PLAYING IN PETRA: Jordan - by Becky Garrison
When I came upon the Indiana Jones gift and coffee shops and the Titanic Coffee Shop situated at the entrance to Petra, I got the giggles. Looks like some folks might want to make a buck out of Jordan's #1 tourist attraction. After passing by a slew of guide trying to "assist" the tourists, I set off on a sandy path. Soon we passed what would be the first of many tombs to come.
FLYING ON THE 600: France - by Glen Cowley
I wondered if Ferrari made buses as our sardinized mass of humanity rocked unsteadily within the belly of the beast that is the 600 bus. Snaking up from starry eyed Cannes to Grasse, of perfume fame, past the gourmet renowned medieval town of Mougins, the blue Mediterranean its constant backdrop, our bus was guided expertly by a driver skilled enough to dare the race roads of Monaco.
READING FOR HENRY VIII: Oxford, England - by James G. Brueggermann
I'm in a rented morning suit, minus the hat. Looking down the slender nave of a church finished eight hundred years ago, with a man in a full suit of armor lying carved in stone one room over, I'm trying to get used to the idea that I'm supposed to read in here. Out loud, in public. We're early, on purpose.
THE MYSTERY OF OTUT-TUN: Palenque, Mexico - by W. Ruth Kozak
It is then that I wake from my sleep, but the dream, so vivid and real haunted me. Who was the man, Cho-oc Buhlum? Where was that place? Why was he sending me away? It wasn't until nearly a year later in a place thousands of miles away in south-eastern Mexico that I would find some of the answers.
THE JEAN-MICHEL COUSTEAU FIJI ISLANDS RESORT: Fiji, South Pacific - by Mari Kane
As we emerge from our van in front of the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, I hear music. Outside, a Fijian guy is playing guitar and singing a welcome home song. Beside him, a Fijian woman is offering us colorful drinks with tiny umbrellas. I want to wave them away with an "aw garsh, ya shouldn't have," until I realize that every guest is serenaded upon arrival.
REACHING FOR HEAVEN: Meteora, Greece - by W. Ruth Kozak
On a bright May afternoon, I travel by train across the lush Thessaly Plain in central Greece. Suddenly, out of the plain, gigantic spires of rock emerge, some higher than 400 meters, their strange shapes jutting up out of the fertile soil. Nothing I have seen in pictures has prepared me for this sight. Few places I have seen in Greece are so intensely dramatic.
HAWAII'S OUTER SHORES: United States of America
My wife Annie and I are immersing ourselves in the history and culture of Hawaii's less crowded "outer" shores, far from the lights and traffic of Waikiki. It is like opening a Russian doll, so many hidden dimensions ar revealed. We keep getting vivid glimpses of long-vanished ways of life.
RESORTING TO THE ARCANE: Muktinath, Nepal
Well over a half century ago the inveterate British mountaineer and travel writer, H.W. 'Bill' Tilman (b.1898), was the first European to trek across some of the highest parts of Nepal. To be sure, it is an alluring and austere place, but why did he call it a "resort"?
A ROAD TRIP TO VISIT RAIGAD FORT: India
When Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj calls, you just get up and go. The excitement at visiting a place that I had been trying to visit for the past twelve years, but somehow had never managed to do so, for a variety of reasons, was palpable. We finally reached Pachad at the base of the famous Fort Raigad.
A SLOVAK FAMILY SOJOURN: Slovakia
My wife I are visiting the Spis region in northeastern Slovakia, which is for her the “old country.” This makes the trip a special occasion: returning to her roots, getting to know the rich culture, stunning traditional architecture and spectacular landscape that her parents and grand-parents left behind.
DOIN’ DHAKA: Bangladesh
Virginia had read my expat piece about rickshaws in The Oldie, and liked it. In her e-mail she explained that she had been in Dhaka a few years ago, and had bought some rickshaw art - paintings on tin plate. She had given them away. Would I be able to find someone who could locate some?
FISHING IN KARELIA: Russia
It depends on the person. Karelia is not sunny and friendly most of the days. It can be rather rigorous and austere. Nevertheless it recharges you with vital energy, makes one strive for life, be grateful for small favors made by nature and notice sun even during rainy days.
VIEW FROM THE MALL: In London for the Royal Wedding
One third of the world’s population tuned in to watch the Royal Wedding coverage on TV, and nearly one million people took to the streets of London on Friday April 29th, 2011 just to be at the epicenter of all the festivities. Luckily for me, I was one of those people.
