Sunday, October 31, 2010

They're grrrreat!

See what you get if you buy a packet of Frosties
(AKA Frosted Flakes) cereal in Hong Kong!

My wedding present for my brother and his new wife

The last time my mother visited Hong Kong, she asked me -- after being assigned the task of being Puppet Ponyo's handler when we were in Macau as well as post-viewing my Puppet Ponyo-in-Germany photos (e.g., here and here) -- whether Ponyo had risen above Hello Kitty in my affections. Since this is not the case, I got to thinking that it'd be good to devote a blog entry to the cute cat at some point in the near future -- and recent events have given me a good reason and opportunity to do so.

More specifically, earlier this week, when I popped into the supermarket on my way home from a stressful day of work, I decided that I had a craving for a sweet cereal for breakfast the next day. Upon going to the cereal section of the store and spying a cereal box featuring Hello Kitty on it (and the prospect of accumulating yet another free Hello Kitty item), I found myself instinctively making a grab for it. And so I've found myself eating that particular brand of cereal for breakfast on the days that I've felt like eating cereal (as opposed to, say, fresh fruits as often is my wont).

Additionally, when it came time to buy a wedding present for my brother and his now wife earlier this week, I really did opt to buy them a Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel plushie set -- and not just any set either but, instead, one which saw the kawaii pair of furry felines dressed in traditional Chinese garb!!!

And before anyone wonders: I know that my sister-in-law shares my love of plushies. So I'm trusting that she's telling the truth when she told me she thought the present was cute. As for my (younger) brother: well... let's just say that I remember when he was a big fan of the Care Bears, had plushies of his own and was almost as cute as Dear Daniel himself. So... I figure he'll be able to grin and bear (no pun intended) the presence of those commemorative plushies in their abode in the years ahead! ;D

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dark (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

As the proverbial "they" say, "It is darkest before dawn". But since I hardly ever get up in earnest at that time of the day, I have no photos of those wee hours to share with you!

Alternatively, as those of you checked out my Photo Hunt entry last week will have realized, I love taking sunset photos. And longer term visitors to this blog also know that I often have my camera out at dusk -- that time of the day when the sky may not be beautifully orange but there still is enough light for the darkened world to show (or at least hint) at its visible charms. In addition, after getting my current camera of choice (the thus far truly trusty -- touch wood! -- Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ2), I've become more inclined to take night shots.

Consequently, here's offering up both a dusk (or would it already be considered twilight?) view of Lantau's Lower Cheung Sha Beach and one of central Macau still decked out with lanterns one October evening (despite the Mid-Autumn Festival having taken place in September -- but never mind since the festive lanterns sure do beautify as well as light up what otherwise would have been a dark scene and night!). ;b

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tai Tan Country Trail hike (Photo essay III)

Aaaah... around this time of the year, the Hong Kong air becomes cooler, less humid and a whole lot pleasant -- which gets me thinking that soon, it'll be optimal hiking weather! And it really was a beautiful day back in December last year when two friends and I went hiking along the 6.7 kilometer Tai Tan Country Trail that's yielded two photo-essays already (see I and II).

But for all of it being a very pleasant and highly recommended hike (especially as a half day jaunt during less humid and cooler time of the Hong Kong year), I have resolved that this will be the final as well as third photo-essay covering that Sai Kung West Country Park excursion. For photographs of quite a few more hikes I've gone on since still await!

Are those brown bits seed pods?
All I know that they're cool looking and/but
are neither flowers nor butterflies! ;S

Is it just me or does this set of rocks
bring to mind
something ape-like to you too?

And is that an ancient great hound
behind that there bush???

The shadows may have been long but,
there was still plenty of daylight
left at this
point in the hike

Visual proof that not all Hong Kong walking paths
are concreted or have been visited by the railing police

Looking down to the coastal landscape below
from higher ground
on the hike that takes one
from sea-level up to over 100 meters

Are these golden-rods? Regardless of their name,
there's no question that these yellow wild flowers
add a nice touch of color to their surroundings

Near hike's end lies picturesque Hoi Ha Wan
(which gave its name -- and is part of --
Hoi Ha Marine Park) -- one of those places
that invites lingering at... :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Game for a laugh (or some smiles at least)?

