Some people like to pack as much into a vacation as possible, and Hawai’i’s many islands each beckon. However, Joan and I decided to deeply explore a single place: Kaua’i, the Garden Island. It is the oldest of the islands and quite beautiful. We loved exploring Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. I really wanted to see the stunning view from Pu’u o Kila Lookout, but we arrived just as the clouds rolled in. Joan was so patient as I begged for just another minute, which turned into twenty; I almost made us late for the amazing lu’au at the Grand Hyatt, where we were staying. Joan learned to hula, and we enjoyed the performance of various Pacific Island dances. We did enjoy seeing Spouting Horn after going out for lunch in Poipu at the Beach House, which has a lovely view of the ocean. Then again, it is hard to get a bad view anywhere on the island; it’s so beautiful.

Because it was March, to take a boat to see the Na Pali coast, we had to leave from the west, and so we went with Liko Kaua’i Tours. On our tour we saw sea turtles mating, bottle-nose dolphins, spinner dolphins, and humpback whales. Riding along the coastline was also gorgeous if very bumpy. We later took a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian to see more of the island; over 70% of the island isn’t accessible by cars (and much of it is privately owned anyhow). I was a bit nervous about getting into the helicopter, but it was really incredible even when it became overcast and a little dizzly. On our last day and just before we needed to make it to the airport, we trekked the two miles to the beach and two miles back along the Na Pali coast on the Kalalau Trail. I was so glad I was wearing Tevas because they meant all the red clay mud was no big deal, AND when I was tired and hot I could just walk into the water unlike everyone who was rock hopping (not to dis rock hopping, which is great). The trail was difficult, but every turn was stunning. Despite how much we enjoyed the boat and helicopter tours, hiking was our favorite way to see the Na Pali coast.

Of course, I’d be remiss in not sharing that we also enjoyed immensely staying at the Grand Hyatt and just being lazy at the pools. If I’m honest, it was actually a challenge to leave the resort most days because it was so wonderfully relaxing, and they had incredible restaurants (and great pineapple) and views.

Food tips: We loved the spicy poke at Ishihathe Market in Waimea. Joan called it that poi (steamed taro root, which is a lavender color) does taste like wallpaper paste. Kalua pig and chicken lu’au are excellent, and so are Hawaiian sweet potatoes (purple sweet potatoes). If walu (butterfish) or opah (fish) is on the menu, order it. Lambert’s Ice Cream has a “can’t decide” option where you can put 5 scoops together, so you know what we got. Shave ice is amazing IF there is a fruit sauce, not syrup; enjoyed it at Hee Fat General Store in Kapa’a.

If you want to plan your own adventure, check out “The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook.” It was awesome.


A quick weekend up to NYC in October 2016 led to a couple good finds I wanted to share. It is amazingly convenient when your cool New Yorker friends keep moving to new neighborhoods so you can explore them. Except for a visit to Central Park and the Met Art Museum, I hadn’t previously spent much time in the “real” Upper East Side. I loved trying out Eli’s Market for brunch. I got a kick out of walking around the JKO Reservoir, which is just very beautiful. I learned first-hand that exhibits at the Guggenheim are hit or miss if like my brother and me you aren’t a modern art fan, but it’s good to try new things.

I also love the concept of Open House New York. We only had time for one event, and I loved learning more about New York’s Town Hall and its history. I particularly loved that it was created by suffragists and helped a lot of immigrant families learn English and understand the importance of voting and democracy.

I also did love going to see Something Rotten on Broadway, in which Shakespeare is a Rockstar (literally) and a fortune teller’s insights lead to some truly amazing classic Broadway references. We enjoyed dinner beforehand at Print. We also enjoyed the very ’40s vibe  and delicious cocktails of the Rum House.

I also got to explore a little bit of the (Washington) Heights, which made the show so much better when I saw it this spring at Gala Theater in D.C., because my brother was renting an apartment up there. Every trip to the Big Apple is just a lot of fun.