KNOCKING ON WISCONSIN’S DOOR: Door County, Wisconsin
The area received its name from the French, when it was dubbed Porte de Mortes (or “Door to Death”), because of the treacherous strait between the peninsula and the islands off its northern end, which today is the resting place of countless sunken ships. Door County also boasts multiple white sand beaches that line Lake Michigan.
MEGALITHIC PASSAGE TOMB: Knowth, Ireland
I boarded the small bus from the Visitor Centre which had taken our group to Newgrange, a huge megalithic passage tomb. The Visitor Centre acts as a gateway to the Bru na Boinne area, the bend of the Boyne River. In this area lie three Neolithic (4000-2500 BC) Passage Tombs—Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth built over an area of 10 square kilometres.
ON A SPECIAL QUEST: Karaganda, Kazakhistan
When my husband and I first flew into Karaganda, Kazakhstan, the first thing I noticed was the smell. The warm breezes blowing in from the vast Kazakh steppe and over the tarmac smelled almost like the air of my family's farm, located half way around the world in the high mountain deserts of Utah.
THE VENETIAN CASTLES OF THE PELOPONNESE: Greece
Hidden on the slopes of a great rock known as the Gibraltar of Greece, Monemvasia is one of those rare treasures that tourists usually by-pass. It's a magical experience visiting this little medieval site. The entire town is walled and invisible from the shore. The steep rock, crowned with its Venetian fortress, is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway.
BRINGING IN THE LIGHT WITH THE WINTER SOLSTICE: Newgrange, Ireland
I struggled against the wind and rain as I carried a knapsack and pulled a suitcase up the steep incline from the parking lot towards Newgrange, one of the Passage Burial Tombs in east coastal Ireland. My red umbrella continued to turn inside out. I felt constantly confronted yet also exhilarated with this fierce encounter with an early autumn storm.
HORSING AROUND IN ARGENTINA: Patagonia
‘Andrés, do horses like being ridden?’ I ask Andrés, our guide. We are riding in the Parque National Nahuel Huapi, in Argentine Patagonia, just above Villa la Angostura, and between Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes. ‘I think they’d rather be grazing in a field,” Andreas replies. “But once you decide to ride, you have to play by the rules. Talk to her! Kick her! Use the stick!’
THE COALPITS OF WALES: A Tribute to My Family’s Heritage
Kitted out in a helmet, cap lamp, battery pack and a miner’s belt, I enter the pit-cage and descend 90 meters to a world of shafts, coal faces and underground roadways. Guided by a good-natured ex-miner guide, I am about to experience a real sense of life in the coalpit.
RHODES LESS TRAVELED: Rhodes Island, Greece
Despite its size, Rhodes is an Island of understated charms. Ask sometone to name a famous Acropolis and the answer will doubtless be Athens. Enquire of a Greek party island and they are likely to respond with Mykonos. Yet unbeknown to many, Rhodes has its own ancient ruins to rival the mainland capital, as well as its own dusk-till-dawn party town.
THE MYSTERIOUS GREAT SERPENT MOUND: Ohio, USA
The rolling hills of Southern Ohio surround me in all directions. My husband and I travel along the secluded wilderness below the Great Serpent Mound. From head to tail the Serpent measures 1,330 feet in length and three feet in width.
A PLACE THAT DOES NOT EXIST: Georgia, Abkhazia
I started walking back across the Inguri River Bridge, which separates the post-Soviet Republic of Georgia from what once used to be a prime tourist destination in the former USSR, Abkhazia. The bridge’s halfway point boasts a statue of a gun with a twisted barrel ... I could hardly think of a more ironic place for housing this embodiment of peace.
CYCLING IN BRUSSELS - “A VÉLO, MESDAMES! Belgium
It was ‘car-free Sunday’ when I arrived in Brussels. From dawn till dusk, no motorized vehicles were allowed into the city centre, apart from public transport. The streets filled up with smiling happy cyclists, trikers, Nordic walkers, roller-bladers, joggers and strollers. What a great opportunity to explore my new surroundings!
FRANCE: Biking On The Canal Du Midi
We were planning a long camping trip to France. We had dreamed for years of hiring a boat on the Canal du Midi but were always put off by the expense, so my partner came up with the idea of cycling its length: inexpensive, a good way to see the countryside, meet the people and great exercise.
