Friday, April 29, 2016

Point Arena Lighthouse: History, landscape, sea life and a guest house to stay over

The Point Arena Lighthouse has history dating back to 1870 when the original lighthouse was erected.

Point Arena Lighthouse includes lodging and a nice gift shop
with handmade aquatic-life magnets. The views are stunning.



PEOPLE COME from cross-country and overseas to visit the historic Point Arena Lighthouse in California's picturesque Mendocino County.
The view from the top of the Point Arena Lighthouse is spectacular.
They climb gamely up the 1870 landmark -- stopping to rest and admire the view at the four convenient landings.  Then they browse the gift shop and study the museum's unique contents.  With luck, they catch a glimpse of a passing pod of dolphin or a transiting whale. We had such good fortune on a recent visit, one of many we've made through years of driving from our southern California winter base to Mendocino County.
LIKE MANY small coastal towns, Point Arena is proud of its place in California's history and landscape. On the north end of the town is the historic lighthouse which also offers lodging with spectacular views.  At the other is a pier where you'll see fishermen haul in today's catch, stopping for a bowl of chowder or tasty fresh fish and chips (and an impressive collection of beer and ale.)
A gift shop browser narrows her choice
from a selection of marine life magnets.
This tiny fishing town is built around a small harbor. It offers fun shops and a rugged beauty that many consider tops on the California coast.
POINT ARENA'S main street is located on the always alluring Highway One, California's coastal artery. The user-friendly village sports some buildings in need of repair. But other restored vintage homes and offices reflect pride of ownership.  It's a comfortably walkable little place where you'll be welcome in the neatly kept library. There we were invited to use our laptops to meet a story deadline.  We appreciate the pleasant, quiet environment.  Locals strolled in to check out the latest best-sellers and use the computers. Old-fashioned welcomes and friendly banter are a way of life in Point Arena.
THE TOWN also has a historic theater, a pleasant city park, well used bike path and an array of eye-catching Victorian and  Queen Anne buildings.
A beautiful French lens is a highlight of the Point Arena
Lighthouse museum. The lighthouse has a colorful history. 
If your schedule permits, consider staying over. Point Arena has several interesting options but one stands out: the Lighthouse cottages. We were based with relatives on a nearby farm, but we're hoping to stay next visit in one of these cozy homes.
Cozy lodging at the Lighthouse
offers spectacular views.

Enterprising lighthouse director Mark Hancock is developing guest houses from buildings no longer needed for staff in this computer age.
One of the pleasantly decorated cottages is pet friendly, and the views! Wow.
In its day, the Point Arena Lighthouse was manned 24 hours
a day by a revolving staff.  Today, their homes have been
converted into attractive guest houses on the coast. 
THE SHINING star of Point Arena is the lighthouse itself, and its fascinating small museum.  A Fresnel lens (pronounced "Fre-nel," with a silent "s") has a prominent place. The lens, named after its inventor, was retired more than 20 years ago, but remains an attraction because of its superb craftsmanship and ability to concentrate light into a powerful beam. Its glass lenses bend and amplify the light source giving ships at sea better light for coastal navigation. "Far out," as we said in the 1970s.
Our guide gave detailed descriptions of the lens, along with lively lighthouse history. He recounted the damage wrought by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which sent ripples 130 miles north to Point Arena, and beyond.
POINT ARENA is a treasure trove of the unexpected.  Don't miss the B Bryan Preserve with its amazing array of African hoof stock, including endangered zebra, giraffe and antelope. How wonderful to see these magnificent animals in large, open fields. The Lighthouse, though, heads the "must see" list.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
offers an intimate and well orchestrated look at the life,
times, challenges and accomplishments of the 40th President.

UP NEXT: Even those who did not vote for Ronald Reagan admit to being charmed by his gregarious nature, his genuine people skills, his diplomatic acumen and his rise from college football star to Hollywood actor, to California governor then President of the United States. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on a lovely 100-acre site in Simi Valley brings the 40th President back to life in beautifully designed displays and hands-on exhibits.  We take it in, including a chunk of the Berlin Wall he helped bring down -- and the Air Force One he traveled in. Remember to explore, learn and live. Catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend.
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Friday, April 22, 2016

Travel Asia by junk, sampan, bullet train, bike and more

The sampans navigate the harbor in Hong Kong, taking tourists around for 350 Hong Kong dollars ($70 a couple, U.S.)
You can get cheaper fares to take you around the Aberdeen area, if you negotiate. The sampan is part of Hong Kong lore, distinct because it is maneuvered with oars at the stern.  Retirees make up the majority of the sampan drivers.