Typos on signs often make me laugh

...but I've also found that certain other Hong Kong signs
can make me laugh (or, at least do a double take)
even though they don't contain any typos

...and then there are those signage that speak to
the Big Lychee's kawaii as well as Nanny State tendencies
that make me smile, if not laugh out loud

As I write this line in this blog entry, it's just 9.26pm but already, I'm feeling tired and thinking I will call it a day soon -- and this despite my only having gotten up from bed after 10am today. For the truth of the matter is that I've been feeling run down lately and so much so that when I went to see my doctor this past Wednesday, she very unusually recommended that I go on three whole days of medical leave that, when coupled with the weekend that followed, has seen me off work for five consecutive days.

Although I feel much more well rested now than I did a few days ago, I have to say that I still don't feel completely A-okay yet. But rather than get depressed by this, I've determined that I'm going to try to see the funny, if not brighter, side of life -- this not least since, as the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine (and it's actually been scientifically proven to be so for the heart by a group of American university scientists).

And since another saying goes that "smile and the whole world smiles with you", I figured it'd be cool to put up a post in which I share images that make me smile, if not laugh out loud. And for good measure, here also offering up links to a couple quirky videos that tickle my funny bone every time. (In the case of the Matt Harding video, the Tonga segment gets me particularly seeing the funny side of things. As for the other video (which features a figure that will be familiar to regular visitors to this blog), here's feeling a need to state for the record that it really was made by someone else other than me -- honest!!! :D)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Orange (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Eck! I just realized that I ate my orange-colored breakfast (of slices of honeydew melon) without taking a single photograph of it! No matter though, really, because when I saw the theme for this week's Photo Hunt, I was pretty set on putting up sunset photos from two wonderful September days spent in areas bordering two adjoining bodies of water in Plover Cove and Tolo Harbour.

The first of these days took place a couple of years ago and activities on that day out in Tai Mei Tuk included a stroll along the circular Tai Mei Tuk Family Walk that offers views of Plover Cove, Plover Cove Reservoir and the Pat Sin Leng range with my mother and four other friends of various ages and evening of barbecue gluttony. (And for the record, I'd previously used other photos from that day previously for my "warm" and "sparkle" Photo Hunt entries!)

The second of these took place more recently -- again, on a birthday weekend during which I went on a hike that offered up great sights (both on Ma Shi Chau and on the way to and back from there) and spent time enjoying the colorful, orange-tinged displays that the setting sun provided us with.

And lest there be any doubt: yes, these photos really were taken in Hong Kong -- albeit in sections of the Fragrant Harbour that are far off the beaten tourist (and expatriate) path. Hence my frequent recommendations to visitors (and even quite a few residents) to go out and explore Hong Kong -- for it really is a place with so much to offer in terms of things to do, sights to see, etc., etc. -- and with regards to natural as well as cultural attractions!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Macau delights (food and movie location spotting)

Puppet Ponyo on holiday again!

This time around, it's to Macau (for just a day)

Two weeks ago today, when my mother was here in Hong Kong for a visit, I took her to the former Portuguese enclave of Macau for a day. Although now -- like Hong Kong -- a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, it has its own special feel... and a markedly different pace of life from the Big Lychee; and this especially out in Coloane, the southern section of the territory which used to be a separate island from -- but now is joined by the reclaimed land known as the Cotai Strip to -- the now far more built-up Taipa.

After traveling by ferry from Hong Kong, we went straight from the ferry terminal to Fernando's, the legendary Portuguese restaurant that -- when it's not crowded (like was fortunately the case when we visited) -- can be a pleasantly relaxing place to eat at. Then after a a stroll about nearby Hac Sa Beach (whose lack of cleanliness I found sadly disappointing -- especially compared to the better Hong Kong beaches), we decided that our stomachs could handle some food again and made for Coloane village -- specifically, the sublime egg tarts that came from the ovens of the original branch of Lord Stow's Bakery.

Upon reaching that nicely quiet as well as attractively quaint neck of the woods though, we figured it'd be good to get a bit more exercise and time in between our previous feeding. So we went about strolling Coloane's main esplanade which looks out on to a narrow body of water separating Macau from Zhuhai and that Chinese city itself. And as we made our way south along the road towards its temples to Tam Kung and Tin Hau, we passed a sight that I have to admit that I've been hoping to set my eyes on "in the flesh", so to speak, for a while now -- specifically, after viewing Full-Time Killer close to a decade ago now.

