see all of the acts that you might want to see!
Come on out! We'd love to see you here!
Iowa Grad School Reunions
We have a great group of friends who we travel with each year for a visit. What started out as an annual summer canoe trip in NE Iowa with my grad school (Civil and Environmental Engineering) friends at the University of Iowa has become an annual reunion in various parts of the country (and abroad) now that everyone has graduated and moved. This is a special and unique group of individuals and still retains a uniqueness as spouses have married into the group and kids are also added. We look forward to traveling to a mutually agreed upon locale and to spend the time over a beer and some good food with these friends of ours. As a matter of record, the reunions, including the 4 canoe trips, are as follows:
1988: Decorah, Iowa
1989: Decorah, Iowa
1990: Decorah, Iowa
1991: Decorah, Iowa
1992: Charlotte, NC and rafting in TN
1993: Iowa City (Zab graduates)
1994: Lake Tahoe, Yosemite
1995: Madison, WI (Mark & Jackie's wedding)
1996: Bayfield, WI + Stillwater, OK (Greg & Julie's wedding)
1998: Louisville, KY - the Derby
1999: Bar Harbor, ME
2000: Dakota Dunes, SD
2001: Avon (Outer Banks), NC
2003: Little Canada, MN
2004: Oregon, WI
2005: Glacier National Park, MT
2006: Memphis, TN
2007: Decorah, IA
2008: Mason, OH
New York City (booked0
Colorado (Estes Park) (booked)
Los Angeles (for the holidays)
2010 (very tentative):
Asia Foodie Trip (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hanoi)
Kaual (parents' 50th wedding anniversary)
Patagonia (Chile and Argentina)
Grand Canyon (Rim-to-Rim)
2011 (very tentative):
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