In Halong Harbor, we were happily jostled about in our tour boat.
Navigation to the famous caves nearby includes boats bumping each other. 

''I've flown around the world in a plane. I've settled revolutions in Spain. 
The North Pole I have charted. But I can't get started with you.....''


Tuk-tuk time for Sue, Cookie, John and Keller in Bangkok.
"WE'VE FLOWN around the world in a plane. Been part of traffic tie-ups in Spain.
Rode in sampans, tuk-tuks, Treaded snow in mukluks,it's true."
Awaiting the famed bullet train in Tokyo, we joined tourists from all over.

WE APOLOGIZE to Vernon Drake and Ira Gershwin for taking liberties with their wonderful song, but we couldn't resist the segue to our travel modes and highlights story.
During a 33-day Asia trek, we sampled a dozen water-borne vehicles: ships, barges, cruise boats, sampans, even a Chinese junk.
We saw couples riding motorbikes in Vietnam and Thailand (with the girls sitting daintily side-saddle), and we boarded a tourist boat for a joyously bumpy ride in Halong Bay which took us to the famous caves.
WE CRAMMED ourselves into tuk-tuks in Bangkok, enjoying the company of friends from York.  It was our first time in the colorfully decorated, three-wheeled motorized vehicle used as taxis throughout Thailand.
Stylishly dressed, this young Thai lady
rides "side saddle" with her beau.
In Hong Kong's famous Victoria Harbor, which separates the city from Kowloon, we sailed on a junk, the type that has transported Chinese merchants and precious cargo since the Third Century B.C.
INSTEAD OF hauling spices, silks, tea and produce, our lovely junk transported tourists from all over the world.  We sipped green tea and watched the world go by, circling the harbor three times, as the kindly tour guide indulged us and our seafaring delight.
Hong Kong's famed junks are among the
last left in the world. The junk is centuries old.
IN VIETNAM, we biked past rice paddies and vegetable gardens, enjoying a close-up view of the musk oxen and water buffalo that farmers still use.
This musk ox grazes in Vietnam, while
 his owner rests in the early afternoon.
In Japan, we beheld another wonder, the bullet train.  We took several rides on this super fast train, known as the Shinkansen, which literally means “new trunk line."
We biked through rice paddies and enjoyed fresh air
and visits with the friendly Vietnamese people.
The bullet train reaches speeds of more than 250 miles per hour, zips to major cities and some of the small outer villages, and has never had a fatality (despite being shaken on its tracks during tsunamis and earthquakes.) It's a quick, comfy way to get around this efficient country.
WHILE THE bullet train is known for its modern technology, older, time-honored modes of four-legged transportation are still in use.
We saw both musk ox and water bison in the fields, and enjoyed talking to several of the workers, who proudly showed off their male oxens' reproductive jewels.
  Point Arena Lighthouse is famous for rugged views.
"See!" a farmer exclaimed, holding up his prized bull's tail. "He has very large ones. Makes many babies!"

COMING UP: The historic Point Arena lighthouse makes a wonderful get-away if you're headed to northern California and Mendocino country.  It's lovely gift shop features unique, handmade wildlife magnets, the museum has a beautiful French made lens, you can stay overnight in a guest house, and even climb to the top -- for a bird's eye view of passing whales!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tragedy strikes as young musical talent succumbs to heart condition

Good-bye Marlee: We will miss your sweet smile, music and precocious wit.


Marlee Rebecca Cluff loved singing and dancing and pushing the envelope. In top photo, near the end of her life,
she tried a new hair color.  "It wasn't quite what I thought it would be," she confided. "I wanted more purple." 
Marlee loved to sing and dance, here with her mom's
good friend and landlord, James Hayes, on bass.

