Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

From the Gentle Wind

January 21, 2019

Hopefully the slideshow will come through the second time around?? -fg

I’ve been back from Maui for just over a week now, but I still think about the sound of the waves, the feel of warm sunshine on my skin, the palms swaying, and the freedom I felt while on vacation there.

Two more blogs about Maui coming your way soon, I hope!


I put together the following Slideshow Video with my photos from Maui. It is only three minutes long.  The video is set to a song called Kolonahe, meaning From the Gentle Wind, by the artists Ku’i Lei Awapuhi (vocals) and Keola Beamer. Thanks to Kelley for introducing me to this song! The song carries the rhythm of the island and goes well with the photos. It’s very soothing. Turn up your speakers!


‘Twas Twain’s Maui

January 12, 2019

I’m back from Maui and my heart is happy to have traveled there. It was relaxing to bask in the sunshine, enjoy the warmth of the island, and marvel at the lava-red sunsets. I still have a few Maui blog posts to write and will write them and line them up for the next couple of days so you can travel vicariously with me! img_7310‘Twas Mark Twain whose heart was captured by the great beauty of Maui way back in 1866. Mark Twain was Missouri’s famed son. He was a quick-witted American writer, journalist, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, lecturer, silver miner, world traveler, popular public speaker, and keen observer of life.  One of the most influential American writers, he painted word-portraits of the world he lived in.  He was only 30 years old when he traveled to Maui, Oahu, and Hawai’i Island.  Clearly, he had a great time:

Twain hiked through Hawaii’s beauteous jungle. He surfed naked on a wooden surfboard. He rode horseback across the plains.


When Twain visited Maui, the Hawaiian Islands were a full 93 years away from American statehood.  Hawai’i wasn’t even a US territory when Twain traveled there. It became US territory in 1898 and became the fiftieth state in 1959.  Back in 1866, the islands were known as the “Sandwich Islands”, so named in 1778 by Captain Cook after the man who sponsored Cook’s voyage, the Earl of Sandwich.


Twain spent five weeks in Maui during an overall four-month visit on the Hawaiian Islands and for the rest of his life, he longed to return.   I had prepared the following excerpts before traveling to Maui, hoping to share them with my fellow traveling friends on the day we went to Haleakala Crater and National Park.  I thought the following Twain quotes would be inspirational because Twain climbed the same crater we were at and described it as the “sublimest spectacle” he had ever seen.  However, sharing what I had prepared was not to be while in Maui, so I am now sharing my selected excerpts from Mark Twain below, along with some of my photos.

On the trail: Haleakala Crater

Haleakala National Park: above the clouds at 10,023 ft (3055 m) above sea level.

“I went to Maui to stay a week and remained five. I never spent so pleasant a month before, or bade any place goodbye so regretfully. I have not once thought of business, or care or human toil or trouble or sorrow or weariness, and the memory of it will remain with me always.”

“The native language is soft and liquid and flexible and in every way efficient and satisfactory–till you get mad; then there you are; there isn’t anything in it to swear with,” he wrote.

No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong charm for me but that one; no other land could so longingly and beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf-beat in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore; its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its wooded solitudes; I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
– Samuel M. Clemens (Mark Twain), Paradise of the Pacific, April 1910



This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world–ought to take dead men out of grave. -quoted in Mark Twain in Hawaii



Maui Magic

January 5, 2019


On our first full day here, we went snorkeling at Maluaka. It had been years since I last snorkeled. And that was back in Thailand.  So, when I entered the warm waters of Maluaka on Wednesday here on Maui, it took me a little while to get used to having a mask on and breathing into the little snorkel tube that juts up above the water.  Kelley led the way to the coral reefs.  Rick took off in a completely different direction.  Jack, thankfully, stayed close by me, until he was certain I felt comfortable using my snorkel equipment.  I’d say it took me about ten minutes to feel like the sea was my home and that the tube wasn’t going to fill up with water and cut off my oxygen supply.  Once I was confident, I entered a sea world where flying and swimming merge, where schools of colorful fish swim by, and where enormous sea turtles swim gracefully.

