Day 621 OUT OF Beijing: How to pour an Imperial of 1998 Mauregard down the Drain.


As close as I'll ever come to having a kid.

As close as I’ll ever come to having a kid.


Jill’s friend, Leslie, knows a lot about wine.  She also had some extra wine that she needed to drink in case it was getting past its prime.

One of these bottles was an imperial of 1998 Mauregard of Chateau Camarsan from Bordeaux, France.

It was ranked in the top 5% of wineries in the world according to vivino.

Now, it has been in the bottle for almost 17 years so we were hoping it would still be drinkable and not have gone off.

For your information, an Imperial is 8 bottles of wine and not the 4 that I thought it was originally.  My good friend, Suhneel, let me know when he saw this video.

My friend, Lisa, who I used to work with at Bay Club Marin, was invited to come over and hang out with us and she wanted to try it also.

Well, first things first we had to open it.

The cork seemed okay as I pulled it out but when we looked at the bottom of the cork, there were a lot of crystals.

These are tartrate crystals, and are harmless and tasteless.

However, they are crunchy so we decided to decant the bottle since we didn’t want to bite down on one while we were drinking the wine.

After decanting it, we all tried a little taste and agreed, sadly, that it had gone past and didn’t have much taste at all.

We really didn’t have much use for 8 bottles worth of vinegar (which is what we could have turned it into) so we just poured it down the drain and moved on to a couple of bottles of Armista since Jill and Leslie love Armista’s wines and are friends with the owners.

I guess the moral of the story is always be prepared because you never know when you’ll need more wine!


Day 609 OUT OF Beijing: Why We Walk, Part 3.


Bill and Rosemary with their Land Rover.

Bill and Rosemary with their Land Rover.


Jill and I were hanging out, working on SF Tourism Tips, and decided we’d go to lunch in Petaluma.

We were going to walk to Lagunitas Brewing Company, have a beer and some food, and then walk back to Randy and Alethea’s home since it was a gorgeous day, we wanted a break from work, and we like getting out and about.

As we know, the best laid plans of mice and men…

We started walking down the main streets and saw Lombardi’s Gourmet Deli and BBQ and decided to take a detour.

We bought a sandwich, some macaroni salad and a bottle of red wine since they had a huge deck and we wanted to enjoy the view.

As we ate our food, we noticed a rather impressive Land Rover in the parking lot.

It was covered with stickers from countries all over the world and we had fun trying to guess which sticker was for each country and where the owners had traveled.

After about 15 minutes, a man walked out and started towards the car.  I told Jill, “I want to go ask him what they are doing and where they are going.”  She said, “Go for it!”

I walked over, flag the man down and asked him about their travels.

Bill told me that they had bought this Land Rover in the UK and then driven it all over Africa for a few years.

In opposition to the news we hear of Africa, they loved the Sudan and said that the people are very friendly and that there is very little crime.  It was interesting because I’ve found that the media very often lies about conditions, here and abroad, to keep people in fear and from experiencing new places and meeting people.

They were in Petaluma on their way down to Joshua Tree, after being in Canada for a few months, and were looking for a good campground.

That is why Jill and I travel and talk to people.  We think almost everyone has something to offer and we can learn from them.

Bill’s wife, Rosemary, came up to us and I invited them to sit down with Jill and me and share a bit of time and share each other’s stories.

Bill and Rosemary had traveled all over the world, starting long ago, by using their professions to get them where they wanted to be.  Or, in one case, not where they wanted but then decided to stay for 10 years.    But that is their story and I’ll let them tell it on their blog if they decide to.  By the way, they probably have only half of the stickers from countries they’ve visited because they weren’t for sale or available while they were there.  I would guess they’ve been to somewhere between 75-100 countries.  I’ve been to 16.  It gives me incentive and inspiration!

Jill and I were intrigued by their choice to sell their house and hit the road.  Their idea of minimalism is very close to our’s, except they have a car, and they live inside their Land Rover almost all the time.  They do use other services, like TrustedHousesitters, to find homes to house sit, but they are also very frugal and financially smart so they can travel for as long as they want to.