Through luck, I was able to attend the Royal Awards Ceremony and Banquet at the City Hall where the Stockholm Water Prize is given back in August. I wish someone had given me some etiquette pointers in advance (when the royals are present you do not clink your glasses in toasts for example). Dr. Joan Rose gave a wonderful speech about her work on drinking water standards. As a dessert lover, my favorite moment might have been the trumpet fanfare to the troop of servers bringing in dessert with sparklers on the trays!

The Water Week as always was a whirlwind of coffees, sessions, meetings, meals, and more with an amazing community of people who work on water around the world. I fell in love with the Art Deco styled Vete Katten, cafe. (Try the Princess torta.) I had a fun final evening with friends at the Dance and Mingle, which was held with a Eurovision band. The Scandic Haymarket’s recent Art Deco makeover made it an amazing place to stay. I loved that my room overlooked the square, which held different kinds of markets every day of the week.

After a wonderful Stockholm World Water Week, we decided to relax by taking a Viking Line overnight cruise to Helsinki. I’d never been to Finland before, and it was fabulous to leave Stockholm by sailing past all the amazing small islands where people still live while commuting to the capital. It was really nice to relax on the ship, and I can easily say that the multi-course meal we had at the No Name restaurant was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had and it was not much more than the smorgasbord option.

Getting off the boat it was easy to see what a friend who used to live there described as “the white church and the red church.” Uspenski Cathedral is a red brick Eastern Orthodox cathedral. We arrived in the middle of a service, which meant I was taken back to my time in the Middle East with the icons, the incense, and the chanting–always inspiring. Wandering along the streets, we meandered our way to Market Square, which contains the Havis Amanda statue and where the Helsinki Cathedral dominated the view with its vantage point on the hill above. The stairs up to its white walls and green dome seemed very steep; the sanctuary was plain as one might expect of a Finnish Evangelical Lutheran church. We went down to crypt and ended up having a hearty carrot soup and bread there to support the local boys’ choir. We then continued our wander to the “Church of the Rock” with its rock interior walls and amazing acoustics. We had just sat down to admire it when we were told a baptism service was beginning and we needed to leave.

In the Helsinki Central Railway Station, I saw the fanciest Burger King I could ever expect to see in my life–beautiful wall mural. The station itself is another incredible Art Deco building. An easy walk from the train station, we enjoyed some peaceful time at Kaisaniemi Park with its lovely botanical gardens. Of course no city tour would be complete without an excellent cafe like Karl Fazer, which had incredible hot chocolate with the local candy Marianne (chocolate pepperminty goodness). Afterwards, we enjoyed a lovely stroll through Esplanade Park, which is beuatiful and led us back to the South Harbor (cute stalls and boats) on our way back to the Viking Line ship. One thing I have to share about the park is how much we loved the Talking Statues! There were several things we wanted to explore that we just didn’t have time for: Suomenlinna, UNESCO World Heritage; Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, similar to Skanson in Stockholm; and so much more.


Leaving Seattle, we took the Bainbridge Ferry to reach the peninsula and made our way to Port Angeles. Located to the north of Olympic National Park, Port Angeles was our main point of departure for expl20160720_194705oring the park over the next few days. While this involved a commitment to more time in the car, it also meant not moving locations every night. We loved the Red Lion Hotel and ate daily at La Belle Creperie. No, seriously: every single day,and we still didn’t get to try all the crepes that sounded amazing. We also had a fabulous dinner at H2O Waterfront Bistro, which had incredible fish and chips that involved fried salmon & cod–amazing. I’ve added a photo of some lovely Native American canoes that were part of a summer-long youth canoeing program to combat alcohol and drug use in teens. Lots of different tribes met up as they made their way south throughout the summer–really cool.