My buddy and protector of the day, Jack McHenry. Jack is also one of my dedicated blog readers. Mahalo, Jack!

The water here is calm and clear, making it easy to observe marine life.  How I wished I had an underwater camera.  But I don’t, so my memory will have to hold the vivid colors of the tropical fish and my words will have to suffice to share what I saw during the hour and a half snorkel experience.

I saw Angelfish, butterfly fish, trumpet fish, yellow tang, sea urchins, wrasse, and reef triggerfish in these coral gardens.  The most exciting for me was to see the giant sea turtles swimming by or to see them burrowing or hovering on the sea floor. I also saw and learned the Hawaiian name for the Rectangular Triggerfish, which is Hawaii’s State fish:  humuhumukunukunuapua’a!

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a: Hawaii’s state fish

And a sad word on the coral reefs at Maluaka: they didn’t look good.  I look back on my Thai experience of snorkeling along the coral reefs there and clearly remember that the coral was vibrant and very healthy.  That was a long time ago. Perhaps it has changed there, too?  The coral reefs I saw on Wednesday in the protected marine area were clearly dying.  Much of the coral dying has to do with climate change as well as human use of chemical sunscreens.  People going into the water are encouraged to wear water-shirts or zinc or titanium sunblocks instead of chemical sunscreens. Even in small amounts, chemical sunscreens are highly toxic to coral and fish. How I wish there could be a world wide ban on chemical sunscreens!

And so you don’t leave my blog in a complete state of coral-despair, the next day, Thursday (yesterday), we went to Ahihi Nature Preserve for more snorkeling. This time I chose not to snorkel and instead did a solo walk on a lava trail so that I could focus on taking some photos with my Leica. Meanwhile, the others in my group went snorkeling and reported that the coral at Ahihi Nature Preserve looks much healthier than what I saw in Maluaka the previous day.

And here are a few photos from my lava trail solo time.

I have to include a foot-foto. Perhaps this type of photo proves I really walked this beach of black lava stones.  And you can be sure that I took my shoe off just for the photo and put it back on before walking on this rougher-than-pumice stone lava beach.


Lava and Coral Collage with Shell Fossil in Lava Stone:


Black lava in the foreground:img_7044

How in the heck did a caper plant and flower (photographed below) make it to Maui all the way from the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria?l1410143

Here in Maui, I see tropical plants, in their natural environment, growing to be at least ten times larger than when grown as indoor houseplants back home.


Interesting how this photo of my lava cairn looks like a black and white photo when it is not.


I will never understand why people feel the urge to carve their names into trees.  Aina, don’t you see?  You’ll be the death of this tree?


Sunglasses, Sunhat, Frangipani (or Plumeria as it is called here in Hawaii):


Yoga and Hiking in Sun-Kissed Sicily

April 23, 2018

Yes, our yoga and hiking retreat in sun-kissed Sicily will be taking place very soon.  I am excited about this yoga retreat coming up and wanted to include some of the trip’s highlights!

Temperatures look to be in the 70s for the week ahead. Many of my readers know that this is not the first time I am offering a retreat in lovely Sicily and that this will not be the last time I will be offering a retreat in Sicily.  I love this island, its history, the sunshine, the warmth of the people, the sea, the landscape, the food, and the Italian language and the dialect.  I love doing yoga at the villa, outdoors, looking out at the sea.

On arrival day, we will be greeted by this lovely family of caretakers of Piero’s villa (photo below). They are originally from Mauritius, have lived in Sicily for many years, and they make sure we are well cared for during our week on this magical Mediterranean island, the pearl of Italy, Sicily.

