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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Global Entry - Trusted Traveler Network

Aloha Everyone,

Nearly six months ago, J.J. and I sent in our online applications for Global Entry card. The approvals came in the form of emails instructing us to request for interview the next time we enter the USA from an overseas trip.

On November 29th, upon arrival at JFK International Airport in New York, we informed one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents that we needed to report for Global Entry interviews.

Irregardless of how frequently one travels, I believe that most of us feel tension when going through immigration and customs. Although mostly formality, one never knows when there could be a mistake. With J.J.’s surname rather common in Hispanic countries, raises the possibility of a criminal with the same name.

Especially after being on the road for more than 16 hours, both of us we’re fatigued, lacked sleep and not as alert. The interviews took place in a sparse, unadorned room with two tables, rather antiquated computers with ID photo machines.

There wasn’t even a customary photo of the president smiling at you. Actually, the room is used for secondary interviews whenever the passport or visa or intent of the traveler is questionable.

The agent was pleasant but behind his benign smile, there was astuteness, sharpness that if you try to lie, I will catch you. One thing we learn is not to be funny but maintain a serious demeanor. My full name, date and place of birth followed by “Were you ever arrested?”  Then back to more pleasant questions of what kind of work did I do prior to retirement, where are you returning from, then “Are you in possession of any of these contraband items?” He has a copy of our application with all the answers, but primary purpose is to determine if our answers match. It took less than 5 minutes for the face-to-face interview, fingerprints and biometric photo. Whenever we return to the USA, a machine will match our facial features with the photo.

For more info go

With Global Entry card, we are also TSA Pre®

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, October 28, 2019


Aloha Everyone,

How do we summarize our 11 weeks of travel through Portugal and Spain? At the conclusion of each of our prolonged overseas stay, the two of us experience a twinge of longing and verbally express to one another, “Oh no!  Our trip has come to an end.”  

Traveling, especially to new destinations, is transformational. We learn new ways of seeing things, new ways living one’s life and more importantly, gain new insight about yourself. Sorting through over 1000 already edited photos, we try narrowing down in summary to just 10.

These are not all beauty shots but reflect our personal memories, experiences, joys and gratitude gained in Portugal and Spain.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Parks and Gardens in Léon

Aloha Everyone,

Walking from Eurostar Hotel to the main Center of the city is not a chore but a delightful daily adventure. Léon is a home to small and large parks, gardens, and a national park.

During our one week stay in the city, the day time high temperature has noticeably decreased. Falling chestnuts are blanketing sidewalks, much to the delight of children who pick them to take home.

Parque del Cid is located near the old town. We weren’t specifically looking for it. J.J. and I stopped for a cup of Café con Leche and saw a small park across the street. It is a simple space dedicated to the 11th century national hero. El Cid is remembered as a fierce soldier from Christian Spain who fought against the Moors.  

There is no statue of El Cid, just a large stone carving with the name of the park which seems to be an understatement. He was played by Charleton Heston in an historical cinema drama made in 1982.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Meal Choices in León

Aloha Everyone,

One of the joys of traveling is discovering restaurants where chefs pride in serving local specialties.

Most establishments post their regular as well as Menu del Dia (Menu of the Day). I enjoy watching J.J. where he carefully studies menus and makes selections of first, second and dessert before we choose a place to eat.

Here are some of the interesting meals we had in León.

Aloha -- Cathi

Friday, October 25, 2019

Museo Gaudi Casa Bolines

Aloha Everyone,

The famous architect Antoni Gaudí is mainly associated with his amazing, extraterrestrial masterpiece — Sagrada de Familia in Barcelona.  But Gaudi also left his legacy here in Léon.

Museo Gaudi Casa Bolines was built between 1891 and 1892. The museum opened in April 2017 for the first time after 125 years.

The exterior of the structure resembles a sturdy building. Some compared it to a medieval fortress. According to the handout, Gaudi’s inspiration came from Leon’s gothic Cathedral that occupies a nearby plaza.  I paid “do it yourself senior rate of €5. After a quick orientation of the history of the building, one may walk up a rounding staircase to the 2nd level or wait for a tiny elevator to transport visitors up and down. One of the advantages of Museo Gaudi Casa Bolines is that it does not receive too many visitors. Many of Gaudi’s works in Barcelona are so popular that you have to reserve your tickets specifying day and time at least a week in advance. Once inside, you are competing with others to view displays of Gaudi’s genius.