TRAGEDY STRUCK in the wee hours of April 7, when Marlee Rebecca Cluff passed away in the Fort Bragg hospital.
Hours of CPR and emergency medical attention failed to revive her after she collapsed at home in the wee hours. Her death ended a life of medical challenge resulting from a congenital birth defect which compromised her cardiovascular and pulmonary systems and eventually took her life.
Marlee, nine years old, was a brave, bright light , sharing her talents for singing, drawing and dancing with her community and extended family. Everyone who spent time with this charming child admired her talent, wit and courage.
RAISED MOST of her life by Lauren Chalece Cluff, a single mom, Marlee weighed less than five pounds when she was born Aug.31, 2006. She endured her first of many surgeries when only eight days old. Another operation was planned this summer, to replace both her damaged pulmonary artery and an overtaxed aortic valve.
Home for Marlee was Purple Martin Farm near Point Arena.
Marlee’s musical mother sang to her all her short life. Patsy Cline tunes, Billy Holiday ballads and Beatles songs were Marlee’s favorites. She knew many lyrics and 1940s “big band” tunes not familiar to many older musicians.
HER VOCAL talents, intelligence and winning personality charmed friends and family at weddings, reunions and many other functions. Marlee’s drawings and jewelry pieces were impromptu gifts cherished by visitors to her home on Purple Martin Farm near Point Arena. She was a second grader at Pacific Community Charter School.
Marlee was a thoughtful, bright child who will be missed.
AN ENERGETIC tree climber and rain dancer, Marlee loved riding her bike through the forest and farmland.  She had a precocious nature and broad interests, embracing astronomy and the constellations. On the last night of her brief life, she described once seeing a rare “moonbow” and proudly showed off the blossoms of a fruit tree blooming on the farm.
Survivors besides her mother include her mother’s partner, Kieran Roy Martin, whom Marlee called “my super hero,” her step-sister Aya Martin, aunts and uncles and a grieving extended family on the farm run by Kelle Martin and James Hayes. Marlee is also survived by loving grandparents Richard and Shelly Jones, two sets of great grandparents and hundreds of friends and admirers spanning the generations.
Marlee's home in rural Point Arena offered her plenty of flowers to draw.
MARLEE'S MOTHER extends “heartfelt thanks to all the first responders for their extreme efforts to keep Marlee alive. After more than an hour of CPR, these wonderful people still didn't want to give up on Marlee. I will be forever grateful for their loving care, and that her last moments on Earth were spent with such caring people."
Marlee Rebecca's Celebration of life will be held at the Odd Fellow's Hall in Point Arena, Calif., this Saturday April 16, at 3 p.m., appropriate because  Marlee loved the rugged Mendocino coast, and the flowers blooming this time of year. Guests are asked to bring a potluck dish and an anecdote of Marlee's life to share. A live band of locals who loved Marlee will provide dancing music. More details may be found on Aimee Taylor’s Point Arena Update page on Facebook. (Plug in Marlee Cluff.)
A FUND to defray medical and burial expenses has been arranged, in lieu of floral remembrances. The Marlee Cluff Memorial Fund, arranged at Redwood Credit Union, is account number: @2647cluf. Donations may also be sent to Marlee Cluff Memorial, c/o Redwood Credit Union,  PO Box 485, Point Arena, CA 95468. Call 707 545-4000; 1 800 479-7928

The junk is a revered part of Asian culture. We sample it, and a half-dozen
other modes of Asian culture, in the next whereiscookie! 
The junk is a revered part of Asian culture. We sample it, and a half-dozen other modes of Asian culture, in the next whereiscookie!
We'll visit Vietnam by bike, Hong Kong by junk, Thailand by tuk-tuk and Japan by bullet train. Come with us to explore Asia with a variety of transportation options.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Friday afternoons when we post for each weekend. Our specialty is travel with a twist -- as we put our own spirit and stamp on each culture we visit.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Hotel rooms with museum quality art: Tokyo's Park Hotel gives artists room to explore

Artist Aki Narita calls her room design "Geisha Goldfish" incorporating two favorite elements of the Japanese culture.