This trip started about 2 years ago after they had returned back to the the UK to see their daughter and her family.  They shipped their Land Rover to Uruguay and then started driving all over Southern and Central America from there.

After moving into North America, they went through Mexico, the southwest of the USA, and up to Canada.  They stayed in Canada for a few months and are now heading across the USA to the East Coast where they will ship their car, and themselves, back to the UK.

They aren’t sure if they will settle down when they get back home and are trying to figure out what to do next.

After listening to their story, and be totally amazed by their willingness to take chances, live a different life, and not be tied down to possessions and places, we told them more about our plans and beliefs.  They seemed to appreciate them and were impressed that we could do all this traveling without a car and just walk, bike, bus or take mass transportation to get around.

The next day they were planning on going to San Francisco so Jill gave them some ideas and told them she would email them a plan later that day so that they could have more specifics if they wanted to use them.

After a few hours of talking, they needed to get on their way to  their campsite and we needed to get home.  We gave them some directions and they decided to go food shopping.  After we parted, Jill and I decided to skip Lagunitas entirely, since it would be dark before we headed home, and we decided to go shopping also.

We walked about 1 mile to the grocery store and saw their truck in the parking lot.  We smiled as we knew we’d get to say hi one more time and walked in and saw them immediately.  We all started laughing and talked for a few more minutes before we parted and went our separate ways.

In case you want to see their travels, click the links below:

Africa Road Trip

Latin America Road Trip

That is why we walk.

Day 562 OUT OF Beijing: First Date Re-Dux.





Jill and I met at the SF Carnaval in May of 2013.

I was waiting to see my friends dance in the parade and she was waiting to take pictures for her site, SF Tourism Tips.

My friend, Jon-David, and I were going to meet up and hang out as I was leaving in 8 days and most likely wouldn’t be returning for the next 3 years.

Jon-David and I worked together at Family Service Agency as social workers and we knew the second we met we’d be great friends.  We have the same twisted sense of humor and ability to laugh at life’s insanity.

As I waited for the parade to start, I became hungry, so I left my seat sitting on the curb, and went to eat a burrito.  When I returned, Jill was sitting there and I asked her if I could sit beside her.  She agreed and then we started talking for an hour or more.  Jon-David was running late so we had a lot of time to talk about life, what we want to do, and that we were both single.

After the parade, Jon-David, Jill and I ate some Mexican food and we headed off our separate ways.  Before Jill went home, I asked her to go on a date with me and she said, “Sure!”  Even after knowing I was leaving in 8 days.  Pretty amazing.

The next day we went to Palmyra, a Syrian restaurant in the Lower Haight where she was staying in an AirBnb.  After lunch, we sat on the roof of her place, had a bottle of wine, and talked for hours.  After making sure we were sober, we drove over to Elevation 66 and had dinner and a few of their amazing craft beers.  I dropped her back at her place and asked her out on another date for the next day.  Next thing you know, we had 8 dates in 8 days and she was planning to visit me in Beijing and getting ready to buy her ticket a month later.

As we walked around San Francisco today, taking pictures and smiling at everyone we saw, I mentioned we should go to the same restaurant and tell the owner what had happened.  He had been very sweet and the food had been amazing.

We decided to do that and the owner, who is an immigrant and speaks with a wonderful Middle Eastern accent, asked if Jill, “Do you have a sister for my son?”  We started laughing and were once again grateful to be back in San Francisco and able to connect with people in such an easy manner.

We ordered the mezze platter and sat down.  The owner came by, gave us our food, and said, “God bless you both.  I’m glad you met and have found love with each other.  This is wonderful!”

We thanked him and gave blessing back to him and realized we are right where we should be, in every way, and this is heaven to us.

The food, I have to say, was out of this world.  It tasted amazing and everything was so fresh.  We have realized, as we are back, that the food in Beijing had been quite bland compared to food here.  Everything is so fresh and easily available.  It is like we are tasting food for the first time and we almost started crying when we had the tahini sauce with lemon.  It was that good.  We are going to enjoy re-experiencing San Francisco, and all it has to offer, in the next 3 months.


Day 553 In Beijing: Kocabag Winery in Cappadocia.