The Bangaroo family: Darwin (son), Sheemee (daughter), Luckshmee (mother), Narain (father)


Retreat participants will be impressed by the inviting villa with its breathtaking views of the Ionian sea and Mt. Etna.  This is the view we enjoy as we do yoga. I have taken so many photos of this view.  It is different every morning and evening.

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On arrival day, we’ll unwind with a yoga session of deep stretching and relaxation.  Weather permitting, our sessions are held out on the lawn overlooking the most fabulous yoga setting I have ever experienced in my life.  All week, our yoga session themes will vary.  During shavasana, I will pepper the relaxing imagery with Italian words and the yoga retreat participants will be lulled into a deep transcendental state of being.



And sometimes, we will go a little crazy with our yoga creativity!


Yes, we will spend time on the road, en route to various hiking trails.  We are certain to pass field of wildflowers. Spring in Sicily is green!


On Sunday, May 6 we will travel to Piazza Armerina and the nearby Caltagirone.  In Piazza Armerina, we will visit the famous mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with our guide and archaeologist, Serena.  I visited this incredible site long ago, when I was 16 years old. I have always wanted to go back. And I am finally going back! 

More on Villa Romana del Casale LINK

Thirty minutes drive is Caltagirone, a town known for its ceramic arts and for the town’s famous 142 ceramic Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte built in 1608.  Those who like, will climb this staircase with me and we will all have time to walk around the town. There are various festivals throughout the year when the ceramic staircase is covered in flowers or in candles. Ceramic Staircase

On Monday, May 7, we will visit the historical nature reserve of Vendicari. In the past we have gone on archaeological tours and birding in Vendicari.  We will certainly see the many birds nesting here as well as the archaeological sites as we hike to Sicily’s most beautiful beach, which also happens to be a part of the protected nature reserve, Calamosche Beach.   I can’t wait to do yoga on this beach!

Flamingos of Vendicari as seen through my scope:

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photo below taken in Vendicari:Untitled Design

Tuesday, May 8, we will go on a long day trip Mt. Etna, where we will hike, if it is safe to do so.  It is about an hour and a half drive from our villa. Mount Etna was known to the Romans by its Latin name Aetna.  The Sicilians call it Mungibeddru, which translates to “beautiful mountain”.  It is an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily. The name Etna comes from the Greek Aitne, from aithō, “I burn.”

Some facts about Mount Etna:

  • It is Europe’s tallest volcano and one of the most active in the world.
  • Mount Etna stands at 10,810 feet tall
  • Since 2001, Mount Etna has erupted every year except 2007. The last major eruption was in 1992.
  • The circumference of Mount Etna is 93 miles (over twice the size of Mount Vesuvius).
  • There is snow present on the volcano year round.
  • The soil surrounding the volcano is very fertile. 3/4 of Sicily’s crops are grown near the volcano.
  • The biggest recorded eruption was on March 8, 1669. The lava reached Catania.  At least 20,000 people died.
  • “Another myth surrounding Mount Etna is that the Roman God of fire, Vulcan, used the base of the mountain for metalworking. As God of fire, he was considered as the manufacturer of art, arms, iron and armour, amongst other items. In this mythology, it is thought that Vulcan married Venus, the goddess of love and beauty after being promised a wife by Jupiter. At the base of Mount Etna, Vulcan built a blacksmiths, where he would beat red-hot metal whenever he found out that Venus had been unfaithful, causing an eruption.”

The photo below was taken by our hiking guide in March.  We will enter the park from Schiena del’Asino, which translates to “Spine of the Donkey” and take this trail for our hike.  Years ago, I went on a day trip to Etna.  At sea level, the day was warm enough for swimming in the sea, but up on the mountain, the wind whipped and chilled our bodies as we held our wind breakers tightly around us.


After our hike on Mount Etna, we will head over to Taormina where we will have some free time to roam around this ancient Greek city.  We will have time to see the Greek Theater ruins and the romantic piazzas overlooking the sea and the butterfly-shaped beach below.

