Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rediscovering the Pleasures of Solo Travel

When I was younger I thought nothing of getting on a plane or train or hopping in my car and heading off to somewhere I'd never been before. And I never minded going alone. But after I married, and then started a family, those solo trips were few and far between. Oh, I got away occasionally, but for the most part, we traveled as a family.

It wasn't until my children grew up and started leaving the nest, and my time was once again my own, that I felt comfortable taking off on my solitary adventures again. And I've discovered I'm in good company.

Maybe it was the influence of Eat, Pray, Love or simply a reflection of some other social marker, but it seems  the number of women who are choosing to travel alone is increasing. And I don't mean college students or gap-year wanderers.

I keep meeting and hearing from women who, like me, have worked hard and raised a family and are now enjoying the freedom of an empty nest.

Travel is a gift we can give ourselves, and solo travel is especially rewarding. It gives me time to think and time to write. In fact, I've written about the unique guilt and rewards of being a  traveling mother.

I like to think by not being afraid to strike out and go somewhere on my own, I'm an example of independence to my daughters. In this week's Home Planet column at The Spokesman-Review, I wrote about being a woman who sometimes goes it alone and I shared a list of a few of the things I've learned along the way.

Read Tips for Women Who Travel Alone and tell me what you would add to the list.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

D-Day Veterans and the Beaches of Normandy

 Earlier this month I was speaking to a representative of the Normandy region of France. When asked about the annual pilgrimage of WWII veterans who make the long trip to revisit the D-Day beaches that were the site of their war experience, he said something that made me think.

"This is probably the last year, or one of the last years we can expect veterans to attend," he said.

The men and women who fought in the war are fading away. Each week's obituary page is filled with notices. Soon, they will all be gone.

In late November 2012, I toured the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. I strolled through the garden, read the names inscribed on the wall and studied the sculpture and fountain commemorating the battle. It was deeply moving to think about the scope and drama of the events of June 6, 1944. More than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and 150,000 servicemen were involved. It was, from all accounts, hell on earth.

I'd like to make the trip to the beaches of Normandy while there's still time to see it through the eyes of the men--and women--who were there. Before they're all gone.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Birmingham, Alabama #ThisTimeLastYear

Last spring I made a quick trip to Birmingham, Alabama. If you've never been south in the spring you've missed a treat. The azaleas and jonquils are blooming and birds are singing.

I snapped this shot of the historic Quinlan Castle on the city's South Side. Built in 1927 as an apartment building, the iconic structure is now part of Southern Research Institute. #ThisTimeLastYear

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Search for the Perfect Suitcase

I've taken to hiding them, shoving the new suitcase in the back of a closet or under the bed. The last thing I want to call attention to is the fact that I've bought yet another piece of luggage.

Like so many other travelers, I am constantly searching for the perfect bag. Not too big and not too small. I need it to be tough, but easy to manage. I want it to be heavy-duty but light enough to carry and easy to push down a crowded airport terminal with the one finger. And, of course, it must have wheels that spin 360 degrees.

I don't want much do I?

In this week's Home Planet column, I wrote about my endless search for the perfect bag. And, judging from the emails, I'm not alone. So, how about you? What's your favorite?

(The monster bag in the photo made a three-week Christmas shopping sweep with me through Wisconsin, Texas and on to a cruise in the Caribbean. I got home with all my treasures but hauling it around wasn't any fun! Never again.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Darling I love you, but give me 5th Avenue

Any day of the week Alaska Airlines flights are busy ferrying people from Spokane to Seattle. It's where we go to play, to get away and, for many of us, to get a little work done.

I decided to go over the day before the meeting and do a little shopping before the lunch on Tuesday. (I had a pocket full of Nordstrom Notes I'd been saving all year I and wanted to hit the Rack while I was in town.)

Two things drew me to the Red Lion 5th Avenue: it was right in the heart of downtown, close to Pike Place Market and the stores I wanted. And, it was a way to stay "local" even when I'm out of town.

Red Lion Hotels is headquartered in Spokane. I figure booking a room at a Red Lion Hotel helps my local economy, even if it's in a small way.

It was my first time at the 5th Avenue and I couldn't have been happier. My room looked out over Elliott Bay and the iconic market sign and the bed was comfy.  I was able to check in early, shop, have dinner and then sleep in before heading out to my noon meeting. It was like a mini-vacation with a little work tossed in for good measure.

In the past I've booked a last-minute room wherever I could find the best deal, and I usually had to walk or take the rail around town. From now on, to quote Zsa Zsa Gabor, just give me 5th Avenue.