Jill and me enjoying the wine.

Jill and me enjoying the wine.


After seeing the Agzikarahan Caravanserai, Jill, our crew and I all went to do a little wine tasting.

Jill is a big time wine lover and so am I so we thought this would be fantastic.

We’d been quite impressed with the wines from Turkey, so far, and were looking forward to checking out Kocabag Winery.

They are rated as one of the Top 5 wineries in Turkey and we had tried a few bottles of their wine in the previous week or two.It was very beautiful and the wine was excellent.

Sadly, because of the government and the Muslim influence, alcohol is very highly taxed in Turkey so an average bottle of wine costs around $15 USD.  This isn’t really nice wine so the type of wine that Jill and I like to drink is up there in price.  Therefore, we did some tasting but didn’t buy any of the wine at the winery because we continue to be on a budget and need to stay frugal no matter how much we want to party and have fun.  FYI, winery tasting rooms usually charge more for wine so we usually buy them in the stores.  Again, it isn’t as romantic but it is frugal and we can afford to travel more often if we do that.

However, Andrea bought some and it came in a beautiful bag.

We took our time, walking around the tasting room, and talking to the attendants.

There are a lot of different varietals, most of which we had never heard of, and it was nice to try new grapes and new wines to help us learn more about the world and open our palates to new experiences.

That is what traveling is about for Jill and me.


Day 539 In Beijing: Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


This is Jill’s and my second Thanksgiving in Beijing, China.

It is a little weird.

All kinds of expats go out, party it up, and have fun.

Many of them aren’t from the USA but they enjoy having the community setting and just having another reason to have a nice time with others.

We decided to go to Shunjing Spa, near our apartment, with our friends Dorota and Francois.

They are both doctors where I work and wonderful people.

We’ve spent many a night sharing wine, cheese and Francois’ amazing home made bread.

The air quality was pretty decent, even though it was very overcast, so it seemed like a good day to venture out.

Both Francois and I decided to wear the silly little outfits they give to the spa members so we wouldn’t look out of place (sarcasm intended).

We noticed that when the four of us went into at spa pool, almost all the people in it would get out, and we’d be left alone in the pool.

Usually, that kind of thing would annoy me but it was sort of nice having all the different spa pools to ourselves and not have to deal with a crowded pool all day long.

After the spa, Jill and I met up with some other friends, from all over the world, for Thanksgiving at The Big Smoke.

Jill had her first meal in Beijing at The Big Smoke, and we did Thanksgiving there last year, and we thought it would be a nice way to celebrate.

It definitely was and the food, friendship, and conversation was fantastic.

Sadly, we forgot to get a picture of all of us together but there is always next year!



Day 521 In Beijing: Blue Tour In Cappadocia, Lunch time!


A vase, wine bottles and the cellar.

A vase, wine bottles and the cellar.


After we saw that pottery exhibition, the tour was set to have lunch.

Jill and I aren’t big fans of Beijing Chinese food.  It is usually quite greasy and very oily.

It tastes like the food is quite slimy and the vegetables don’t have a lot of flavor.

Since we tend towards vegetarian, it makes our choices quite limited or very expensive since the imported veggies and fruits cost so much more than the domestic products.

Since we’ve both been to Turkey before, we knew that we were in for a wonderful meal every time we sat down to eat and we weren’t disappointed.

The very cute restaurant we went to had a nice balcony overlooking the valley but the owners told us to sit inside since the bees were flying around outside and they’d bother us.

We took their advice and ordered our food.

Our group consisted of our friends from Colombia, three women from Holland, and then us.

Our guide, Sukru, took off and we all just hung out, eat and discussed our lives.

The food, as we guessed, was fantastic.

Jill’s main course was mushrooms with cheese on top of it and mine was a clay pot full of veggies in a red sauce.

And, of course, to top it off, we had baklava for dessert.

As we left, we realize that the wine cellar for the restaurant was dug out of the walls, just like our room back at our hotel.


Day 518 In Beijing: Blue Tour In Cappadocia, Sultan’s Ceramics.


Step by step painting.

Step by step painting.

Jill had been on a few of these tours before and knew that they would take us to showrooms.