IN TIMES OF DISASTER: Sri Lanka
It’s January 12, 2010—5 years after the tsunami tore into Asian countries around the Indian Ocean, an earthquake, magnitude of 7, affects millions in Haiti: 200,000 dead; 250,000 injured; over two million homeless with the rainy season upon them.
SERENE, SOOTHING AND SALUBRIOUS SAPUTARA: Gujarat, India
Hill stations have always fascinated me. My family and I have been fortunate to visit some of India’s best known hill stations ranging from Tawang in the Eastern Himalayas to Shimla, Nubra Valley and beyond. Having experienced first hand the joys of visiting the quintessential Himalayan hill stations of India, we decided to alter our hill sojourn a bit and gave the less commercialized Saputara a try.
TSUNAMI! A STORY OF SURVIVAL - Phi Phi Island, Thailand
I wake, underwater, drowning again. My limbs are free. I look above into darkness. I’m down deep. The weight of the water crushes me. Debris boxes me in. I turn left…everything is black. I turn right…there’s a faint circle of light. Instinct guides me to swim! Swim! Swim for your life! Adrenaline fuels me and I sever a path through the filthy, now motionless, water.
THE TRINITY SITE - WHERE THE FIRST ATOMIC BOMB WAS EXPLODED: New Mexico
Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975, the Trinity Site is near the north end of the Jornada del Muerto desert. This desert name often translates as “journey of the dead man,” the name the Spanish conquistadors gave to the 1660s northerly route from Mexico. The origin of the code name “Trinity” is uncertain.
SIGATOKA RIVER - SAFARI TO FIJIAN VILLAGE: The Fiji Islands
The 120 kilometre Sigatoka River flows between the central and western mountain ranges to the coast of Viti Levu, the largest of Fiji’s 333 islands. It is the major means of transportation to this part of the island’s interior. Emerald hills of lush tropical growth and shimmering marble cliffs that had seemingly been sliced by a mighty sculptor’s tool pass us by.
TOSSING & TURNING WITH THE LEMP MANSION SPOOKS: St. Louis, Missouri
The thirty-three room mansion that is the focus of so much ghostly activity today was bought in 1876 by the Lemps. William’s daughter Hilda married Gustav Pabst of Milwaukee, creating a powerful beer alliance in 1897. But the good times for the Lemps were about to end, and tragedy would begin to assault the family.
TENERIFE - A FUN-FILLED FIESTA: Canary Islands, Spain
While whizzing along Tenerife's scenic west coast, a sea of flags and gently swaying streamers entices us to stop. It was a fiesta in honour of La Virgen de Candelaria, the Canary Islands patron saint. A coastal town, Alcala changed its name to Candelaria (meaning Candle Mass) when the saint’s image was washed up Chimisay beach.
LOVER’S SPAT WITH THE ETERNAL CITY: Rome, Italy
I love Rome so much I live there two months every year. But last year, Roma morphed from lover to spouse who no longer strived to satisfy, much less delight me. I did not have an aha! moment, that moved my passion for Roma to the echoes of Medieval bells and memories of riso gelato. It was good while it lasted. And then it was over.
AMONG THE LIONS: Gir, India
Sasan Gir, land of the wild and the free, the savage and the beautiful, where endless dry and arid grasslands are rife with game. Lions prowl there, magnificent lions with imposing manes. A stunning variety of some of the magnificent specimens of wildlife found anywhere else on earth are here in Sasan Gir.
WALKING THE WALLS INTO ANTIQUITY: Dubrovnik, Croatia
My husband and I had one goal in mind when we visited Croatia: to stroll Dubrovnik’s magnificent walls. But first, we had to immerse ourselves into the atmosphere of that ancient city that had come into existence between AD 598 and 615.
PASSEGGIATA: Strolling Through Italy
In Italy, life proceeds at its own pace and with its own rhythm. When a hotel manager says that the room will be ready, “In ten minutes,” he doesn’t mean by the clock. He means, “In a little while,” an indeterminate amount of time. Maybe it will be soon but more likely later. Once we accept this, we relax.