Although I'm hardly the biggest fan of that 2001 Milkyway Image production (as my review of the film for Hong Kong Cinema: View from the Brooklyn Bridge all those years ago shows), that particular place had looked so picturesque that it was almost hard to believe that it was a real space rather than mere movie set. But as the photos at the top of the entry shows, that which involves a square in front of the Chapel of St Francis Xavier that is flanked by restaurants and a monument commemorating a 1910 victory of pirates is one of those places that truly does exist outside of movies!

And lest there be there any doubt: yes, I really do still get a thrill from spotting and/or recognizing a location I first saw in the movies after all these years. On the other hand, if you were to ask me whether it is more fun and exciting to spot a real-life location I first saw in a movie or -- as happens much more frequently these days -- see a real-life location I already was familiar appear in a movie I'd have to honestly admit that I'm not quite sure what my answer would be to that question... except to say that both are pretty cool as far as I'm concerned! :b

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tai Tan Country Trail (Photo-essay #2)

As I walked about the streets of Hong Kong earlier this evening, I found it uncommonly windy -- no doubt due to Typhoon Megi's heading over in this direction. And although it hasn't turned rainy still and no typhoon signals have yet to be raised, it seems only a matter of time before the deluge.

So, as I work on this follow-up to last week's Tai Tan Country Trail photo-essay during what pretty much amounts to a relative calm before the storm, I'm thinking that there'll be no hiking for me this weekend. Instead, the closest I probably will be getting to the Hong Kong countryside for a while is by way of looking at photos in my archive like the following... :S

The above picture gives a good sense of how fine
the day was back in December when two friends and I
went hiking out in the Sai Kung Peninsula

At the same time, there was visible evidence
along the trail of the power of nature

Looking across Long Harbour (AKA Tai Tan Hoi)
eastwards to the formidable Sharp Peak

Also across Long Harbour is a small coastal village
that looks like it remains more frequently and
easily approached by boat rather than over land

While out hiking, I make it a point to look near
as well as far in my search for beauty

It'd be icing on the proverbial cake to be able to identify
flowers like these
but I must admit to often being happy
to be able to spot and photograph them... ;S

Another bonus of coastal hikes is coming across
nice quiet beaches like this one

This hiking trail actually came so close to the water's edge
at times that one had to look around for signs
like this one to know where to go next!

To be continued soon with a third and final photo-essay to complete the series!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Man Mo Temple in Lantau

The Man Mo Temple in Pak Ngan Heung is far less
well known than the Man Mo Temple
in Central but
it still is
not without its own particular charms

Intriguing art work on the temple's exterior wall
showing what looks to be a young
version of the
God of War (Mo Tai, AKA Kwan Tai, AKA Guan Yu)

having Chinese characters inscribed on his back

According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, there are more than 600 temples in Hong Kong -- with the Taoist goddess of the sea, Tin Hau being the most popular of the deities in terms of being the celestial being with the most temples dedicated to her. But while the 13th century Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay may be the oldest temple in the territory, quite a few other temples are better known -- due to their size (in the case of such as the Wong Tai Sin Temple) or location (in the case of the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road (on Hong Kong Island).

On the subject of location: earlier today while out hiking on the Lantau Island trail connecting Mui Wo to Tai Ho Wan, my two companions and I came across a modest-sized Man Mo Temple that has origins in the Ming Dynasty but looks far newer courtesy of a 1958 rebuilding by the Chinese Temples Committee. Although small in size, it definitely was not without interest.

In particular, I was intrigued by the artwork that is the subject of the second photo in this blog entry. So... if anyone can tell me more about that scene, do please either do so via this post's comments thread or feel free to email me.

Not completely unrelatedly, Dr Martin Williams labelled Lantau the Isle of the Unexpected on his website -- and I cannot but concur; this especially post today's hike whose path took my hiking companions and me past attractions as diverse as a pretty waterfall, a cave mined for silver in the 19th century, old villages with fung shui woods and earth god shrines, and more besides... including a Man Mo Temple that appeared unmanned as well as, alas, without any explanations as to its art and such (at least not in English)! ;(

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Miniature (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

When I saw the theme for this week's Photo Hunt, my thoughts leaped immediately to a certain museological establishment I visited on Christmas Day, 2007 in Taipei, Taiwan. (As an aside, I decided to visit Taiwan over Christmas that year precisely because it's one of those parts of the world in which December 25th is not a public holiday -- which thus meant that I had one fewer day where lots of stores and attractions would be shut to contend with while on vacation!)