These showrooms would have demonstrations of how different textiles, and art, is made and then we’d be able to buy them.

We are both very frugal, and since we plan to be traveling for most of the rest of our lives, we didn’t have any plans on buying anything but wanted to see the demonstrations just the same.

The first location we went to was Sultan’s Ceramics.

They have been in business for many years, as some of their craftsmen are 6th or 7th generation potters and painters.

I say craftsmen because women don’t do pottery in the shops.

They do the weaving.

It is very defined, even now, and it seems it will that way.  That is neither good nor bad but something specific to the culture.

We first met our guide from Sultan’s Ceramics and he explained how they first started the business, how long they have been around, and how they make the pottery.

They then invited us to watch the artists at work and were mesmerized.

I don’t know if I’d want to be doing this, hour after hour, because I’m thinking my eyesight, and my body, would wear out.

They are so exact, so perfect, and so repetitive that I can only imagine one must love what they do beyond belief.

Looking at the faces of the men working, which alternated being serious to utter joy, makes me think that they do.


Day 484 In Beijing: Trip to Tianjin, Part 1.


Another shot of the South Beijing Railway Station.

Another shot of the South Beijing Railway Station.

After spending a week back at work, the Golden Week holidays arrived and we decided to head down to Tianjin to see our dear friend, Nuria.

We bought the train tickets about 4 days ago and love that we can buy tickets, on a High Speed Train, so easily and so cheaply, whenever we want.

The tickets cost us about 60RMB each, or about 10 USD to go 150 kilometers on the fastest possible train in China.

That is really pretty cool.

The only problem with traveling in China during the October Golden Week Holiday is that about 150,000,000 of my closest friends are also traveling at that time.

Just for information’s sake, Golden Week is the world’s largest human migration.

And it happens every single year.

The actual number may be more around 200,000,000 but whose counting 50,000,000 people?

The trip was actually amazingly easy and we have to guess that most of the Chinese nationals actually traveled the night before and were already heading to their destinations.

It was still pretty busy, and there were lots of people, but it wasn’t the insane crowding and pushing we’ve seen on movies and videos.



The train ride down was great and incredibly smooth.

After we got off the train we found our friend Nuria and hopped on the subway.

We then grabbed a cab to her apartment and had a delicious lunch that she made based on Spanish dishes that mixed in some yummy Chinese foods also.

As we’ve learned, you make do, and make your own recipes, when living in China since so much of what we are used to isn’t available.

It is one of the joys of being an expatriate because you learn to make new things and live outside the box.

We also had a Chinese sparkling wine with lunch and were surprised at how it tasted.  It was a bit too sweet but, overall, was drinkable and an excellent value at 28RMB (about $5 USD).  One can’t argue with that when having a fun meal with a dear friend.


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Day 482 In Beijing: Two And A Half Days In Xian.


Jill being taken care of the doctors and our two translators, Miranda and Lizzy.

Jill being taken care of the doctors and our two translators, Miranda and Lizzy.

We were getting ready to leave Xi’an after 2.5 days of craziness and insanely busy exhibition hall cruising.

Think about this for a second:

In 2.5 days we had:

1) Taken an overnight train to Xi’an.

2) Seen the Terra Cotta Army.

3) Seen a major exhibition and expo and been a guest of honor by EACHAM.

4) Stayed in a 5 star hotel in Xi’an, all expenses paid.

5) Met the head of the whole expo and been able to drink some amazing wine with him and the winemaker at Kaiwai Vineyards.

6) Been invited to come visit the Kaiwai Winery and stay there if we come back.

7) Jill had been interviewed on Shaanxi television (that is the province where Xi’an is located) about Jill’s company and websites: and

8)Rode a tandem bicycle on top of all 16 kilometers of the Xi’an wall with new friends from countries including New Zealand, Sweden, Austria.  Later that night we met up with new friends from Germany, Portugal, Russia and Turkey.  14 people (including us): 8 countries.

9) Met two fantastic new friends, Lizzy and Miranda, who served as our interpreters, and got them to try some wine and beer with us at the expo.  Yes, we are bad influences.  Honestly, I think they had as much fun as we did and they will come visit us when we are back in the USA.