AFRICA - THE CLIFFS OF BANDIAGARA: Bandiagara, Mali
Dogon Country denotes a region of roughly 400,000 hectares, following the Bandiagara Escarpment, an astonishing line of cliffs which climbs up to 500m at its highest points in 150 km. The stunning views from the top went for miles. Savannah went all the way to the horizon, or sand, or rock. The area felt at times impossibly remote, but it was one of Mali’s first tourist groups.
THE PEDDLERS OF THE HANGZHOU NIGHT MARKET: Hangzhou, China
It is the low season for tourism, so other than myself there are only a few westerners out this evening. Vendors beckon with cries of “Hello, hello!” and “CD, DVD!” They are relentless, thrusting cracked plates and crumbling vases in my face as they scream, “Ming Dynasty!”
AWAY FROM HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Athens, Greece
Christmas in 1983 was the first time I had ever spent Christmas away from my family. I couldn’t have been any farther away from Vancouver, Canada than Athens, Greece. It looked as though it would be a dismal time. Donald and Barry became my saviors, cheering me with their Irish humor and lively music.
A CIVIL WAR CAMP ADVENTURE: Petersburg, Virginia
My husband John and I signed up for the Civil War Adventure Camp, part of the Pamplin Historical Park. I volunteered for the Army of the Potomac and John joined the Army of the Confederacy. Regardless of the visions of glory when enlisting, this quickly faded with the intensity of the training and experiencing the horror of war, albeit a ‘mock’ war.
GHOSTS OF SOUTHERN SASKATCHEWAN: Canada
Saskatchewan is crisscrossed with a myriad of highways so the choice of routes seemed endless. Old Wives appealed to me because of the legend I had heard surrounding its name. Many years ago there was an encampment of Cree at this site. Further away in the hills the Blackfoot were waiting to attack.
THE TALL SHIPS RACES: Liverpool, England
Around a million visitors were expected to descend on Liverpool’s World Heritage waterfront between the 18th and 21st July to watch the ceremonies and departure of The Tall Ships’ Races 2008. The fleet of tall ships, that is both spectacular and unique, was the largest ever to grace British waters, being made up of around 70 vessels.
DISCOVERING ONE OF MEXICO’S BEST KEPT SECRETS: Melaque, Mexico
Oscar bound the hind legs of a long-horned Brahma cow, poured 100%-proof sugarcane alcohol and Ibarra Mexican chocolate into a tin mug, shoved it under the cow’s teat and began milking. Offering us a round of steaming frothy mixture, the farmer chuckled and said: “Good Latte! Si?”
SURVIVING CYCLONE NARGIS: Mayanmar
When dawn broke, the gardens were a spectacle of utter devastation: royal palms chopped in half; bougainvillea trellises collapsed into the swimming pool; hundreds of ridge tiles shooting off the roofs and crashing into the pool and as far as the lake. The lake itself appeared through the dawn like an ocean, with waves streaking across it as the cyclone circled overhead.
POURQUOI? Oswiecim, Poland
It was the beginning of February and the weather was predictably Polish; snowing and –10 degrees C. It stopped snowing on my arrival at the small town of Oswiecim, which was a quaint and isolated town for most of its 700 years history until the twentieth century when it gained notoriety by its German name, Auschwitz.
THE GHOST OF BELGRAVIA: London, England
On a rainy morning in June 1922, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, dressed in full military regalia complete with a ceremonial sword, returned to his home at 36 Eaton Place, Belgravia after dedicating a war memorial. He was about to enter his house when two armed gunmen approached him from behind and shot him nine times. Sir Henry died on his doorstep.
THE WEDDING, ETHIOPIAN STYLE: Abdurafi, Ethiopia
It’s wedding season in Abdurafi, Ethiopia. Wedding season comes but once a year, and lasts for two months only. Raise a flag, kill a goat, beat a drum, invite the neighbours and get yourself a wife!
THE SURREAL LIFE: My Memoirs of Saudi Arabia
As I saw the police approach the taxi I was riding in with my handsome male companion on that lonely desert highway, my heart started to pound. Images of my passport with a deportation stamp “PROSITUTION” flashed thru my mind.
WHEN IN ROME: Rome, Italy
We had arrived in Rome yesterday, and in a spasm of enthusiasm Leah and I signed up for a personal guided tour of the city. As I lie stiffly in the cramped hotel bed, basting in perspiration, I dimly recall signing up for an eight o’clock walking tour. It’s now seven. I am disoriented, and the elephant tap-dancing on my head suggests a mammoth hangover.