Here one is left pretty much alone to muse and appreciate. Small turrets that protrude from four corners of the building offered unobstructed views of the city below and towers of nearby churches and the Cathedral.

Before leaving the premise, J.J. and I discussed the sculpture sitting above the main entry. It is Saint George slaying a dragon. Actually it looks more like an enormous alligator and not a fire breathing winged dragon. J.J. thinks perhaps the legend may have been referring to a Komodo Dragon.

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Cathedral of Leon & Meeting Park Tae Lin

Aloha Everyone,

The two of us headed directly to the Cathedral of León before the doors closed for lunch. We paid €5 each, an amount that includes a senior discount. If one wanted a brochure or other informative literatures on the Catedral, there were additional costs. Interestingly, the clerk handed us a pamphlet with a floor layout in Spanish, English and French. Content was what to do in an emergency. We surmised that this may be a reaction to the April 2019 fire of the Norte Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The 13th-century Cathedral of Léon is one of the finest examples of French-style classic Gothic architecture in Spain. Towers and flying buttress are impressive. Gazing up at its numerous stained glass windows was captivating.

Park Tae Lin approached J.J. and asked if he could take her photograph in front of the Cathedral. She spoke sufficient English to explain that she is from Korea. Park Tae Lin plays clarinet with an orchestra, but currently she is on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Showing us her bandaged ankle, she went to explain about needing to rest until her sprained ankle heals.

We exchanged emails before parting company. We wish her and all the pilgrims who are on their way to Santiago a safe journey.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Aloha Everyone,

León is the final choice of our stay in the Iberian Peninsula. The known history of León traces back circa 29 BC. Founded as a Roman military encampment (7th Legion) situated on the Bernesga River, León experienced rises and falls, peaceful and tumultuous periods in its long history. Today, it is the capital of the Province of León, the city has a population of 466,108 (2018).

León has impressive historical and architectural heritage, and the city attracts both domestic and international tourists.

J.J. and I took a city tour train to get an overview. Even though the two of us did our homework of familiarizing ourselves, it is always helpful to get visual associations. To reach the center of the city, it took us about 18 minutes of walking. Many of the main attractions are congregated that one could feasibly visit most in a day. One challenge is that many museums, churches and even the Cathedral close their doors for 2-3 hours lunch break followed by siesta.

Yes Spaniards know how to enjoy life.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Camino De Santiago

Aloha Everyone,

October 22, 2019 became an exceptional day. The two of us have been curious about the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James). J.J. first learned about it long ago watching a BBC documentary. The two of us also watched the 2010 film about The Way.

It is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes. We have a number of friends who have walked French, Spanish and Portuguese’s routes of the Camino.

Some people walk the Camino for their health. Others for spiritual reasons. Still others spend quality time with family and friends.

The tourism clerk at León smiled when I asked about the routes of Camino in the city of León. It is marked on the free map provided by the tourist office. She also mentioned where pilgrims congregate along the route. Most of the people participate in walking the Camino during the summer months. By now, their numbers have dwindled, but J.J. and I spotted several groups carrying their walking sticks and backpacks. One of the biggest giveaway, whether young or old, is that most of them looked physically fit and wear sturdy walking boots, floppy sun hat and sun glasses. The estimate is over 100,000 pilgrims a year.

I am thrilled that we were able to walk a small segment of the Camino. Having finished 7 miles in 3 hours, I am happy and satisfied. J.J. was able to do 3.5 miles. For more info on The Camino, here are a couple of links:

Today was not all about walking the Camino. Our 2 hours lunch break was at an unassuming, gastronomic restaurant located along the Rio Bernesga. J.J.’s choice of menú del dia included the Spanish version of Risotto followed by a stewed duck and a desert of flan. I had Spanish version of a Greek Salad.

Aloha -- Cathi