On Wednesday, May 9, we will visit the Baroque town of Noto and hike in the nearby Cava Carosello.  While on the hike, we will do yoga at this lovely spot photographed below by our trekking company, Siracusa Trekking:


On Thursday, May 10, we will go on an Archaeological-trekking tour in Pantalica (UNESCO World Heritage Site) with archaeologist, Alessandro. Pantalica.  This is a place where ancient man lived and died in nature, a necropolis with honeycombed tombs dotting the sides of the trail. We will  have yoga at the ruins at sunset.

More information on Pantalica

Photo below Pantalica in March:

Pantalica (1)After yoga, we will head to the medieval town of Palazzolo Acreide where we will have dinner in a restaurant owned by two brothers by the last name of Gallo. They believe they are related to me, but I don’t think so because my father shortened our family name from “Brunogallo” to “Gallo” when he immigrated to America in the late 1950s…but you never know.

More on Palazzolo Acreide

On Friday, May 11, we will hike the nearby Plemmirio Nature Preserve where we will also have a peaceful and rejuvenating yoga session out in nature.  Later on, we will visit the colorful market of Ortigia and have free time to walk around on our own.

Link of Plemmirio Nature Preserve

I love this photo below. I saw this young woman texting on the side of this ancient cathedral in Ortigia.  The ancient and the modern side by side.  The cathedral was built over the Greek Temple of Athena. The temple pillars, dating back to 5th century BC, form the bone-like structure of the cathedral.  The open spaces between the pillars were filled in with stone to form an enclosed house of worship. The girl below is sitting on the original stairs of the Greek temple.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of my favorite cathedrals in Italy:


Follow us on our Sicilian yoga and hiking adventures by checking back in on my blog post.  Namaste, Fran

Local Bus To Sayulita

December 23, 2017

I exit the Sayulita airport. “Taxi? Muy barado!” I speedwalk past the taxi drivers excitedly touting their cheap taxi services. I have one mission in mind: to walk across the pedestrian overland bridge to catch the local bus.

It is already dark out. The air is warm and heavy with humidity. My hair instantly doubles in volume. The palm trees are more lush than ever. It is rush hour, it’s Friday, and Feliz Navidad is only a few days away.  There is no specific bus schedule. The bus will arrive when it arrives. I need agua so I find a roadside shop selling bottled water. Outside the shop I see a handwritten sign that says, “Relax! You are now on the other side of Trump’s Wall.”  My tense muscles relax and go into vacation mode.

Manana-land, here I am.

And the bus, a worn-but-clean Mercedes bus, arrives. It is overflowing with humanity. I squeeze in with my luggage. There is a festive atmosphere on the bus. Everyone is either wrapping up a long workweek, a long work day, or done with their Christmas shopping.

A kind elderly man taps my arm and offers me his seat. I decline his generosity. After all, he may have worked all day while I sat in flight. He seems embarrassed because I don’t accept his kindness.

The driver is loudly jamming some American tunes, mostly rock. I hang tight as Santana, Rolling Stones, R.E.M., Bowie, Credence Clearwater, and Pink Floyd help me ease on to the other side of the wall. My confused body slowly adjusts from Seattle’s 34 F degrees this morning to Sayulita’s 80F temperature this evening.

The seats are filled with workers, families and people trying to get home or going out for the  evening. A pregnant woman, who looks as if she just might have her baby now, rubs her belly and closes her eyes, the bus her lullaby. Three young beautiful women sport dazzling tight dresses, one in pink, the other in red, and the last of the trio in teal. Another young woman wears a t-shirt that says in English, “One world, my world, your world, our world.”

Some faces on the bus are illuminated by the odd glow of the ubiquitous iPhones.

As we leave the madness of the city and continue North to Sayulita, a seat opens up for me. I sit, cramming my luggage between my knees. A fan cools my face.  People continue to squeeze into the bus. Grocery bags filled with food, Christmas gifts, boxes, and enormous plastic bags filled with who-knows-what accompany them.