We were floored at the diversity throughout the Olympic National Park and we only had time to explore the top half of it!  Hurricane Ridge, a mere 45 minute drive from Port Angeles felt like being transported to the Alps. Eighteen miles west of Port Angeles you can canoe or have a truly fabulous fresh fish dinner at Lake Crescent Lodge. (It looked like an incredible place to stay but they were booked: 100th National Park Anniversary plus summer.) We enjoyed the nearby trails of “Moments in Time” and “Marymere Falls.” The hot springs with their familiar sulfur smell were still a fun way to soak away the aches of hiking. Further west is the Hoh Rain Forest, a temperate rainforest where moss covers maple trees. We were running short of time because of traffic due to construction work and so only accomplished the short “Hall of Mosses” trail. Stopping in Forks for dinner, we had a nice dinner at In Place, which had a good, fresh salad. Sunset at Rialto Beach was incredibly beautiful with the small islands dotting the oceanview and the forest behind us.

On our last day in Port Angeles, we went out with the Port Angeles Whale Watch Company, which took us out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. While we could see Victoria and Vancouver in the distance, the humpback and finback whales were what really caught our eye. That day there were no orca pods, but several humpbacks swam within ten feet of our boat. It was incredible. None of the photos we took can really do justice to the experience. I now wish we’d had another week or two in the area to see the rest of the park, more fully explore Seattle and to get into Victoria and Vancouver. It was an incredible vacation!


When wedscn0160 headed out to see friends in Seattle and Tacoma this summer, I was not prepared for the sheer beauty of the area. The Emerald City with its plethora of evergreens is nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington with freshwater streams cutting throughout the city, thereby creating amazing bridge views (a perk considering the traffic congestion) with the Olympic and Cascade mountains in the distance. With only a short amount of time in Seattle, we enjoyed four classics: Seattle Japanese Garden, a tour of Theo’s Chocolate, the Space Needle, and Pike Place Market.  The market had incredible bouquets that were so reasonably priced I wanted to rent an apartment to have a place to put them. The classic “fish throwing” was definitely fun, and for lunch we decided on Maximilien for its incredible views on the terrace to go with the lovely French fare. To enjoy the Space Needle, I recommend what we were not able to do: book a lunch reservation and enjoy the view as the restaurant rotates 360 degrees to avoid paying for the admission ticket to the observatory and museum. (That said, I really enjoyed the museum, very Jetsons feel.) The Japanese Garden had such an air of peace and tranquility and was miniature dscn0345perfection. While that visit meant skipping the Arboretum and GasWorks Park, which I’d been excited about, we weren’t disappointed in our choice. As a chocoholic, I can’t recommend Theo’s in the Fremont District enough with its amazing samples both on the tour and in the gift shop.

It’s said that Seattle and Tacoma, its southern neighbor, “fight” over who owns Mt. Rainier, which to be completely accurate is a several hour drive from each city. However, each city offers different and stunning views of that mountain. I was particularly taken with the beauty of Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; I wish we had planned to be there for hours instead of a quick visit at sunset. The full moon rising over Mount Rainier was breathtaking. Driving up and down the San Francisco-like streets of Tacoma (who knew it could be so hilly), we stopped and enjoyed Corina Bakery and Ice Cream Social. We had a delicious supper at the Marrow, which sadly closed a few weeks after our visit. Tacoma is not lauded like Seattle, but it would make a great day trip if you’re in the area.

It was fabulous to be back in Jordan at the end of May, before Ramadan or the real heat this year.  I enjoyed the Centennial celebration of Jordanian independence with a date milkshake at Wild Jordan as we watched the flyovers around the Old City.  It was also nice to grab some Zalatimo’s Sweets as gifts from their shop around the corner from my hotel.  Another memorable element besides catching up with friends was finally visiting Jerash (Gerasa) before sunset one day after work. Jerash has been hosting humans since the Bronze Age and has fabulous Roman antiquities. I particularly enjoyed the Hippodrome.




