Saturday, December 31, 2011
Last January I spent a week exploring Alberta, Canada. A favorite stop was the Maligne Canyon ice cave in Jasper National Park. We were guided by Overlander Trekking and I was so taken with the experience I wrote about it for my Home Planet column in The Spokesman-Review.
I illustrated the column with a photo of my hand print on the frosted stone surface of the canyon.
The essay was also recorded for Spokane Public Radio.
The second day we were in Prague, in mid-September, we took another route to the castle district, approaching through a large park instead of across the Charles Bridge.
Walking the path to the Prague Castle I caught this glimpse through the thick foliage, still green in early fall.
It's easy to imagine that this is the same view one might have had hundreds of years ago. A fairy tale view.
Friday, December 30, 2011
It was like stepping into an iconic Montana billboard. Watching cowboys rounding up bucking horses for the next day's rodeo during the 2010 North American Indian Days in Browning, Montana, I was struck by the beauty of it all. I felt the vibration of the thundering hooves as the herd appeared over the hill. I listened to the men shouting as they rode, reining in their mounts, moving in and out to force the horses into the proper corral. Foals whinnied for their mothers and the herd's stallion reared and postured as he circled the corral.
It was the kind of moment that brings me back to Montana again and again.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Last year, in December 2010, I took a cruise down the Rhine River. At that time, due to early snows and a big melt, the river was extremely high. The day had been gray and cloudy but just at sunset the cover broke and the sunset painted the sky with fiery clouds. The air was cold as we cruised down the river but I stood on the boat's observation deck until the sun dropped out of sight.
That's the power of a beautiful sunset. Think how many similar images you have in your photo files. I know I do. But when the sky lights up we can't help it. We stop and take one more photograph, marking one more beautiful ending to a day.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
In January of 2011, my daughter and I ran away to Paris for a few days. We checked in to the Hotel Le Littre and were delighted to find we'd been put in a deluxe room. Our room in the hotel, which was built in 1924, was incredibly spacious for Paris. It was practically a suite. There were two beds and a sofa and sitting area.(Most of the time the sofa was covered by the packages we brought home each night.)
The bathroom featured an enormous tub and my daughter spent an hour or so each evening soaking and reading. (An excellent treatment for jet lag.)
As I lay trying to fall asleep each night, I thought about the history of the hotel and the vibrant history of Paris itself.
Each morning we walked down to the main-floor restaurant and had breakfast (included in the package price.) The milk for our coffee was poured from elegant little hotel-silver monogrammed pitchers.
As any traveler knows, where you rest your head each night matters. It makes or breaks the trip.
My trip to Paris with my daughter is already a very special memory. But our week in a beautiful room in a delightful little hotel made the whole thing even sweeter.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
I've started putting away the decorations and moving toward the new year. It sometimes takes me as long to undecorate as it did to dress the tree. I stop and look at each ornament - many of which were gathered on my travels - and remember the adventures of the previous twelve months.
This hand-painted glass ball was one of the last I picked up before Christmas. I found it in a little shop in Heidelberg in early December.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
I snapped this photo at the Frankfurt Weihnachtsmarkt in 2010. Sweet, huh.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
I spent a week in Belgium in October of this year. While I was there I got a sneak peek at Steven Spielberg's new movie The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. I loved it.
Almost as much fun as the action-packed movie was the party that Brussels threw to celebrate the premier. Aerialists "danced" across the giant billboard as celebrities walked the red carpet. Spielberg made an appearance, as did members of the Royal Family.
Streets were packed with vintage cars and vintage camera clubs.
I read the Tintin books when I was a girl but most people in the U.S. have never heard of the gutsy young journalist.
I wrote more in my Spokesman-Review column. Read my Tintin essay here.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
After spending two nights in Nuremberg, the Deutche Bahn ICE train brought us to Frankfurt in just over two hours. The trains in Europe are part of the experience. Clean, fast and dependable, they make traveling easy and keep me wanting to go back.