The Miniatures Museum of Taiwan is one of those quirky private institutions that are a testament to a single individual's passion and obsession. In this case, the individual in question is a retired Taiwanese businessman by the name of Lin Wen-jen whose love for miniature art works, including items that make up whole dioramic scenes from stories such as Gulliver's Travels or locales as diverse as Venice to Japanese villages to Victorian English home interiors, led him to collecting these objects on trips to different parts of the world and, eventually, setting up exhibitions in a museological setting for others to view.

Looking at these miniature objects individually, one can't help but admire the attention paid to details and the sheer skill involved in creating these works. When taken as a whole, one's scale of admiration cannot but increase -- and in this museum, what stands out is the love as well as imagination that has gone into assembling them; this particularly with regards to those spaces that aren't meant so much to be exact miniature replicas of actual spaces but, rather, where the creators' fancies are given to really take flight.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cheung Sha Beach(es) excursion

Late afternoon at Upper Cheung Sha Beach
in Lantau two Saturdays ago

The really uncrowded middle section of, at 3 kilometers,
Hong Kong's longest beach (if you take both Lower
and Upper Cheung Sha Beaches as one)

In the past forty-eight hours or so, I've received a number of reminders from various sources about how important yet fragile one's health can be, how one's physical and psychological well-being is not at all unrelated -- and how and why it actually is necessary to take a break every once in a while and pause to rest for a bit as well as remember how good life can be.

While people often talk in terms of taking time to smell the roses, my own particular preference is to do such as go out hiking or go for a leisurely walk along a beach. And in Hong Kong, I've felt particularly fortunate to have been able to combine both those activities not once but twice: for example, one day last August when I went to the much vaunted Tai Long Wan in the Sai Kung Peninsula one day last August; and more recently two Saturdays ago when my mother was in town on another of her flying visits.

This time around, our excursion began with an MTR ride from my neck of the woods to Tung Chung in Lantau, followed by a bus that dropped us right at the entrance to Upper Cheung Sha Beach. From there, we walked a couple or more kilometers to Lower Cheung Sha Beach -- pausing often to do such as let the cool and clear sea water wash over our feet, admire the views, people watch and, in my case, take plenty of photographs (and in her case, lie down on the rocks and take a nap!) -- before heading back from whence we had come earlier in the day.

More than once while we were there, my mother exclaimed about how few people there were out on the lovely long beach. And I have to say that I like that it's not at all crowded (especially in the middle section away from the areas not manned by life guards). So I hope that I'm not going to end up contributing too much to a Paradise Lost situation by disclosing what seems to have hitherto been a surprisingly guarded scenic secret. At the same time though, I feel obliged to recommend an excursion to a place like Cheung Sha Beach as a way to de-stress because, in all honesty, even just recalling the memory of that beautiful day at the beach now is helping me to feel more relaxed...! ;b

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tai Tan Country Trail hike (Photo-essay)

Although I've put up a few photos taken while out in Hong Kong since returning from my German vacation, my past few months' photo-essays (e.g., this one) -- as well as quite a few other entries (like this recent one) -- have been Germany- rather than Hong Kong hike-focused. But here's finally returning to "regular programming" with the first Hong Kong hiking photo-essay since the one back in July with photos of a from The Twins to Stanley portion of a hike I actually went on back in -- augh, how time flies :O -- November last year.

More specifically, the next hike I went on after that which saw me finally conquer the formidable -- to the likes of me anyways! -- twin peaks of The Twins took two friends and me to Sai Kung West Country Park. The Tai Tan Country Trail -- which should not be confused with the Tai Tam Country Trail on Hong Kong Island -- skirts along a scenic section of coast, sometimes at sea level and sometimes at somewhat higher ground. So yes, it's one of those hikes that I think deserves not just one but at least two (maybe even three!) photo-essays worth of coverage on this blog...