Art floor celebrates Japanese culture -- book a hotel room to enjoy the view of your own art show

The approach to Park Hotel Tokyo leads
one through lovely gardens. 
A plaque in each art room gives
details about the artist, here
Aki Narita (see above).

ONE ROOM feels like an underwater hideaway, with red geishas and floating koi -- giving the geisha's role in Asian culture an aquatic-laced nod.
Artist Kazuki Mizuguchi's "Castle" room is underway, celebrating
earlier  days of Tokyo's famed Royal Palace in shogun time.
Down the hall, an artist labors over an elaborate homage to the Edo Dynasty. His feudal Tokyo of the 1700s shows stately shogun castles with gold and glitter.
The Aki Kondo room, "Ota fuku Face," cleverly incorporates
the room decor, including mirror and lights, into the artwork. 
Another room celebrates the carp, while nearby the fleeting beauty of Japan's fabled cherry trees is transformed to walls and ceilings. Down the hall, the "LuckyCat" chamber celebates the feline's charm.
STILL OTHER artful rooms feature dragons, sumo wrestlers, the horse, the bath house, Mt. Fuji, the ocean's bounty -- all revered in Japanese culture, and all artfully presented.
Park Hotel Tokyo's unique art floor -- high above the city -- features 18 rooms created  by individual craftsmen and women.  The project is unique to Tokyo, and the world, as it celebrates the diversity, vision and excellence of a thriving city's artists.
From tasty east-meets-west breakfast
to evening cocktails, the Park Hotel's
lobby is a relaxing gathering place.
Hiroko Otake's "Cherry Blossoms" celebrates the culture's love of the tree. 
Park Hotel Tokyo opened in 2003 and several years ago took a daring, expensive step. It shows art in its lobby, on walls and in guest rooms.
AS THE FIRST Japanese hotel affiliated with the international Design Hotels group, Park Hotel Tokyo integrates refined architecture and quality hospitality with unique interior design, sculpture, displays and huge digital, high-tech projected art shows. Each Design Hotel reflects its culture and place.
Yuko Matsubra and Emi Sotome work with the project, initiated in 2012, and are proud of its unique charm, popularity and evolution.
THE HOTEL'S  in-house design committee reviewed applications, choosing artists whose work celebrates nature and the culture's gift for integrating it into life.
"All four seasons are present in the rooms, with a variety of color and emotion," says Matsubara.
"The rooms touch the beauty of the soul, and we hope refresh mind and body much as a museum visit does," adds Sotome.
THUS FAR, 18 rooms on the 31st floor are completed. The entire floor will be done, attracting businessmen, and both Asian and western tourists to bustling Shiodome Media Tower in which the hotel is located (from the 25th-floor lobby, on up, up, up.)
 "Yokai" by artist Nobuo Magome celebrates folklore. We enjoyed the figures
of supernatural powers, which are well known elements of Japanese culture.

The art floor isn't the only attraction. Regular art shows are held in the hotel's lovely lobby, and the bar's and restaurant's presentations are artworks in themselves.   (We enjoyed both Japanese and western breakfast with visitors from France, Ireland, Australia and other Asian countries.) We met a delightful Italian bartender at the chic, internationally popular bar, and sampled delectable Japanese pastry in the bakery. There's also a business center, gym and spa.
PARK HOTEL is a quick walk from Shinbashi Station, and close to both the famed Tsukiji Fish Market and much admired Tokyo Tower, which we watched from our room designed by artist Nobuo Magome.  That is when we weren't studying the whimsical ghosts, phantoms and apparitions in this charming art floor room.
Marlee Cluff sings at Purple Martin Farm near Point Arena.  The gifted
child died April 7, and whereiscookie pays tribute to her life and legacy next.
COMING UP:     Sudden death is difficult, but when a young person is taken unexpectedly, the pain is both severe and shocking. Nine-year old Marlee Rebecca Cluff passed away during our visit this week to Mendocino County. We enjoyed our short time with this "old spirit" musical muse who sang big band tunes and knew the constellations.  We knew Marlee through our nephew, James, and his partner, Kelle, who live on Purple Martin Farm near Point Arena, Marlee's home.  She died after a heroic lifetime struggle with congenital heart problems.  After many surgeries, her valiant little heart gave out. We pay tribute to Marlee and family next Friday. Our specialty is travel with a twist -- as we put a personal stamp on each situation we visit.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Hotel with class, panache, elegant touches: Langham Hong Kong delivers -- plus location, location, location

Cookie and Keller pause against the sparkling skyline, enroute back to their digs at the stylish Langham Hong Kong.