We strolled through the Frankfurt Market, marking the last night of the trip, picking up a few more treats. Tomorrow we catch our flight home with all the candied almonds, gingerbread and sweet German chocolate we can carry.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
During the four weeks of Advent in Nuremberg, Germany, the annual Christmas market--spread across the Hauptmarkt under festive red and white striped rooftops--is the center of life. Shoppers come to buy gifts, people gather with friends and co-workers to have a mug of gluhwein and small children flock to catch a glimpse of the Christmas Angel.
The angel--always a young woman from Nuremberg who is between 16 and 19 years old--wears a crown, long blond curls and golden wings, and opens the market with a poem.
She serves for two years and then, after her term in Nuremberg is up, spends the next two years visiting select Christmas Markets in the U.S. One special location is the Christkindle Market in Chicago, Illinois, which is modeled after the Nuremberg market.
Among the requirements to be considered for the role of Nuremberg Christmas Angel are the stipulations that she have the ability to "withstand bad weather" and "have a very good head for heights." This last is especially important as in order to proclaim the market open, she must perch on a platform high above the crowd.
Today we met 16-year-old Franziska Handke, the 2011 and 2012 Christmas Angel and representative of the city. She was incredibly poised and gracious with the children who pressed close to have a closer look. Like the rest of the crowd, we were dazzled.
Monday, December 12, 2011
We spent our last full day in Munich exploring the smaller Christkindle Markets around the center of town and ended up near the Viktualienmarkt, a year-round food and flower market just off the Marienplatz, When she saw us taking a photo of her stall, Renate grabbed a cake and posed for the camera. After a sample, she made the sale. We'll have a Stollenbacker stollen for the holiday.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Strolling along the Munich Christkindlemarkt, passing crowded gluhwein stands and people shopping for hand carved items to add to the family creche, we noticed a crowd in front of shop windows along the Marienplatz. Families were pressed close to the windows to watch a world of mechanical bears and other stuffed animals. But it was the faces of the children that told the tale.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Whether we're away, navigating unfamiliar streets in an unfamiliar city, or just on our way home from the grocery store, the darkness of an early winter evening can disorient us. Especially in Dark December.
Read my essay here.
I was walking down one of the narrow streets of beautiful Strasbourg, France in December 2010. The town was decorated for the annual Christmas market and I stumbled onto these three Pere Noel impersonators making holiday music as shoppers hurried past with their purchases.
It's a pair of Pere and a spare.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Strolling through the Frankfurt Christmas Market, we stopped by the M. Eiserloh stall for Susse Mandelbar (sugared almonds.) The Eiserloh family covers almonds in everything from the classic hard-candy shell to hot chili to Bailey's Irish Cream to 24-carat gold. My favorite souvenir so far? A big bag of classic almonds. The extra weight in my luggage will be worth it when I put them on the table this Christmas Day.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
The Porta Nigra, the Roman gate at Trier, Germany, has stood for 1,800 years. To pass through it is impressive. To climb the winding staircase and look out on the beautiful city of Trier is a celebration of time and history. Imagine the lives lived in the shadow of the gate. Imagine the footsteps on the Roman road. Trier is now a favorite place is this beautiful country.
Monday, December 5, 2011
Sitting at the German Corner, the point where the Mosel and Rhine rivers meet, the ciy of Koblenz hold court. Like most German towns, Koblenz is now holding a Christmas Market each year during Advent.
Friday, December 2, 2011
During the day, the Alamo stands in the center of San Antonio, Texas. At night, it feels as though the old mission stands in the center of the universe. It is illuminated and glows and gazing at the weathered stone building it is impossible not to be drawn in to the history and drama of the place.
I was there for the 175th anniversary of the battle and snapped this photo just before dawn, as the ceremony was about to begin. You can read my essay about that experience in my Spokesman-Review column History asks one thing: Remember.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Standing on the shore of Glacier National Park's Lake McDonald in the middle of winter quiets you. You whisper if you speak at all. The air is cold and clear and the sky, mountains and lake blend into one beautiful scene.
You can read more in my Spokesman-Review column, Winter in Glacier National Park.