Shortly after passing through the wooden archway
announcing the start of this official hiking trail,
I was getting the feeling that this would be a hike
offering plenty of aesthetically-pleasing scenes and sights

Early on in the hike, one could hear the restful sounds of
Hau Tong Kai stream's flowing waters as one traipsed along

Many Hong Kong hikes pass through abandoned villages
but this one passed through a still inhabited one
with houses that look very nice(ly kept up) indeed

This home made not be as recently painted
as the ones in the above photo
but I think it still definitely has its charms

Minutes away from a village, a resting feral cow
gives proof that it's not just humans who have made
this neck of the Hong Kong woods home :b

Call me namby-pamby but it's nice to have
those laid out stones to step on as one passes
through land that can otherwise be on the wet side!

And yeah, those describing of this hiking trail
as a coastal trail really weren't kidding!

Looking across Long Harbour to other country areas of
the "Leisure garden of Hong Kong" (i.e., the Sai Kung Peninsula)

To be continued... of course! :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some more things to do in Hong Kong when it rains

Rainy, gray day in Hong Kong

When asked who I think my blog's audience is, my answer is that I appear to have two core audiences. The first -- and longest term "followers" -- are people who first became acquainted with my online presence via either Brian's Hong Kong Cinema: View from the Brooklyn Bridge or the Mobius Home Video Forum's Asian Cinema Discussion Board. The second group are those who only began visiting this blog after I moved to Hong Kong and appear to be most interested in my Hong Kong hiking photo-essays and other posts that stem from my exploring diverse sections of the Big Lychee.

To judge by such as my blog's Site Meter stats though, this blog also attracts a fair number of one-time visitors who are led here by Google and other search engines. And while it's true enough that quite a few of these individuals were looking for information about Hong Kong cinema, I've also come to discover in recent months that one of the most popular posts on this blog is that which offers up suggestions as to what are some things to do in Hong Kong when it rains.

As it so happens, today was one of those days in Hong Kong which was rainy or threatening to rain for much of it. And I can honestly say that my mother (who's currently at the tail end of one of her visits over here) and I did do one of the things mentioned in that post (i.e., spend time shopping... :S).

However, we also spent a good part of today doing two other things that I do think are worth spending some time on a rainy day in Hong Kong doing: that is, checking out a cultural performance and also leisurely -- and enjoyably -- eating a big meal.

With regards to the former: someone who left the Fragrant Harbour some months back but still can't seem to stop thinking and commenting about matters and life (and, in particular, cultural life) here recently put up an online piece about how he reckons that Hong Kong is a cultural desert. Frankly, I think his views are so wrong -- this not least since he seems to equate culture almost solely with indie music and that to be danced to in clubs -- that his piece is just not worth linking to. And also since in the past week or so, this culture vulture's packed cultural life has included attending a screening at the Hong Kong Film Archive of Keisuke Kinohita's sublime Twenty-Four Eyes, a percussion concert courtesy of Musicarama 2010 and the Four Gig Heads, a Hong Kong Sinfonietta concert which had Christopher Hogwood as guest conductor and -- earlier today -- a very enjoyable co-presentation by Opera Hong Kong and the Theatro dell'Opera di Roma of Puccini's La Boheme.

With regards to the latter: I particularly love how the Big Lychee has a plethora of brunch options -- including big English breakfasts at 24-hour breakfast specialists The Flying Pan as well as a number of English-style (and often run) pubs that also offer up traditional English grub, American alternatives such as bagel and lox and Egg's Benedicts at establishments like Staunton's Wine Bar and Cafe in Soho and the New York-style Main Street Deli in Tsim Sha Tsui and -- my personal favorite when I have company -- dim sum at eateries such as Victoria City Seafood Restaurant and the more quirkily named Sportful Garden Restaurant. (N.B. both the dim sum establishments cited are actually restaurant chains -- my personal favorites are the Victoria City branch in Wan Chai and the Sportful Garden in Causeway Bay.)

On a related note, Hong Kong also has its share of nice bars and pubs where one can pleasantly while away some time during a rainy day -- with one of the nicer ones being The Globe in Central by virtue of its extra long happy hours, excellent selection of draft beers (including -- when I most recently visited -- Morland Brewery's Old Speckled Hen and Greene King IPA), ambitious food options and the kind of laid-back, unhurried atmosphere during the day that makes it so that one can feel comfortable nursing a pint or two while reading the daily newspaper or some pages of a book.