As Samra (c) Kathryn Pharr

As Samra (c) Kathryn Pharr

This work trip included a tour of the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant. Before I started my job, which includes water and sanitation issues, I had never visited a Wastewater treatment plant. This facility was just as innovative and impressive as DC Water’s Blue Plains. As-Samra’s completion of its expansion includes technology so that while overlooking the site, you cannot smell anything. (A colleague assured me it had smelled pungently before.) The amount of effort and engineering that ensures humans and ecosystems have safe water should not be undervalued and yet it so often is.

Another point where I noticed the effects of humans (less positively) was in the shocking decrease of the Dead Sea’s water level from my last trip in 2008 to Amman Beach Tourism Resort, Restaurant & Pools, which includes day access to a nice pool area, showers, and the Dead Sea. For 3 JD, you could coat yourself in Dead Sea mud and then wash it off in the Dead Sea (recycling, right?). On the right below, you can see how much closer the water is to the pool back in 2008. The left photo demonstrates how far we had to walk after coming down from the pool area. Eight years ago, that was all covered in salty water! (Yes, the sand was very, very hot.) Additionally, the resort had removed the fountain that was part of the pool area back in 2008. These were just small examples underlying the water security reports that continue to come out warning of increasing water scarcity in the Middle East.


When I wrote last May about my trip to Stockholm, I knew I’d travel back for Stockholm World Water Week in August. As this pillar of the water community is looming on the horizon, I wanted to share some aspects of last August in addition to my visit back in February.

(c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

Stockholm Bridge, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

I will pause a moment to explain this World Water Week phenomena. It’s an annual event organized by SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute) that brings together people from around the world (~3,300) who work on water issues. It’s a wonderful, jam-packed week that flies by and is never-ending with sharing experiences and meeting new and old friends. In 2015, the mingle dance included an awesome tribute ABBA band that we all loved.

Skansen, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

Skansen, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

It was a lot of work, but we did have fun. Colleagues and I explored Stockholm through a Under the Bridges tour of Stockholm, which included a fabulous sunset and seeing Hammerby Sjostad, a sustainable urban neighborhood. One evening reception was at City Hall with its Blue Hall, that is covered in gold. There was a great evening of dining al fresco at Eriks Gondolen in Slussen with its stunning view of the city. After the conference, I wandered around the open-air museum of Skansen,

which opened in 1891 with houses from throughout Sweden (& now with period costumes from across 500 years of Swedish history) and with its own little zoo. If you enjoy Colonial Williamsburg, this is a must!


Galma Stan, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2016

Galma Stan, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2016

The long summer evenings in Sweden were a sharp contrast to the shorter February days of my next visit. However, I deeply appreciated the dustings of snow that I came for. While there was less time to enjoy Stockholm in the sunlight, I appreciated my evenings in Slussen, a hip part of town that is easily accessible on the T-bana and that is walking distance into Galma Stan, the Old City. Slussen has good thrift shops and some fun local bars like the Black and Brown Inn.

In winter, it was wonderful to start the day with kardemummabullar (Swedish cardamom rolls). Even better were semla, special Shrove Tuesday buns. Working with a local partner for a few weeks, I also enjoyed Fika (afternoon cake time), which is a “daily” tradition in Sweden but luckily for my waistline, this organization only brought in goodies once a week! I had a lovely dinner in the basement of Gyldene Freden in Galma Stan.

Skiing on palace, 2016

Skiing on palace, 2016

It was a cool experience to catch the ferry that is part of public transportation from Slussen to the Vasa museum of the ship that sank just beyond port in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later. The restoration work and the sheer size of the ship was stunning. The other big tourist attraction I saw was The Royal Palace in Galma Stan. We did not plan enough time to explore everything, but we did enjoy watching the changing of the guards. The guided tour of the palace rooms was amazingly well done. In the winter, it seems you can ski for free down the steps of the palace, so I had a go. Note: downhill skis are not the same as cross country skis.

Vasa museum, 2016

Vasa museum, 2016

With the cold weather, I’ll admit I did buy a Swedish sweater as a souvenir. It was a needed and beautiful expense. I can’t wait to find out what my next Stockholm adventures include!