Eventually the bus arrives in Sayulita.

Here I am

without my lap top!

Yes, somehow I forgot to pack it!

Blogging for the first time on my iPhone,

no quick tap tap tap of the fingers.

Time to relax.

Feliz Navidad from Sayulita!



Yoga Retreat in Umbria: here we come!

September 9, 2012

I am leaving on Tuesday afternoon for Italy!  I am leading a retreat in the Umbria region of Italy from September 15-22.  The retreat will take place in a villa not far from Perugia.

Marilyn and I will meet our fabulous group of 16 yogis at the Perugia train station on Saturday, September 15th, and whisk them away to the villa where we will have a short unwinding yoga session and the first of many dinners prepared with love by our chef Massimiliano.

We will have daily early morning meditation, made optional for those who would prefer to have an extra half hour sleep in, followed by our early morning yoga sessions.   I will also lead yoga sessions in the evenings before dinner.

Some days we have outings and on some days, we have the option of staying at the villa to simply relax, swim, read, socialize, soak in the September Italian sun, or take long walks to discover the beauty of the area near Lake Trasimeno.

Photo: our villa

One of the day tours we have planned is to nearby Lake Trasimeno where we will take a ferry ride to one of the lake’s islands, Isola Maggiore.  Of course, I will have more to write about once I have actually been there!  I do know that some 14th-16th century buildings stand on this ancient fishing island. And St. Francis mediated and prayed here during Lent of  the year 1211 and he slept on a rock which is now kept in a chapel.

Isloa Maggiore features in ancient history as it is where Hannibal ambushed two of Rome’s legions in 217 BC, killing some  15,000 legionnaires.  I found this:  “According to legend, the Roman commander should have known to avoid battle that day. The sacred chickens refused to eat their breakfast, a dead giveaway that Rome’s prospects were not good.”

I also read this about the island: “The islanders specialize in making Irish lace. The technique was introduced in 1904 by the Marchesa Elena Guglielmi, when she brought an Irish housekeeper to the island.”  Irish lace!

Lake Trasimeno

We will also be going to Assisi, home of my beloved patron saint San Francesco d’Assisi, patron saint of animals and of the environment!  I love that there is actually a day, October 3, devoted to Blessing of the Animals in honor of St. Francis!

In Assisi, we will have a guided tour of the S.M. degli Angeli Church. This  is a church inside a church. This is where San Francesco spent most of his time praying and meditating.   Inside S.M. degli Angeli Church,  I will guide my group in a half hour session of meditation.  I have waited 50 years to see this church!  I can’t tell you how excited I am about going there and experiencing the energy of this sacred space, a space that goes beyond a specific religion and spreads itself into the realm of world peace, harmony, and love.

Assisi, home of the most gentle of saints, San Francesco (St. Francis)

Another outing is to Perugia, where we will have a tour of the chocolate factory and see all the sites there are to see.  In the evening, we will enjoy pizza in a local Perugia pizzeria.  Perugia is Seattle’s sister city and it will be so exciting to be there.  We have an awesome contact who is from there, a friend of Marilyn’s who works for the Mayor of Perugia and who has, along with Marilyn, has been incredibly helpful in putting this retreat together.   My group will have the opportunity to meet her one evening when she comes to join us for dinner!


And we will have one full day at a cooking school which is tucked away in the mountains.  That day, we will cook, eat, drink vino, hunt for mushrooms with our cooking school chefs, and do our afternoon yoga practice in a beautiful outside setting.

Field, mountains, cooking school, great food, vino, and yoga with a beautiful group of yogis and life adventurers: I can’t wait!

All the photos in this blog are stock photos from on line!  I will be blogging while I am away and will post as many of my own photos as I can.  As I have learned, downloading photos is really difficult when traveling due to the time it takes to actually download onto the blog, so my photos (or the majority of them) may have to wait for the final slide show upon my return.  Ciao a tutti!!

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