Noel Lau, head butler on the Langham 
Hong Kong's lounge floor, remembered
our names and greeted us warmly.

 Choose your tea from more than two dozen varieties at
the Langham Hong Kong.  The lounge or club floor caters
to distinguished, understated service in lovely surroundings.


WHOEVER SAID "I don't care where I stay -- it's just a place to sleep" has obviously never hung his hat (or shed her slippers) in a
Asian  floral art provides welcoming colors and comfort on the lounge floor..
Langham Hotel room.
For at Langham, the hotel room is far more than a place to sleep.  It's a place to celebrate, luxuriate and enjoy -- a delightful part of the journey called travel.
Langham's special touches range from in-house scones baked daily,
to this edible pink chocolate slipper. Pink is Langham's signature color.  
We've sampled Langham's wonders in London, Melbourne, and recently in Hong Kong, and have always been delightfully surprised.
LANGHAM exudes style, with each property incorporating design elements of the local culture. Service is the byword. If you enjoy your white wine with a single ice cube, you'll get that!
Luxurious marble  provides
a  beautiful bathroom.
If you like your slippers by the bed, or nightie on the pillow, the housekeeper will make it happen. The staff in a fine hotel knows these things and offers service with gracious ease. Superb care comes with training, practice and cultivation of "people skills." The Langham folks like what they do.
Langham Hong Kong's bedrooms are lavishly decorated with stunning views.

LANGHAM Hospitality Group's history goes back to 1865, when The Langham London opened as Europe's first "grand hotel."
Today's Langham empire covers four continents, with projects spanning the globe from Auckland to the Bahamas, Bangkok, Beijing, Boston, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Phuket, Pune, Samui and Shanghai. The group's success is continuing in Japan, where the Langham's  rapid expansion continues. Soon, Tokyo’s liveliest area, Roppongi district, will offer The Langham Tokyo with a pricetag of more than ¥50 billion ($420 million). It will open in 2019, a year before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics. Like Langhams worldwide, it will offer traditional afternoon tea, with warm scones, clotted cream and thick strawberry jam.
Langham Hotels International is owned by Great Eagle Group, a leading Hong Kong company.
Langham guests may choose one of several suites with full dining rooms,
and a butler's kitchen for arranging specialty meals and celebrations.
 LANGHAM incorporates elegance with local art and the natural resources of each region. In Hong Kong, gorgeous wood, art and fabrics adorn the suites and public areas.  The owner has his own dining room with a beautiful display of chopsticks, individually labeled for each guest.
Langham is always astute when it comes to location. In Hong Kong, we walked to the harbor, the theater and several fine restaurants during our stay. Langham Hong Kong, in the city's prime shopping district of Tsimshatsui, is within easy walkng to fabulous shopping and entertainment.  World famous Victoria Harbour was our daily
  diversion, minutes from the hotel.
In a city of high rises and high rent, Langham Hong Kong boasts a
rooftop pool. It is a restful haven in  a  hectic, densely populated city. 
LANGHAM ALSO prides itself in creating a relaxing, welcoming environment for travelers. Langham Hong Kong personnel immediately knew our names, greeted us with sincerity (and a pink rose) and went beyond duty's call to make our stay a highlight of a five-week Asia trip.

Park Hotel Tokyo has made its mark with a unique "art floor" with each
room decorated by an artist, who chooses and designs his or her theme.    

COMING UP: Another hotel with an artist's soul.  Make that "artists' souls" -- plural.  The Park Hotel Tokyo has devoted an entire floor to the work of artists from throughout the region.  Each room is decorated in a particular style, with themes as varied as the sea, mythology and Japanese history, Here, the ceiling of our room celebrates celestial wonders and tells a story of a well known Japanese folk character. Remember to explore, learn and live, as we travel the globe looking for unusual angles and experiences to share.  Catch us Friday evenings when we post for the weekend.