10)  Went to a Chinese bar named, “Mexico” which had Micheladas and chips and salsa.  Well, they had chips.  Instead of salsa they had honey mustard dressing.  Yeah, not quite the same thing as in Mexico but you do what you can in a small city of “only” 10 million people in China.

11) I was interviewed for a local Xi’an newspaper on our experience at the expo.

12) Explored the “Muslim quarter” of Xi’an inside the Xi’an wall.


Then, to top it all off, just as we were leaving the expo, Jill tripped over an exposed power cord and fell.

And fell HARD.

I was a few feet in front of her and couldn’t do a thing until I saw her sprawled on the ground.

I immediately reached down to check on her and she had hit her knee, then her shoulder and finally, her head.

That is what really scared me.

Her eyebrow started to show signs of bruising immediately and a huge crowd of people gathered about as quickly as someone could say, “DOWN GOES FRAZIER” in China!

Luckily, the people working the expo, including our two translators, Lizzy and Miranda, saw it happen and ran over to help.

The expo people brought over a doctor and he checked Jill out and we waited around for about 30 minutes as they ordered  a private car to take us back to the hotel.

it is a pretty brutal bruise and it was quite a scene at the expo as loads of people started milling around trying to help, give advice and offering us our choice of local hospitals.

Luckily, Jill didn’t have any headaches, dizziness, or blurred vision so it seems as if he eye had gotten the worst of it and her brain was okay.  We decided not to go to a local hospital and wait and see how things go.

If we needed, we could go to where I work and she’d have the best medical care in China.

Call me biased, but it is true.

We took the private car back to the hotel and decided to wait on the second floor balcony overlooking the lobby.

As we waited at the hotel to go home on a high speed train, three women got in a fight in the lobby in full view of everyone sitting there.

Yes, you just read that right: 3 Chinese women in a 5 star hotel started fighting with each other.  It took an expat friend of ours to walk in the middle and break it up.

Seriously, you’d think that Jill and I make this stuff up to add spice to our lives and stories.

We don’t.

This is the reality of living in China.

Honestly, it is nothing out of the ordinary.

Just another day in the life of Jill and Aram in China.


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Day 478 In Beijing: Guns and Interviews.


Jill getting interviewed for Shaanxi television!

Jill getting interviewed for Shaanxi television!

Jill and I were just finishing our lunch when Sarah, who is responsible for all of the crazy expatriates on this trip (and there were about 200 of us) asked us to do an interview about our company.

The would be for a Shaanxi television station, which is the province that the city of Xian is located in, and a pretty big deal.

We, of course, agreed and thought it would be a blast.

When we were about to start, the interviewer started talking to me and I made sure that they knew that it was Jill’s company and I was her employee and that they should interview her instead.

I guess this is pretty common, almost anywhere, where men and women work together, that the man is expected to be the head of the company.

I’m glad that I spoke up and made sure they realized that women are just as smart, powerful, and can run a company as well as any man.  And, I know from experience, Jill can run one better than anyone else I’ve met and, without a question, about 1,000,000 times better than I could even think of running one.

The interviewer seemed very pleased to interview Jill and they actually did about a 20 minute interview.

I was able to grab a video of it and I think Jill, and her translator Miranda, did an amazing job!

By the way, they did interview me, for a local Xian newspaper, later in the day.  I had to say we both had fun being interviewed and meeting all the nice people in Xian.


I, on the other hand, decided to play with a laser tag rifle at the conference.

It was pretty darn cool.  The idea was to be able to hear the actual “events” going on with the headphones and then fire at the other person.

They only had the guns set up so I was just firing at the guns but the actual laser tag had full gear including armor.

The coolest thing about it is that they actually had, at their manufacturing plant, a 6 foot tall robot that was set up with fully remote controlled laser rifles and directional ability.  In other words, you could hang out, use your remote control, and have this massive robot do your bidding.

You can also sit in the “head” position of it and ride around.

Honestly, this was awesome.

You can see it on the poster beside the gun rack.  Trust me, that thing would be damn scary if it rolled up towards you.