Alternatively put: Carry out one or more of the activities outlined in this blog (or the earlier referenced one)... and I'm reckoning that you won't mind the rain even if you're on a trip of a lifetime to the Fragrant Harbour! And for those who live here, rainy weekend days also can be days to just have a long lie in and take it easy in one's abode... or, if it's looking too messy, a day to consider take some probably over-due time to clean up one's living space! ;D

*Post-script: I just checked out Gweipo's blog and found that she and her kids had a pretty activity-packed October 10th too! And although her day appears to have been spent outdoors far more than me, I'm happy to reference it as one more example of how much there is to do on a Sunday in Hong Kong, a part of the world I honestly do feel is more lively and fun options-filled than the great bulk of this earth.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stripes (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

The last time around that stripes were the theme of a Photo Hunt, I offered up a trio of photos of pedestrian road-crossing zones, the classic example of which are known as zebra crossing because of their visual similarity to zebra stripes. But because the markings in Hong Kong have yellow stripes on the road rather than are black and white (like in other parts of the world including Britain and Malaysia), they -- which I find to be interesting photographic subjects -- are actually called tiger crossings!

One and half years on, I find myself drawn again to putting up photos of tiger crossings; albeit different ones -- and in one case in particular, of a markedly different scale -- from the last time around. More specifically, the upper photo is of a little section of Hong Kong that remains small-scale (note the small size of the flower shop as well as the short length of the tiger crossing) in an area of the territory known for increasingly towering constructions along with deep pockets.

Meanwhile, for the second photo, I went less for one of my "artistic" shots. Put another way, I like the visual sight created by zebra crossing stripes being reflected onto -- and creating the optical illusion of looking like they continue right onto -- a bus door's glass. (And for those who don't see anything special in that vision: well, these are the kinds of things that one looks out for to make one's regular commute to work less boring than it can be! ;b )

Friday, October 8, 2010

10 things I learnt about Germany on my most recent holiday there

Sunset over the Rhine as viewed from Wiesbaden
on the last evening of my German holiday

One of a number of glasses of beer
I happily downed in Germany

Ten German vacation observations (presented in no particular order):-

1) Contemporary Germany is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic place -- replete with such as African fairs, Asian university students and Turkish restaurants and sections as well as olde worlde German biergartens, brauhauses, cathedrals and schlosses.

2) Speaking of beer places: Germany's biergartens and brauhauses are where one can get amazingly fresh and pretty much guaranteed tasty brews!

3) Traditional German food can be delicious, is almost always substantial and appears largely composed of meat, potatoes, bread and pickled vegetables. (And on the subject of substantial: it can take several minutes to chew a single, small piece of German bread!)

4) Even the most famously touristy places (e.g., Heidelberg) as well as cities with UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites can be surprisingly bereft of people, never mind crowds.

5) In at least one German city (i.e., Ludwigshafen), one has to order a bus -- like you would a taxi -- to come pick you up from its main railway station after a certain time in the evenings! :O

6) Many Germans like to bicycle around town and further afield (and there are many bike lanes on the sides of roads and highways specifically given for bicyclists to ride on and along).

7) Germany is a land filled with beautiful cultural and natural sights galore.

8) Quite a number of German religious art works (be they currently ensconced in churches and cathedrals or art museums) can give Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ a run for its money in terms of the bloodiness stakes!

9) Unlike in Hong Kong, it's the norm for elevators to not only have a "fourth floor" button but also no "close" door button!

10) German people do have a sense of humor -- and thank goodness my German friend has; otherwise she'd be most upset by certain things I saw in ostensibly serious places like churches and cathedrals causing me to double up and laugh out loud! :D

And for the record: I flew in and out of Germany from Frankfurt airport -- and the towns and cities I visited on this recent vacation were Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Heidelberg, Hirschhorn, Speyer, Cologne, Schwetzingen, Mainz and Wiesbaden. (So, yes, I think I (with Puppet Ponyo in tow) managed to cover quite a bit of ground over the course of my little-less-than-two-week visit -- thanks in no small part to having a very good German friend taking some time off and showing me around her homeland! :b )